One of the key responsibilities of law firm practice group leaders and really any partner trying to develop business includes tracking past business development activities and planning for the future, i.e., where are you looking for business, what has happened so far, and what does success look like?
In a recent meeting with a partner, one striking takeaway for me was how different the past columns were from the future. In other words, many of lunches, events and meetings that had occurred in the past month were not included in the column of planned activities for the next month. I asked about the difference. He responded that we can’t follow up immediately after having a meeting. It would be too much. Almost like stalking.
This sounds a bit like investing in a brand new lock for your front door but regularly leaving the door wide open.
Making follow up a priority might be the most effective single change that anyone can make in their business development efforts on an individual level. Expecting rain to come without significant follow up with any prospect, even a well-established one, is magical thinking. Hard work and persistence trump luck (or magic) 90% of the time. Waiting for the work to drop in your lap after that amazing meeting you had, without regular follow up, will generally mean a long and fruitless wait, unless you’re really, really lucky.
Here are a few tips for following up. Don’t be shy, be persistent and always strive to be helpful.
Not all prospects need the same frequency of follow up. Take a look at your list of prospects. For the referral sources and less promising prospects, don’t follow up more than once per month or once every two months. For prospects with more potential, follow up at least every two weeks.
Use a mix of ways to follow up. You don’t have to call or meet face-to-face every time. Use LinkedIn or other social media. Do a regular Google search for the prospect’s company or topic of interest and send articles via email. Try to make introductions to your contacts that could be helpful. Invite the prospect to speak at or attend a firm event.
Make it a goal to leave your meeting with at least two follow up items.When you do meet face to face, be on the alert for ways to follow up. Ask questions and really listen to what is on your prospect’s mind.
Follow your prospect’s lead: What type of communication does he/she prefer?
Plan, plan, plan. Here we get back to those reporting templates that you might be using. Make sure that you have a follow up plan. Put it in writing. You’ll be more likely to stick to it.
Actually having that lunch with a prospect that you’ve postponed for months is a great accomplishment. Give yourself a pat on the back and then remember that the lunch will not have any value without regular, consistent, meaningful follow up.
It’s not stalking if you’re actually being helpful and informative.