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Do you view the final two weeks of December as a business development Dead Zone? After all, many prospects and clients are scrambling to meet year-end deadlines, and are distracted by professional and family obligations related to the holidays. Like us, they probably don't want to hear about anything that they don't absolutely have to deal with. Even if these factors are relatively minor for you, there's also an understandable desire to dial things back a bit and take a break. 

While this reasoning is understandable, the danger of shutting down your BD effort completely for the rest of the year is that it's easy for those two dark weeks to turn into four, or six, or more.

You're thinking, "I'll ramp things back up in January." Too often, what that actually means is, "In January, I'll start thinking about ramping up BD again." 

Have you considered that everything ramps back up in January, not just BD? Like us, clients defer many things to January. They'll be back with expectations that we'll crank it up for them, and we'll use that to justify deferring marketing and sales even longer. Apart from clients' demands, you have internal demands, too. Many law firms dedicate January to year-end collections and other concerns such as profit distribution, bonuses, and attorney promotions.

This combination can easily result in you engaging in little or no marketing or sales activity in January. Without realizing it, your entire month has elapsed without getting started. You can't afford to wait until January 4th, or 5th, or later, to begin thinking about how you'll get 2016's business-generation off to a strong start.

In one respect, a law practice is like a retail store. You begin January 1 at zero revenue generated. Work-in-progress billing feels like you're getting the new year started, and it's obviously important to cash flow, but it doesn't contribute anything to reaching your 2016 goal.

That's why it's so important to use these two "BD-quiet" December weeks to decide, and prepare for, the first week in January. This is different from the vague "I've got to plan for 2016" that goes through everyone's mind fleetingly this time of year.

What you can do now

Today -- right now, in fact -- resolve that in 2016, you're going to make revenue-generation the highest-priority component of your practice. That's right, the highest. Not squeeze-it-in-when-there's-extra-time. There's no such thing as extra time. Without that priority commitment you'll always be in danger of not having enough demand for all those law-practice things you'd rather do.

Set aside some quiet time to think through and answer these questions:

  • What's my 2016 revenue goal?
  • What problem drives demand for my most valuable service?
  • Within which industry or market segment does that problem occur with sufficient frequency and impact to constitute opportunity for me? 
  • Who must solve that problem? Who has a stake in that problem?
  • How is each type of stakeholder impacted by it?
  • What communication channels will enable me to participate in the ongoing discussion about this problem?
  • What do I have to say that will be received as a valued contribution to the conversation?

Then, focus on overcoming your natural inertia and tendency to get to it when you get to it, once everything else on your list is done (which will never happen). Ask yourself, "What, specifically, am I going to do at 9:00am, Monday, January 4, 2016, to get started toward reaching my business generation goal?" "Think about" and "plan" can't be part of that answer.

Do this now, or accept that 8.3% of your year will likely pass before you even get started.

Mike O'Horo

The last two weeks of the year are filled with social engagements, at least some of which include clients, prospects, and other business contacts. Many lawyers waste these opportunities, either due to fear of endangering the social relationship, or simply not knowing how to manage the business/social networking mix. 

Download my free eBook, The 5 Networking Mistakes Lawyers Make that Cost Them Clients. Learn a "hunting" strategy that's more effective and more comfortable for you and those you encounter.