You hear and read so much about the importance of "focus." In fact, I'll bet it's close to impossible to find a conference agenda where the word doesn't appear. Everybody is telling lawyers that their business development effort requires focus, but far less is offered about how to do that. Since I'm in the "how" business, let's get to the how.
A number of lawyers in my training programs express discomfort with the idea of having a specific target market. They're concerned about losing out on work they're capable of doing, but that falls outside the target.
If your target market delivers profitable work that you enjoy, and enough of it to accomplish your financial goals, why worry about what you're missing? For example, your goal is 2000 hours (which, BTW, is too high to enable you to conduct any meaningful marketing and sales activity), and if being known as the attorney-client privilege lawyer for investment bankers gets you 2000 hours worth of those cases, how important are another 300 hours of general corporate matters that you won't really have time to do properly, anyway? If you want to do those other types of work to provide variety and keep things interesting, set your primary goal at 1700 hours and trust fate to deliver an accidental 300-400 hours of other work, as it has so far throughout your career.
The bottom line: Buyers within any market can only associate you with one thing; you cannot be known as the ABC specialist and the XYZ specialist BY THE SAME PEOPLE. The key is to identify the buyers you wish to influence, then be consistent in your message to them or you'll confuse them and be known for nothing.
Rate Your Prospects
Every lawyer cites time limitations as the most serious obstacle to doing more selling. That makes it even more important to evaluate each sales opportunity or prospect for time-worthiness. To analyze your prospect, ask yourself:
- Does my solution fit the prospect's needs, i.e., do I solve a problem that people like that tend to have?
- Has the prospect acknowledge having the problem I solve?
- Has she expressed interest in discussing that problem with me?
- Does the prospect understand all the consequences and impacts of the problem?
- Has the prospect concluded that those consequences are unacceptable, and that he MUST take action?
- Does she understand and agree with my approach to solving the problem?
- Having concluded that the company must take action, is he motivated to identify the other stakeholders and let me facilitate a decision?
- Is at least one stakeholder biased in my favor?
- Do I have a reliable decision process to help them reach a decision?
If the prospect doesn't measure up, decide how many of these tests this prospect can pass, how you can get them to that point, and how long it will take. If you don't like the answers, move on. (The first two are absolute deal-killers. If those answers are not clearly "yes," you're drilling a dry hole.) Let your competitors waste their time with this one.
Define The Perfect Prospect
You can reduce the amount of qualifying you have to do by defining, and only pursuing, prospects who match your definition. Write a brief description of the perfect prospect for your practice. This should be very specific, e.g., a lawyer with international experience might specify "manufacturing companies with $50-100 million in sales who are just beginning to look at distributing their products overseas." An employment lawyer focusing on harassment or wrongful termination issues might target "retail or distribution companies with predominantly non-college educated supervisory staff."
Compare the descriptions with your actual prospects, then create a ranked list of potential clients so you won't spend as much time chasing down marginal prospects, but you can immediately recognize the prospects that fit the "best" category when you see them.
If you haven't defined your optimal prospects in sufficient detail to visualize them, they're not real, you have no target market, and you're hoping for the best.
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