At the end of the year rainmakers plan for the next year. These plans include where to go, who to call, with whom to dine, which events to attend, which rooms to work, and perhaps even which clients to try to drop. A top goal of any rainmaker’s year-end list is maintaining and obtaining business.
Lawyers who are not rainmakers by nature — in other words, most lawyers — can find themselves intimidated by the very goals that energize natural rainmakers. I have seen outstanding working lawyers get flustered at the very thought of scheduling time for business development. Fear of failure abounds, even in early stage business planning, such as making a list or a schedule. I bear good news: although you may choose to battle your fears later, you need not conquer such fears before ramping up your business. Overly specific rainmaking goals may lead to unnecessary discouragement. A deliberate and focused attitude is all that is needed to set a tone for success.
With thanks to Peter Bregman (http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/12/consider-not-setting-goals-in.html), I suggest an approach that develops a focused vision and sidelines goals.
Let’s say you are a trusts and estates attorney interested in obtaining new clients in 2013. Instead of speaking at or attending talks on estate planning for the purpose of trolling the rooms for work or referral sources, it may make more sense to attend a local advanced financial planning seminar put on by an insurance company or asset management organization.
You will have to get yourself invited, but that is seldom difficult. The truth is best. Call a broker or executive, perhaps a stranger. Say that you would like to be at the seminar to see the products offered by the company. You want to learn whether the company offers good products for your clients. You also want to develop relationships with people at the company, probably including the person on the phone. As long as you believe and articulate that you are seeking a mutually beneficial relationship, such requests gain entrance to all but the most exclusive presentations.
When you do attend the seminar, go with an open mind about meeting people. Do not expect business. The people you will meet at these events are unlikely to become clients. However, with thoughtful follow-up, especially if you can offer something to them (an idea or thoughtful question about one of their products will do), there is a good chance the people you meet will become at least occasional referral sources.
You have just spread a wider net. It was nearly impossible to have numerical goals about how wide the net could be spread. If you attended this event with comfort because of a lack of defined goals, you understood immediate business was unlikely. You were not disappointed or angry when no clients emerged. You were probably more relaxed in your conversations, and more focused on other people and their work and products. Try this a few times, and see what happens.