"Hope" is not a business strategy, yet too many professionals that I speak with are hoping for more clients without taking the necessary actions to create a business development and sales platform.
Lawyers, accountants, bankers and others are often in the position of being both the person who brings in the business and services the clients. On top of that they are the product. This is true for those who work at large institutions, and those who are running their own entrepreneurial ventures. People do not hire a law firm, they hire a lawyer (same for accountants, bankers, consultants, etc....).
Sales Is Not A Bad Word
Some professionals cringe at a conversation about "sales". I have consulted with law and accounting firms who have asked me not to use the word "selling". They are more comfortable with "business development", "client development" or "marketing". I have never understood the deep seeded disgust with the word, as any CEO or Entrepreneur at their client companies would tell them about why a sales focus is paramount to growth of an organization.
Selling is an honorable profession. Selling is not tricking people or talking them into something they do not want. Selling is solving problems. Selling is helping. Selling is creating relationships (Networking is not sales, but sales without networking is comes up cold). Selling is the only way the organization can succeed, as without clients the doors will close.
When I conduct training for professional service firms (my program is called: "Telling, Gelling, and Selling" - and yes, some do not like the word "Selling" in the title, but those are who need to hear it most!), I help organizations get beyond the stigma around the word and get them focused on a process that can be customized to work for each person's personality, and needs of their practice area.
Create A Selling Culture
Firms that cultivate a culture that openly monitors new sales will always have more success. When people at the firm have no idea where the clients come from, they get complacent that the business will always be there. This has hit hard in the recession, as many professionals have seen layoffs they never thought could happen in their industries.
Everyone in the firm must be interested and educated about the selling process. Discussions about new clients and prospects encourages everyone to consistently promote the whole firm. Too often younger professionals are not included, but anyone can be the source of new business. Moving the sales topic to the front of all internal meetings will show that this is the priority (not individual compensation or who gets which office).
One firm I know sends out an email to the whole staff every time they sign a new client. They started this once they realized that the different practice groups had no idea what the others were working on. Everyone had assumed the other departments were doing less than their own. The managing partner sends out an email each week with the new matters. When she forgets, the whole team begins to worry about the new business. This change in attitude toward tracking and reporting has made "sales" a more important topic in partner meetings. Associates are included in the process, and they appreciate being in "the know". Everyone cares about the numbers for every practice area, and the firm is doing better overall.
Leave Hope Behind
Professionals who have their own book of business are always in demand. They make more money, and have more choices in the directions available for their careers. Hoping you will have more business means that the future is left up to luck. Sometimes that will work, but knowing how to create your own future will bring more career satisfaction.
Being a professional who understands how to sell has become more important than ever inside smart firms. Promotions and other decisions are made around this topic. The turbulent economy has proven that nobody else has your back. Take ownership of your practice and embrace sales skills as an important part of your career.
Lawyers, bankers, accountants and other professionals are achievers, or they would never have gotten to where they are in their careers. To go to the next level, selling must be a priority.
Anyone can learn to sell on purpose.
Have A Great Day.