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Common BD Mistakes IP Attorneys Make and How to Avoid Them

Effective business development is crucial to building a successful legal practice and IP career. While good lawyering skills will always matter, they won’t get you very far if you can’t build and maintain solid client relationships.


The pandemic has changed the way IP lawyers do business; digital is much more important now, face-to-face events and meetings have been severely curtailed, and virtual is the name of the 2021 game. Although the way they must interact with prospects has changed, IP lawyers are still guilty of several mistakes when it comes to business development.

The following are some of the most common mistakes attorneys make regarding business development in the IP industry, plus tips on how to avoid them.





Just Networking, instead of building meaningful relationships


If we could give one tip to every IP professional, it would be to focus on building meaningful relationships with your network. Of course, Networking and expanding your contacts should always be a part of your work routine, but when it comes to acquiring clients, you need to get to know the people in your network better.


“Networking is about knowing more people; Connecting is about knowing people more.” - John Maxwell.


As you meet new people and cultivate relationships with them, you will begin to feel a connection building. If you continue to focus on those relationships, you will soon find yourself with a strong network of not only clients but referral sources and industry leaders that will be of great value along the way of your career.


Hard Selling, instead of providing value


Even if you know for a fact that someone needs your services, do not start the relationship by selling. If you come out of the gates trying to sell, you will make them run for the hills!

This is especially true when it comes to messaging new connections on LinkedIn. People want to work with people they know, like, and trust. However, this person you are trying to connect with has no idea who you are, so how will they learn to trust you? Also, people buy based on emotion, and they justify their purchases based on logic, so they lose the hard sell.


Hearing, instead of Listening


The key to success in any business is to be an excellent listener and look to provide value to that person. For example, let’s say you have a virtual coffee date with a new connection. If you ask the right questions and genuinely listen to their answers, you will start to see opportunities to be of assistance.

Perhaps they express they need help with their IT and computer systems—you can connect them to one of your trusted IT partners. If the referral pays off, you not only just gained the trust of this new person, but you improved your relationship with your referral source. It is a win-win situation.


Confusing Business Development with Sales and Marketing


Many lawyers are uncomfortable with the idea of selling or marketing their services – after all, they went into law, not sales. However, business development should not be confused with these other activities.

While sales and marketing can both be crucial to growing a business, they are different from BD. Business development is more focused on client service, value, and satisfaction. The goal is not to make a hard sell but rather to connect with clients, get to know their particular needs and make sure you’re meeting them to retain their business in the future.


Focusing on the Wrong Clients


A key part of business development is, of course, trying to bring new clients, but it’s essential not to forget your current clients and the new avenues of business they might provide. Your existing clients can be a better source of new revenue than brand new clients. Always remember - A happy, loyal client is worth a lot more than a new client.


Failing to Differentiate


Today’s IP market is a highly competitive one. Simply being a top-notch IP lawyer may not be enough anymore to attract new clients. Clients want lawyers who specialize in what they do and really understand their industry. In the IP industry, it is even more critical.


Not Having a Plan


Business development is not a hit-and-miss activity. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, having goals for growing your business and a plan for how you intend to meet them are crucial to success. You should take some time to determine what you want your practice to accomplish in the next year and then figure out the necessary steps to position yourself in those key areas. Without a plan, you will likely end up investing a lot of time in business development efforts that don’t actually pay off. You can seek professional help if you are confused. Together with our partner Graulund Consulting, we specialize in addressing the wide range of issues challenging IP professionals. We work with your organization to develop a customized plan to identify and achieve your objectives.


Bottom Line


If you struggle with business development, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, many IP lawyers and IP firms make mistakes in this area, and they can have significant adverse effects on business growth. The good news, though, is that all of these missteps can be avoided if you focus on how you’re going about developing new business and build a solid business development plan.

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