Addressing Your Business Development Baggage

Confronting BD Baggage typically needs to happen on two fronts. First, whether your baggage is directly related to business development (like a lack of confidence in your marketing skills) or something unrelated (like compromised time management skills), there are concrete steps you will need to take to correct the problem. We call these the “tactical/practical” steps. For example, you may need to get some additional training to build up your confidence or you may need to read some books on time management and, in both cases, practice some new strategies.

In the case of John from the first post, we spent about half of our coaching time on the “tactical/practical” front. We helped him do an audit of all of his non-billable activities mapped to the ROI he got from each which led him to the conclusion that he really needed to get off of at least two committees. In order to get support from his practice group leader on that so that he wasn’t penalized, he put together a compelling business plan that highlighted where he was going to redirect his time and attention and what he predicted might come of it. He also started making micro-changes to his schedule where he was able to get some light exercise (like doing walking meetings with some of his mentees and clients plus a once a week family bike ride) and we recommended a stress reduction app that helped him get more sleep. These new strategies helped him feel more energized and he felt more hopeful about his situation which improved his overall engagement.

The second front happens more on the “energetic” level and involves your motivation and mindset. In other words, what is going for you on the mental and emotional level that needs to be cleared in order for you to be successful? Here are some general steps to help get you started addressing the energetic side of the BD Baggage equation:

  • Revisit and recalibrate your goals:
    Particularly if motivation is a challenge for you, step back and revisit your goals. Are they specific enough? Are they realistic? If they seem unattainable, you may need to scale them back. In John’s case, he was given a target number but it seemed unrealistic to him. We broke it down a bit to see how many deals that might entail which helped the number seem more manageable. Then we talked about steps he would have to take with more numbers (ex: number of meetings, phone calls, conferences) and that too seemed more doable.
  • Clarify your motivation:
    Reconnect with why you are striving for this goal in the first place. What’s the benefit to you? Will bringing in business give you great autonomy over your schedule? Will it make you less dependent on others? Will it ensure job security? For John, even though on one level he was motivated by salary increase he also realized he was motivated by having his identity be tied to being good at business development. He leveraged these two factors whenever he felt his baggage coming up to block his progress.
  • Challenge assumptions and limiting beliefs:
    When a partner tells me they will never be the next rain maker at their firm, I believe them because that’s what they believe. And then we start the process of really testing their hypothesis. Is it really true? Is only part of it true? Is there any evidence to the contrary? John’s big assumption which was weighing him down, was that his situation was hopeless. Once the tactical/practical steps started to produce results he was able to see that wasn’t true.
  • Reframe your perspective:
    To the extent a negative mindset is part of your BD Baggage, can you reframe your thoughts to be more positive and helpful. Is there an opportunity for growth? Instead of having to “ask” people for work, is it possible you are “offering” something of value? Can business development be fun or pleasurable? For John, it became all about the “turnaround” story. He realized that if he could navigate himself out of this dark time in his career, it would be a huge exercise in resilience that he could continue to build on.
  • Positive inquiry:
    Instead of focusing on what is not working, shift attention to what is. Which clients and contacts are taking your calls? Which colleagues are inviting you to pitches? What speeches did go well? The more you can celebrate the wins along the way, the more positive energy you can bring to your efforts.

In the end, John was able to get his turnaround story replete with a modest salary increase and more quality time with his family. Unpacking and working through his BD Baggage enabled him to execute on a strategic business development plan and solid marketing skills. He still works to keep his baggage in check, but his attachment to his positive outcomes keeps him motivated.

Thanks for joining us on this blog series. We hope it gave you a framework to identify and address any potential BD Baggage to help optimize success with your business development goals.