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November 07, 2007

How to assure that you follow up consistently

There’s no way around it: Business development takes time. To build new business, you must follow up, week after week, month after month, year after year.

In The Sales Bible (p. 197), Jeffrey Gitomer sums it up this way “Most sales are made after the seventh no… It takes 5 to 10 exposures (follow-ups) to a prospect to make the first sale… [so] you’d better have what it takes to persevere through the follow-up process and not quit.”

Setting up a system for an individual

For many busy lawyers, the best way to assure that you will follow up is to “make an appointment with yourself” for one or two blocks of time that will be devoted to business development every week, such as 2-4 PM every Tuesday and Thursday. Put the time in Outlook or your weekly planner, and try to avoid scheduling anything else at that time. When something comes up that is more critical, as is sometimes inevitable, reschedule your marketing time.

We recommend setting this time block in the middle of the week, at a time when you are likely to be able to reach clients and prospects. If you think Mondays and Fridays are the best times to discuss new business with your clients, try it, track the results, then decide.

As management guru Tom Peters put it: “What gets measured gets done.” So if you are serious about developing new business, you will need a continuing system to track your time and your efforts.

There are four main types of tracking systems. In order of importance, you should consider tracking:
1. To Dos
2. time
3. activity
4. results

The system that works best for you will depend on your goals and your personality. It is easy to set up a system and hard to keep using one.

To maximize the chances of long-term success, your system must be simple and easy to maintain.

It also helps to share your results with a colleague, a coach, or even a relative or friend. Simply knowing that someone else is watching will make you more likely to follow up. The important thing is to find a system that works for you.

Setting up a system for a group

One of the best ways to get lawyers to follow up is to create a transparent system of group reports so that other lawyers can see what they are doing. The simple fact that a report is being circulated creates a friendly competition and increases compliance. Nobody wants to be the person who has all zeros in their business development report.

A group system will work only if it is simple, focuses attention on the most critical aspects, and is easy to maintain. It is a fact of life that in any given week, some lawyers will fail to complete their reports.

The most reliable systems often put an admin in charge of collecting the data (say, every Monday by noon), and publish the results every week at the same time (such as Mondays at 5). The report should never be delayed to wait for an individual’s results. This week’s missing data can be filled in next week. And the phrase “missing data” in the report will help to insure that the information will be supplied, sooner or later.

Ideally, the reports should start with a clean slate every quarter. Without this fresh start, once people fall behind, they are likely to stay behind and just give up.

When getting started, the best thing is to jump in with a simple report. (If you send the question to a committee, it may never come back.) Then try it out for a few months, and give lawyers a chance to review and revise it at the end of that time. This frequently leads to improvements, and always leads to greater buy-in.


This post was adapted from The LegalBizDev Success Kit Desk Reference, which also includes sample formats for possible reports. For more information on the Success Kit , see our web page.


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Systems are so important for activities that are repetitive by nature. If you have a system in place that you can use to follow up, even as a client base grows, it will be much less of a hassle in the long run.

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