September 23, 2019

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Business Development – Like Hockey, it’s About Taking Lots of Shots

I have a confession to make: I don’t like professional sports.

I’m rethinking how I feel, though, thanks to the Carolina Hurricanes.

I recently attended my first NHL game – the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Buffalo Sabres. Hubby was smart about getting me to the game. We had fantastic seats, three rows back from the ice.

The speed! The action! The fights! I think I could learn to really like this game, but first, I need to understand what is going on out there on the ice, so I’ve begun to educate myself on the rules and strategies, and what all of those statistics mean.

What I learned was that hockey players take a lot of shots, but the actual number of goals scored is very low. Hockey takes training, perseverance, seizing opportunities, and being okay with missing more than you score. Thinking about it, I realized just how many aspects of the game ring true to of life, even in legal marketing.

Here are a few ways to look at developing business through the lens of a hockey game.

Be Strategic 

Like scoring a goal in hockey, lawyers looking to develop new business have to be strategic and work for results. Have a simple but strategic plan, and work it regularly. For example, make a list of five prospective clients with whom you would like to work, then go to the conferences they attend, introduce yourself and start building those relationships.

Hone Your Skills

Hockey players must be focused and specific about exactly what they need to improve in their game. While most law schools do not teach business development, they do equip lawyers with skills that translate well to the business development process. This includes being a good listener, asking the right questions, and creative thinking. The more you practice these skills to develop relationships with prospective clients, the easier it becomes, and the more success you will have.

Take a Lot of Shots

Everyone loves goals — the slick moves, the well-placed shots, and the player celebrations. I’ve learned that the average number of goals per NHL game is 2.7 per team, while the average number of shots taken is 34.3. New business development is not a one-shot scenario. Statistics show that it takes an average of eight interactions with a prospective client before you are positioned to earn their business.

Be Yourself

I’ve heard lawyers admit defeat before they even get in the business development game. Often this is because they are competing with the “marketing machines” of an
AmLaw firm or a firm with greater name recognition in the industry.

One thing I liked about the 2018 Stanley Cup was the “firsts.” The Caps won their first Cup in franchise history. The Golden Knights were the first expansion team to make the playoffs in their inaugural season since the 1967 NHL expansion and eventually became the first team since the 1967–68 St. Louis Blues to win their conference and reach the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season. If you have great experience with solving clients’ problems, you are in the game. Tell your story enough times to the
right audience, and you will be victorious.

Work with Your Team

You don’t have to develop new business alone. In fact, you are more likely to find success if you team up with others. Does someone else in your firm know the client you are targeting? If so, talk with them about what they know about the target, and find out whether they will make an introduction. Do others in the firm attend the prospect’s trade association meetings? If so, ask if you can attend with your colleague. This makes breaking the ice much easier.

As hockey legend Wayne Gretsky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” The same can be said about business development for lawyers. Business development is about networking and developing relationships. If you sit at your desk with a sandwich for lunch every day, you are not taking the shots.

© Copyright 2008-2019, Jaffe Associates


About this Author

Joi Neike of Jaffe PR Legal Marketing Law Firm Business Development
Senior Vice President Marketing & Business Development

As a pioneer in the field with more than 20 years experience in AmLaw firms, Joi Neiki has hands-on experience in all aspects of legal marketing and business development. From 2007 to 2012, she served as the CMO for Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, where she provided strategic direction and leadership for marketing, communications and business development functions. She helped revolutionize the firm’s marketing strategy by implementing its first client feedback and social media marketing programs, two initiatives that helped her become a finalist for Business...