Archive for the 'Making Time' Category

The Cost of Slippage

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Slippage refers to the difference in price for a stock between what the investors estimates he will pay and what he actually does pay, due to changes in price that occur during the process of buying. Efficient buying reduces slippage.  It is a concept that applies to selling professional services, too.

There are times when a client or prospective client or network contact is more than usually predisposed to help you.  This can be, for example:

  • When you have just finished an excellent piece of work for the client.
  • When the prospective client becomes excited about your potential to help him.
  • When you have just had a conversation at a conference with a network contact that shows the potential you have for helping each other.

The value of such opportunities fades as time passes.  The client’s desire to help you in return for the excellent work you did ebbs as she gets absorbed by other urgent matters.  The prospective client loses some of the enthusiasm generated at your meeting.  The network contact also forgets the conversation you had as the days go by.

This is one of the reasons that rainmakers feel a sense of urgency about following up.  No matter how busy they are, they find time to follow up on such opportunities, recognizing that all their hard work to produce them loses value as time slips by.

I don’t want to overwork this metaphor.  Following up too eagerly can be construed as desperation or as being mercenary.   But, in my experience, among professionals far more is lost from slippage than from pushing too fast and too hard.  And, of course, I am not suggesting that you give up on an opportunity if a week or three has slipped by before you act.  Better late than never.

Still, as a New Year’s resolution, you could do worse than committing to reduce rainmaking slippage by following up on opportunities while the glow you have created burns brightest.

Avoiding the Hard Work of Generating Leads #1: Never Say No and Never Delegate

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

(For over 15 years Harding & Company has helped hundreds of professionals make the transition from doing and managing client worked selling it.  Among our duties is helping the people we work with recognize it when they are avoiding the hard work on developing relationships and generating leads.  This is the first of a series of posts on the most popular avoidance tactics.)

Time shortage is a real problem.  It becomes an avoidance tactic when you book yourself so full of other activities that there is no time left make calls and having meetings.  People who use this tactic never say no to additional client work or to requests for help on internal projects.  They protest that it is impossible to say no and impossible for them to delegate any of their work to subordinates.  Yet, others we work within the same firms do both.

If you think you may be falling into this trap, remember that if, five years from today, you are doing exactly the same type and mix of work you are doing today, your career is stalled.  Selectively, you must say no and in the overwhelming majority of firms you can, if you can legitimately claim that saying yes will reduce your business development efforts.  For that claim to be accepted as legitimate, you must demonstrate call and meeting discipline.

If you never delegate, you’re holding both yourself and your subordinates back.  No matter how you feel about it, eventually firm management and your subordinates will recognize this fact, placing you at a vice.

At some future time, when promotion or retaining your job depends on your success at business development, your arguments that you did not have time for it will not help you.

Ten Found Minutes

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

What would you do with ten found minutes during your work day?  If your answer isn’t an activity that will help you get business, try again.  What business development activity would you do with ten found minutes?

In practice you probably answer this question several times a week.  You finish a task ten minutes before you are scheduled to call a client.  A colleague is late for a meeting.  You arrive early at a client site.  A meeting finishes early.  What do you do at moments like these?

A rainmaker almost certainly calls a member of her network or sends one a quick email.  She can do this, because she knows who she wants to reach out to and she recognizes the found time as an opportunity to do so.  She has built the calling habit over the years.

Most people don’t have this habit, so the found minutes get spent on responding to an internal email or something else that won’t help them develop business.

If you want to develop the habit, try the following:  Take twenty minutes once a week, preferably on Friday afternoon, Sunday or early Monday, and review your contact list.   Make a new list of people you will try to reach that week.  Just twenty minutes.  Then when you find ten unexpected minutes in your calendar, reach for the list.

For the Want of a Contact List

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I am coaching a woman named Lisa, who doesn’t add names to her contact list regularly and hasn’t for years.  She hasn’t pulled all the names of her contacts together into her Outlook program from old client files, old employer directories, the shoebox of business cards she keeps and elsewhere.

This means she doesn’t have phone numbers and email addresses of her contacts handy.  Because she doesn’t have them handy, she misses opportunities to contact the people she knows.  She isn’t developing a rainmaker’s call discipline.

Lacking call discipline, she isn’t rekindling old or developing new relationships.  That results in insufficient lead flow, and, of course, without enough leads, she doesn’t win as much business as she wants to.

If this goes on, she won’t get promoted to partner and will eventually be asked to leave the firm.  And all for the want of a contact list!

A good contact list is the fundamental tool for getting business.  Without one, you will never be a rainmaker.

Finding Time for Business Development #5: The Power of the Positive

Monday, January 12th, 2009

At the stage in a career when professionals are expected to start developing business, they usually have anywhere from three to eight years of experience and, in many ways, are the backbones of their firms.

Partners toss them client work as it comes in, knowing that they will catch it and get it done right. They help with the recruitment and training of junior professionals and with an array of administrative duties.

Some of these tasks can be alluring. A senior partner at a firm informed me that one promising young professional we are coaching was spending a lot of time on the firm’s knowledge management effort. “In the short run, he’ll get a lot of thanks for all he’s doing in that area, but it won’t count for much when he comes up for partner,” the man cautioned. “To make partner he will have to have demonstrated that he can bring in business.”

But what is a young professional to do when the head of his practice asks him to work on knowledge management or some other worthy effort? Promising young professionals have advanced quickly in their firms by saying yes when asked to do things. It goes against their instincts to say no.

I believe that at this point in their careers professionals need to say no, selectively. Doing so is a step in their progression from working for partners to being one. If you have to develop business like a partner to become one, then, logically, you have to behave like a partner in your dedication to business development, and successful partners don’t let administrative duties stand in the way of their rainmaking. Nor can you.

Here is the real question as I see it: When partners don’t yet see you as a peer and still treat you like an associate, how can you get them to allow you the freedom you will need to develop more work for the firm? Note that this is a how question, not a should-I question.

The one thing that will make a “no” to a partner’s request for your time acceptable is a prior commitment to something more important for the firm. Few things are more important than developing an account or market. A positive effort to do one of these things will often trump the partner’s request. But only if the following conditions apply:

  1. You have a clear idea of what you are trying to do and it makes sense to someone senior in the firm.
  2. You have a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it must show a sensible approach to the effort and make it clear that execution will require time.
  3. You demonstrate that you really will do something by taking initial actions, preferably ones that require you to be out in the market. If, for example, you have delivered a speech and visited two clients to talk about a subject, your claim to need time for rainmaking will be far more credible than if you have done nothing.
  4. On the basis of the plan and your actions you get at least an informal approval from someone senior to devote time to the effort. This person becomes what a Chicagoan calls your “clout.”

In short, make it clear that you are really doing something positive and important for the firm and you may find that you earn the right to say “no.”

More About To-Do Lists and their Ilk

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

A few months back I wrote a post on to-do lists, a short piece to be run in late August, when readership was down.  As sometimes happens with blog posts, this one attracted more attention than I had expected, both in written responses and in comments made by people I talked with.  The humble to-do list is the source of more emotion than I had thought.

To-do list junkies strongly advocates their use to ensure prioritization, productivity, and responsiveness of tasks.  Several people praised David Allen’s Getting Things Done books and software, which I jokingly described as a graduate level course in to-do listing.  The software allows you to sort tasks by priority into different lists.  You can also sort by the time required, so that when you have ten found minutes, only tasks that can be completed within that opening appear.  Or you can sort by the need for access to a phone, so that activities requiring one don’t appear when you pull up your list on an airplane.  These are useful enhancements to the old-fashioned lists.  David Allen has come up with the proverbial better mouse trap.

The principal complaint about to-do lists remains their demotivating effect when they get too long and when workload denies the author of the list the satisfaction of crossing tasks out.  Said a partner at one firm, “One of the people who works for me froze up when his list got too long.”  I have a suggestion for people who suffer from this problem.

A to-do list person is a doer.  She likes to get things done and wants the respect that others show her for contributing.  Her can-do approach has won her promotion and authority.  As a side effect to this behavior, she sometimes does things she shouldn’t, because she fails to delegate, to say no or to insist that someone else does his job.  If she treats this by increasing the sophistication of her to-do list, it is like addressing a growing overdue receivables problem by hiring more collection agents, instead of by tightening the credit policy.

Such people (and I admit that I am one) may benefit by putting together a Not-To-Do List, which itemizes the things you are to cure yourself of doing.  This list should be looked at daily.  A task can only be scratched off when someone else is doing it routinely.  Items that people I know have gotten rid of this way include filling out expense reports, making duplicates of documents, making travel arrangements, screening emails, proof reading, and scheduling meetings.

The Not-To-Do List Challenge

So here is a challenge for you all.  We all do things that are not a good use of our time.  I ask each one of you to identify something you are doing now that you will work your way out of doing over the next six months.  Please send me a short comment noting what you are offloading.  If I get enough, I will assemble a list of Not-To-Do Items that can help us all identify more ways to free up time for developing business.

To-Do Lists vs. Accomplishments Lists

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Many professionals write up daily to-do lists.  These lists ensure that their authors don’t forget tasks. They help a professional prioritize work or pick out an item that they can finish during an unexpected fifteen minute wait for someone who is late to a meeting.  Crossing off tasks as they are completed is satisfying, and so serves as a gentle motivator.

To-do lists have many advocates.  For them, if it’s not on their to-do list, it doesn’t happen.  Lars, a client of mine, is one of these people. To-do lists have been a part of this routine for the better part of two decades and small, but recognized contributors to his successful career.

So, he was surprised this week, when I told him to take all of the business development tasks off his to-do list for a while.  These were my reasons:

1>     Lars had more client work to do than he ever had before. He was so overwhelmed that he wasn’t getting to any of his business development tasks, so having them on his to-do list wasn’t doing him any good, anyway.

2>     The list of business development to-do’s kept getting longer, as he added new items, but never got around to completing and crossing off old ones.  The longer the list got, the more discouraging was the outlook for ever getting through it.  Its length had become demotivating as Lars began to doubt he could ever get past his client work to the growing list of BD tasks.

To replace the business-development to-do list, I recommended he create an accomplishments list.  This starts as a sheet of paper with the word, Accomplishments, at the top and the date and nothing else. Lars is to add business development activities to the list as he completes them.  He has agreed to add no fewer than one accomplishment each day.  My guess is that he will add more, substantially more. That’s Lars.

A goal that seems utterly unachievable discourages rather than motivates.  When circumstances make it impossible to achieve a goal that seemed reasonable when you set it, find a different way to look at the problem. Because of Lars’s heavy work load, it is reasonable to recognize each business development accomplishment that he fits in.  Instead of being reminded repeatedly of all the things he feels he should be getting done, but isn’t, he will be reminded of what he has done.  I am betting that this approach will boost his morale and so help him get more done.

I would especially welcome readers’ comments on to-do and accomplishments lists.

Making Time for Business Development # 3: Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Aspiring rainmakers struggle to find time for business development. It is by far the most frequently mentioned barrier to success. I have suggested several ways to deal with it in earlier posts. Here is another.

Most people agree that if something is important enough to them, they will usually find the time for it. And they always find time for the truly urgent. It follows, then, that business development, at least the long-term relationship building and lead generation part of it, doesn’t seem sufficiently urgent and important to make it into their schedules.

In one sense they are right. If you don’t call any old clients or other network contacts today, disaster won’t strike. Your life will go on just as usual, with you working diligently on your clients’ urgent matters. The same will be true, if you make no calls tomorrow.

But if this lapse persists, month after month, the cumulative impact is huge. You won’t develop a referral network and without the network, you get no leads. Without leads, you have no sales opportunities of your own.

At this juncture, you must ask yourself, so what? More specifically, five years from today (or three or two—select your own horizon), if you have no lead flow and aren’t generating any work of your own, what are the consequences and do those consequences mean enough to you to get you to find time for business development now? If so, you need to keep those consequences in front of you now. Every day. Where they can compete with the other urgent demands that cry for your attention.

Joshua is an executive recruiter, a self-effacing, quiet man with a strong sense of service. His clients love him. And he worked so doggedly for them, he had no time for client development. When asked so what, he said that if he didn’t generate business, he wouldn’t have the financial resources he will need to pay for his four children’s education and other needs. We took the picture of his children down from the shelf behind his desk and put it next to his phone. He is making his calls and has the largest number of leads he has ever had.

Patrick is a healthcare consultant with abundant charm. He can make an exchange on the weather feel valuable. People like talking with him and he with them. As certainly as chickens produce eggs, if he talks with people, he will generate leads. But he wasn’t making his calls. He has no children and so no looming tuition expenses. So, why should he make calls? Patrick answered that he is sick of doing projects for other people in the firm. As much as he likes these people, he wants control of his own destiny. He wants to answer directly to his own clients. He has printed out the following message: Lead flow means control of my own destiny. He has pasted it above the monitor of his computer where he will see it often. We will now see if his call volume goes up.

To make time for business development, you must be clear about its importance and its urgency. If you don’t make your calls, so what?

Making Time for Business Development #2 – Two-for-One Marketing

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Back in June I promised to post ideas on finding the time for business development, and haven’t done so. Things slowed down for us this summer, so I wasn’t pressed for time, myself. The time subject just didn’t seem interesting.

Summer is over, and, for now at least, the economy chugs along at a good clip. Once again my clients are struggling to get their client work done, and, once again, putting business development calls and meetings at the rear of the train. Many professionals are afraid to do any marketing for fear that the client called might want to hire them, when they have too little time to do it.

They forget that calls made today are unlikely to turn up business today, and will preserve relationships that you will need when the economy turns (see The Lead Glut and It’s Consequences). So, now both you and I are ready to talk, once again, about making time for business development.

Logically, there are a limited number of ways to find time in an overloaded schedule. You can: 1) replace some other activity (sleep, comes to mind, though some of you readers might not find that suggestion funny), 2) increase your efficiency somewhere, and so, free up time for business development, or 3) you alter something else you are doing so that you derive business development value from it, too. We call this Two-for-One marketing. I will address Two-for-Ones today.

In the first group of professionals that I ever coached, Jim had the most difficulty finding time for business development calls and meetings. He had taken on a workload that would have broken someone else’s back. During one coaching session he said he would be unable to make any calls the following week. He would be meeting with clients in Boston all day on Monday, in Detroit on Tuesday, in Milwaukee on Wednesday and in Memphis on Thursday and Friday. He would be in meetings or at airports most of the day.

I have a rule that I shared with him of not letting a day pass without doing something, no matter how small, to further my efforts to develop business. Jim agreed to try this approach. On his return, he told of how at each client site, he had dropped by the office of a person he knew but was not scheduled to meet. He would stick his head into the contact’s office and say, “I’m here to meet with x and just wanted to say hello.” This led to a brief conversation without taking much extra time. In most cases he arrive a little early at the client’s offices and took ten minutes before the meeting started to look up the additional person.

By Wednesday Jim already had a pay-off. The extra person he visited in Milwaukee gave him a modest lead, which had the potential to convert into something big.

James McKinsey, the founder of McKinsey & Company, believed in Two-for-Ones. According to his biography, he encouraged all of the firm’s consultants to have lunches with prospective clients. The consultants would be having lunch anyway, so why not get some additional value from it?

Other Two-for-Ones that I have seen people use are:

  • Talking with seatmates on airplanes
  • Making calls on cell phones while commuting
  • Going to a sporting or cultural outing that you would go to anyway and taking a client with you

Making Time for Business Development #1

Monday, June 18th, 2007

I have an image in my mind of a dinner plate heaped revoltingly full of all kinds of food. There’s pickled herring and taco chips, a combination my mother actually served to guests once. There’s spaghetti in marinara sauce with anchovies, an egg roll, cherry pie, creamed spinach, oysters and chocolate sauce. There’s blue berry yogurt, cheese whiz, acorn squash, pork loin and peanut brittle. Avocado, crab cake, pigs-in-blankets and plum pudding. I am seated, staring at this mess, and a waiter is standing beside me with a serving dish filled with bananas, steak tartar, juju bees, liver pâté and a green substance that they used to serve in school, and which I still can’t identify, all smothered in redeye gravy. The waiter is saying, “Would you like some more, sir?”

This image comes to me, whenever someone says that he can’t do any business development, because his plate is too full, already. How I loath the full-plate metaphor!

So, I will make you a deal. From time to time I will provide you with ideas for addressing the time problem. Of course, none of them will solve it; it’s the kind of thing you can only chip away at. But, if you use them, they will help. In return, you will eliminate the full-plate metaphor from your repertoire or, at least not use it in my presence. Deal?

My first suggestion came from a consultant whose career streaked upwards to a partnership in his firm. “At the beginning of every year,” he told me, “I look at what I am spending my time on. I try to identify things that I won’t be doing by the end of the year and that will free up about ten per cent of my time, which I can then apply to a higher and better use. I then work at unloading those things. Some of them take a few months and some of them the better part of the year. But I get rid of them.” That’s how he made time for business development.

Think for a few minutes on this simple idea. This is the kind of thing that successful careers are built on. It is such good advice that it’s worth unloading two or three full plates from your vocabulary.