Has business development started to feel a little dull? All those mixers, networking meetings, and lunches spent getting to know “business acquaintances” you don’t really care about. Be honest - if you knew for a fact that your referral sources would never refer you another new piece of business, would you ever talk to them again? Most of us wouldn’t, and that’s why it’s so difficult to sustain any enthusiasm around our networking activities. We market ourselves aggressively for a few months, then burn out and hibernate, then panic when our pipelines get lean, and force ourselves back into the fray.
If any of this sounds familiar, here are three ways you can put that “spark” back into your work life:
1. Have a “no duds” policy
Weed out the people who you only tolerate and replace them with productive business relationships you genuinely care about. It may take some time, but if you’re diligent, it will happen. And, as a result, you’ll find yourself far more invested in your referral sources.
2. Have a “no stomping grounds” policy
Stay away from the same old routine. Engage in new activities and venues that you enjoy. Schedule your next business lunch at the local museum café or at a cigar bar. Venture out to the shooting range or your favorite yoga studio. Try a comedy club or that swanky hot spot that makes plum martinis. At the very least, try that new restaurant you’ve been curious about. A creative environment will invigorate your business conversation. That’s why corporate retreats are usually held off-site.
3. Have a “no canned speeches” policy
Challenge yourself to describe your services a little differently each time you meet someone new. Rather than simply asking them “what do you do?” follow up by asking them “what do you love about what you do?” And share with them what you love about your job, your family, and your life. Talk about whatever inspires you – it will inspire a stronger connection with them. And they’ll be more likely to remember you and refer you.
Business development is just like anything else: You get out of it what you put into it. So, if your business development is starting to feel like a dead marriage, maybe it’s time to spice things up. Change the venue. Get more selective about the company you keep. Put some passion into the mix. Who knows, you might just fall in love with it.
David Ackert, MA, has been a business development advisor to service firms since the late ’90s. He is the President of The Ackert Advisory, which provides business development coaching and training for firms across the U.S. and Canada. He is also the founder of Practice Boomers, a business development e-learning program for law firms and winner of the Your Honor Award.
David has written for and contributed to articles in publications including the Los Angeles Times, the National Review, the Daily Journal, the Wall Street Journal, the Attorney Journal, and the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has keynoted on several topics relating to marketing and business development strategy. He is a guest lecturer at USC’s Marshall School of Business and Carnegie Mellon University, and is an instructor at UCLA Extension’s Entertainment Studies and its Business, Management, and Legal divisions. He holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Ithaca College, and the University of Santa Monica, where he earned his masters in psychology.