Alright, I admit it; I watched some of the NCAA tournament. It was very exciting and engaging, right up until Duke got knocked off by Louisville on the way to the Final Four. Then I stopped caring so much about basketball, and started to think about how business development is like the NCAA competition … even if there are fewer cheerleaders, trophies and office pools.
Wouldn’t it be great if your client roster was built in a way similar to teams advancing through the tournament brackets? Having clients compete for your firm’s attention is a real novel approach, almost like a daydream. Your book of business would have only the best #1 seeds, made up of customers with the most skill, talent, strength and stamina climbing to the top. Those are the clients you deserve.
Then the “Shockers” come along to upset the plan, and spoil the dream with a dose of reality. Wichita State was a #9 seed; it’s been 48 years since their last Final Four appearance; they weren’t supposed to be there. Nobody told the “Shockers” not to bring their A-game to the tournament; nobody said you’re not allowed to knock off higher ranked teams along the way. So they did.
Whether it’s luck, karma, too many errors or tough competition, sometimes you don’t get the clients you expect rising to the top. What do you do then?
If you’re a good coach – and smart about rainmaking and business development activities – you’ll go right back to the game plan and figure out what adjustments you need to make. You’ll research your target markets, choose the clients to pursue who align with your firm’s expertise and financial expectations, and build the relationships to make it happen. Statistically, you won’t win them all; but enough of the right kinds of clients will progress through your firm’s brackets. You’ll have a good, solid Final Four set of customers that partners will appreciate and value.
If you panic, abandon your game plan, and worry too much about the ones that get away, soon every prospect is equally attractive. A scattergun approach replaces targeting as the doors become wide open. You’ll get more than your fair share of real shockers who will prove to be difficult to handle, likely unprofitable and detrimental to your firm’s plans and future.
Not all clients are created equal, and you usually get what you plan for. So, how many shockers have you let slip onto your client list? There are good ways to shift the odds in your favor and keep the best ones advancing through the brackets. You know what to do.
(By the way, the Wichita State “Shockers” deserved everything they got during the NCAA playoffs. They did defy the odds, but they did it all year by winning the most games in their school’s history. Their tournament performance was just icing on the cake. They knew what to do, too.)