Critical Factors for Business Development Training Effectiveness: Relevance, Timeliness, Accountability

Lawyers may request BD training, or bemoan their firm's failure to provide it, but it's a misdirection play. They really don't want training. The proof: The law firm leaders we spoke with confirm our observation that 80% of BD training programs fail, and the investments are wasted, due to lawyers not completing, applying and sticking with the training. In fact, most leaders considered our 80% waste factor conservative.

Why? Because training programs aren't relevant.

The Importance of Relevance

For most lawyers, BD training is an intellectual abstraction that they struggle to relate to their immediate challenges. As a result, they're reluctant to make time for training programs, at least as they're typically offered, i.e., "Here's a BD training program. Commit a lot of time to learning all this stuff. At some unknown point in the future, it will help you in some undefined way. Trust us." Good luck with that proposition. Having coached 7000 lawyers over 20 years, I've learned conclusively that lawyers simply won't allocate time to such an iffy, "just in case" proposition. 


Busy lawyers want functional, tactical capability, not a degree program. They want to succeed at a specific meeting, presentation, networking event, or other marketing or sales task, i.e., the activity immediately in front of them, say, in the next 4-7 days. As one put it, "I don't want to become fluent in French; I just want to impress my date Friday night at the French restaurant."

More than 150 law firm leaders, CMOs, BDOs and Marketing Directors have recognized that, by using RainmakerVT's a la carte training courses, you can give your lawyers exactly the tactical capability they need, exactly when they need it, and no more than they want or need right now. Help your lawyers by

  • delivering what the lawyers really want -- capability on demand -- and
  • avoiding what they don't want -- abstract training with vague "someday-maybe" usefulness.


Timeliness: "Just-In-Time" is Literal

If you offer a lawyer training today, even on a topic in which she's really interested, but for which she has no application until next month, when will she complete the training? You know the answer: Next month, a few days (at most) before she needs the skill being taught. (That's if she even remembers that the training is available.)

Of the three fights firms typically go through about biz dev training programs, two of them are with their lawyers:

  1. To get lawyers to complete a training program (much of which seems abstract to them)
  2. Apply the training in the real world before they forget it

This is backward, and is guaranteed to fail. Instead, provide practical support for what they've already committed to do. Give them an easy, convenient way to learn the specific skill they need to succeed -- right when they need it.


Here's What Lawyers Are Already Committed to Do


Lawyers' marketplace activity is concentrated in four buckets. 

  • Attend networking events
  • Write articles
  • Speak at conferences and before industry groups
  • Meet with prospective clients

The good news is that each of these is anchored in the lawyers' calendars. They've already committed to do them, for their own reasons. With RainmakerVT's just-in-time training courses, you're approaching them with only the training that's immediately relevant to their imminent activity, so you avoid both fights above. 


Convenience = Timeliness

Most training requires lawyers to be available at a specific time and place, which is guaranteed to conflict with other responsibilities and commitments at least some of the time, making it difficult even for those lawyers who really want to complete the training to do so.

RainmakerVT is cloud-based, which means it's available 24/7 from any computer or tablet. In user-feedback interviews, lawyers told us that they like that they can learn in short 15-30-minute chunks at their convenience, especially during off-hours that don't conflict with their primary responsibilities.


Pricing: Reduce Training Cost and Financial Risk

The third fight referenced above is the funding fight, in which BD departments must get the firm to commit tens- or hundreds of thousands of dollars for programs that nobody knows will work or not. There's no reason to have large amounts of money tied up and at risk.

RainmakerVT unit training cost and total financial investment are marginal. There's no big program commitment or investment.

  • Unit cost: Each course is $40 for unlimited access during the five calendar days after the registration date.
  • Investment: 50 courses x $40 = $2000
  • No waste: Course "tickets" are good for a year; your course inventory decreases as you register lawyers for a specific course for a specific 5-day period. Because lawyers only get the course when they need it, they're much more likely to use it.
  • Replace Only What You Use: When inventory gets low, we alert the firm to see if they want to refill the tank, by which point they have 30-40 concrete lawyer experiences on which to base that decision. 


  • Control: The Marketing or BD department controls access to the courses. Lawyers must request courses, and the BD folks make sure it's the right course for the circumstances, and that it's delivered at the optimal time.
  • Tight Feedback Loop: Because BD staff proactively offers training to lawyers in support of a specific activity, you know If you give a lawyer a course on the 10th of the month in support of activity on the 15th, on the 16th you can close the loop. What worked? What didn't? What do we need to do next?

Easy Implementation

  1. We send you an email with a link to our Terms of Service, which are standard for online information services. Basically, you're agreeing to pay us, and not to copy, modify, distribute, or resell our content.
  2. You reply to that email with a simple declaration: "On behalf of [firm], we accept the RainmakerVT Terms of Service as published."
  3. We email you an invoice showing course quantity, unit price, and total. You pay it.
  4. We establish a secure, private domain for each law firm's training activity, and provide a convenient management dashboard so you can tell at a glance the status of all open course registrations.
  5. We train at least one of your firm's people to administer the course registration administration system. We'll train as many people as you wish, whenever you need it, so that lawyers can always get the course they need.
  6. Biz Dev Managers have the direct contact with lawyers, and they who know what activity various lawyers have planned. We train them how to approach lawyers proactively with only the relevant training that will help the lawyers succeed at their imminent planned activity. The BDMs can also call Mike O'Horo (known throughout the industry as The Coach) for just-in-time guidance help them get familiar with the courses and how they correlate with lawyers' activity. Trish Wilson is available to help with any registration or system usage questions.
  7. BDMs subscribe to at least these two of our four free newsletters:
    • ResultsMailVT: Thousands of lawyers subscribe to this weekly nuts-and-bolts marketing/sales tip, published every Tuesday for the past 18 years
    • Training Triggers: A list of situations that lawyers face, correlated to the training course(s) that will help them. One practice group leader refers to them as "the (situational) leaves on the ground that cause you to look for a (training) rake."
  8. We provide BD staff separate access to all courses. At any time, at no cost, they can experience any course before offering it to a lawyer.
  9. Our free Training Triggers feed enables BDMs to recognize situations where lawyers need help, and which RainmakerVT courses are relevant. Again, BDMs approach lawyers proactively, offering relevant training.

That's it.

Here's a real-world example of the need for just-in-time training that just occurred recently.


Encountering Skepticism About Technology-Based Training's Effectiveness?

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Many people, especially those who have little experience with TBT, assume that, if you can afford it, face-to-face instructor-led training (ILT) is the most effective way to train. They acknowledge that TBT offers cost savings, but perceive that those savings are at the expense of efficacy, citing the human connection element. Ironically, as my research comparing the two modes proved definitively, the human element is the source of all of ILT's disadvantages. In fact, TBT outperforms ILT on each of the 14 metrics that learning experts recognize, and by a surprising margin. To understand why, read my white paper.


Concerned That Lawyers Won't Embrace Virtual Training?


Lawyers who experience RainmakerVT courses give them rave reviews, describing the scenarios and dialog as "very realistic," and the training as "challenging," "engaging," "convenient," "relevant," and "fun."

Don't take my word for it. This summary of 100 in-depth user feedback interviews with lawyers of every type shares their verbatim comments and ratings.

RainmakerVT works for small firms, too. TechnoLawyer SmallLaw evaluated RainmakerVT. Their toughest rater, a solo practitioner, gave RainmakerVT the highest grade she's ever awarded. (Our A-minus was because, at the time, we couldn't run RainmakerVT on iPad; that's now solved.)


Lawyers Need the BD Staff to Guide Them

Let's say that you know nothing about Accounting, and market forces have made it necessary for you to add Accounting to your skill mix. Your firm announces that they now offer training to teach you Accounting skills. You look at the menu of Accounting courses. Would you know where to begin? Probably not. You have no context, just as lawyers have little or no context for BD.

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Lawyers' current BD results do not necessarily equate to having BD skill. Many rainmakers collected their rain in a storm, i.e., they got their clients during the 20-year Golden Age of Law Firms (as AmLaw describes it), a Seller's Market during which demand for law firms was at a historic peak. Since 2008, law firms are in a Buyer's Market, where declining demand for traditional law firms, combined with a glut of lawyers, results in fierce competition that requires real skill.

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As a result, lawyers are experiencing a condition known as Unconscious Incompetence relative to marketing and sales. That means that they don't know what they don't know and, based on their ignorance of what it actually takes to develop business, their confidence far exceeds their abilities. Under such conditions, they don't recognize any skill deficiency, so they're not likely to seek training. Who would?  (If you'd like to understand the Four Stages of Competence, click here.)

That means that there's no reason for them to make training a priority, and why so many lawyers don't complete the training programs their firms offer. RainmakerVT's capability-on-demand approach aligns well with lawyers' attitudes and time pressures. "I don't need BD training. However, I would welcome some help getting more out of these darn networking events I always go to." 

The "four BD activity buckets" described above, plus the situations presented in the Training Triggers, gives your BD staff what they need to approach lawyers proactively, confident that they're offering specific, discrete help that's relevant to the lawyer's imminent activity, or to a longstanding source of frustration (such as "I'm on a number of charity- and civic boards, but don't seem to get clients from them.").

The relevance + imminence combination also sets up a tight training feedback loop. If you give me training on the 5th for something I'm going to do on the 10th, you're talking to me on the 11th. "Hey, Mike, how did it go last night? What worked? What didn't? How helpful was the training? What do we need to do next?"


Lawyers Don't Know What's Possible, So They Can't Ask You For It

Here are two representative examples of help that lawyers don't know exists:

  • Clients increasingly demand fixed-fees or reliable estimates for transactions or litigation. Litigators, particularly, struggle with this, feeling that there are simply too many variables. The resulting range they offer the client is too broad ("$100,000 to $300,000") to be of any use to the client. They don't know that there's a way to have the client co-develop the estimate, contributing information about the opponent that's germane to the relative difficulty (and expense) of the case, that only they have. It's based on what thousands of litigators have told me is a high percentage of cases between parties who have an ongoing business relationship. Hence the unique knowledge that's normally missing from an outside lawyer's estimate. The RainmakerVT course, A Collaborative Approach to Pricing: Share the Estimating Risk with Clients (and Make Life Miserable for Competitors), teaches them how to apply a process that many hundreds of litigators have used successfully. Litigators particularly love that any budget increases are based on objective variances from the client's assessment -- and the client raises the budget, not outside counsel.
  • When lawyers speak at conferences, they usually have a lead time of many months. They don't know that, during that period, they can manufacture a network consisting of people with exactly the optimum profile for their practice. RainmakerVT's simulation, Making “Thought Leadership” Pay Off: Expanding Your Network from Your Desk, teaches them how to use the credibility of the conference and their topic to connect with anyone in the world whom they don't know, or don't know well. This process is so reliable, and so easily learned, that we have 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-year lawyers applying it as part of a client team process.

I'm sure it's obvious how proactively offering lawyers high-impact capability that they didn't even know was possible will immediately enhance the status of your BD department and staff.


Decision Data

Accumulate such focused feedback from 30 or 40 lawyers, and you've got what you need to inform decisions about whether or not to continue RainmakerVT with another $2000 training investment. You'll never have to make a larger investment than your actual usage and success justify.