Five is the Key Number for Business Development

A handful of reasons...

A handful of reasons…

For Noah the key number was two, as in ‘two by two’. For professionals needing any guidelines for their investment in business development activity, the key number to remember is five. Here are a handful of reasons why.

  1. The number of priority clients is…five

You’ve probably got hundreds of contacts. The biggest mistake most people make is not to prioritise them. It doesn’t mean all your clients aren’t going to get brilliant service. They all should do. I’m suggesting that a handful of clients and prospects are going to get extra special attention with a view to them giving you and your firm a greater share of their work.

Actually your priority five contacts don’t need to be just clients or prospects – referrers or multipliers are ideal organisations to have in your top five.

  1. When preparing to meet prospective clients, you need five insightful things to talk about

Most people seem to prefer to ‘wing it’ and talk about the football and hope the client asks them for advice. Your BD time will be so much more effective if you do a bit of preparation.

They’ll be things to talk about relating to their sector – what their competitors have been up to or changes to the regulatory framework. They’ll be issues relating to the company itself. You can get clues about their strategy from their website and from any media coverage. Then there are things that your particular contact might be interested in. Check out LinkedIn and other online sources for any clues.

  1. Contact them no more than five times in a year

More often than that and you risk looking desperate and pestering them too much. I advocate making diary notes so you remember to follow up on your conversations.

  1. Address no more than five needs when selling

If you find yourself saying ‘…and the 92nd reason why we’re the best firm is because…’ your audience has almost certainly nodded off and they won’t remember any of your key points.

There are dozens of different client needs, for example:

  • Particular expertise (ie have you done lots of these deals before and pick up any complicating factors etc)
  • Breadth of capability (ie do you have useful skills in related fields suach as tax, regulatory, employee benefits etc)
  • Project management skills to ensure hitting certain important deadlines
  • Geographical coverage (eg a local office or in other key jurisdictions)
  • Value for money – this is rarely not a factor!

5. There are five different kinds of client benefits

The client organisation will be focused on benefits in these areas:

  • Quality/Rigour – a thorough grounding of expertise, good precedents and an effective process
  • Speed/Timeliness – speed of response and working to deadlines etc
  • Value for money – with accurate estimates, frequent cost updates, risk sharing etc

The client individuals will be interested in benefits for them, such as:

  • Can you make their life easier, with less hassle and a better night’s sleep?
  • Can you help them look good, hit their targets and get their bonus?

Five reasons why five is the number that is key for BD. For much more on this topic see my handbook The BD Handbook for Lawyers – PROSPECTS TO ADVOCATES at

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