Top 5 Business Development Tips

Column contributed by Marianne Trost and published in Attorney at Law Magazine, February 2011

Maximize your current efforts before you add more tasks to your 2011 business development “to do” list. Working smarter will help you add value to the time and effort you invest in growing your practice this year. Commit to: 

1. Prioritize your contacts. Not all relationships have the same potential for return on investment. Go through your contact list and identify those that are likely to be most fruitful. If your time is limited, invest a greater amount in the relationships that are most likely to matter. Take steps to rekindle relationships that have potential. Calendar follow up at regular intervals. 

2. Plan before you network. Invite contacts to attend with you. When feasible, get a list of attendees in advance and identify whom you would like to meet and whom you would like to introduce to others at the event. Familiarize yourself with the event sponsors and consider introducing yourself at the event. Within 48 hours of attending, send your vCard and a follow up note. Stay in touch. 

3. Schedule face time. There’s no substitute for face to face conversation. Take the time to have lunch, meet for coffee, visit your contact’s office/worksite, or attend an event together. Ask open ended questions and spend the majority of your time listening, not talking. Use 2011 as a reason to find out what your contacts’ goals and anticipated challenges are. Then find ways to help. 

4. Ask for the business. Let your clients know that you enjoy working with them and that you would like to continue to serve their needs. Don’t assume they already know. Look for opportunities to tell your contacts what you do and why you do it. Ask potential clients and referral sources for their business. If you don’t ask, someone else will. 

5. Set goals. Having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish in 2011 will help you assess opportunities as they come along. Investing the time upfront to decide what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it will help you eliminate random acts of business development and wasted resources.

Marianne Trost is the Women Lawyers Coach. She is a nationally recognized trainer and international author, speaker, and coach. Marianne’s mission is to provide women lawyers with practical tips, guidance, inspiration and support to grow their own books of business, create self-determination in their careers, and manage their advancement strategically.

Tips to Save You Time

By Marianne Trost, The Women Lawyers Coach

Article written by Marianne Trost and published in Defense Research Institute Sharing Success Newsletter, Spring 2014

One of the biggest obstacles to building a book of business is finding the time to do it. There are not enough hours in the day to put into practice every business development tip and strategy that is out there. There are, however, several things you can do to maximize your time and position yourself for a greater return on your business development efforts. 

Have a Plan

Whether your plan is a list of “What do I want to accomplish in the next three months?” or a document that your firm has asked you to complete for the year, having written goals can help you think through your objectives and commit to something concrete so you can start creating it and guard against doing “random acts of business development.” 

Be Selective

Weighing ongoing commitments and new opportunities against your goals can help you identify potential time zappers and raise the red flag on activities that are not aligned with what you want to achieve. For those of us that have a hard time saying “no,” goals provide a framework for remembering to decline when the upside is not great enough. 

Mine Your Current Contacts

The rule of thumb is that it takes 6-9 times more effort and money to find a new contact than it does to expand a current relationship that you already have. While adding new contacts to your pipeline is important, don’t lose sight of the value of building on the ones you have. Even rekindling dormant relationships can serve as a time-efficient focus for business development. 

Keep a Short List

Create a short list of contact/client relationships that you want to grow in 2014. Keep that list handy. When you have an extra ticket to an event, consider inviting someone on your short list. When you have a sudden opening in your schedule, consider reaching out to someone on your short list. Glancing at your short list saves you the time of perusing your entire contact list every time you need to extend a quick invitation. It also reduces the risk that “I’ll think about it later” will result in a missed opportunity. 

Strive for Face to Face

While meeting face to face may seem like it takes a lot of time, doing so can advance relationships in ways that email and phone calls cannot. Taking a few hours out of your travel schedule to visit a long distance client can make an impression worth a thousand emails. Walking through a manufacturing facility or viewing a new product line in person can set you apart and imprint you in the mind of your contacts for years to come. 

Repurpose Your Work

If you give a presentation on a substantive topic, think of ways you can repurpose the content into written material that you can send out to contacts as an eAlert, convert into an article, or post on a blog or your website. When you write an article, think of ways you can easily turn the material into a presentation that you can make to an in-house contact, a trade organization, or another practice group in your firm. Build on what you have already created. 

Ask for Opportunities

Sometimes opportunities are within reach, if only we would ask. If you would like to serve on a panel, don’t wait to be asked. Ask. If you would like to write an article, ask. If you would like to be assigned to a case, ask. If you would like to be introduced to a contact, ask. You may be surprised how easy (and fast) it is to get what you want when you don’t spend a lot of time waiting for someone else to offer. 

Use Your Reading Pile as a Touch Point

When you dive into your reading pile, grab some post-its and write down the names of anyone else you know who would likely find what you are reading of interest. Then forward the information to them with a note or an email. This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to stay in touch. Remember, however, to only forward information that you believe would be of value or helpful to the recipient. None of us like to be spammed. 


Co-authoring an article, co-presenting on a panel, co-nominating someone for an award, or sharing a table at an event all provide ways to participate jointly with your contacts and clients and simultaneously deepen relationships. While these activities often save time, they can also be a means to creating a meaningful shared experience that sets you apart from the competition and better positions you to maximize your business development efforts in the future. 

Marianne Trost is the Women Lawyers Coach. She is a nationally recognized coach, trainer, author and speaker. Her mission is to provide women lawyers with practical tips, guidance, inspiration and support to grow their own books of business and advance in their careers.