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Creating Your Own Championship Season: What law firm business developers can learn from the 2018 Red Sox

My passion for the Boston Red Sox is no secret. The team’s recent World Series win was a satisfying victory. Looking more closely at a record-setting season, we can take away a few pointers that can be applied to business development and marketing in the legal profession. Here are ten tips – one for each player on the field along with a “designated hitter” – your firm can take from the success of the Red Sox.

  1. Investing in the future pays off. The best-selling book “Moneyball” lauded the Oakland Athletics baseball team for having a competitive team while maintaining the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball. The problem is that the A’s never won in the playoffs, and their competitiveness faded after just a few seasons. On the other hand, once John Henry purchased the Red Sox, he invested in quality players while also building a farm system to develop future stars. Now the team has won four World Series titles and is consistently among the leading contenders.
  2. Patience and perseverance are necessary. We all know the story of the 86-year wait for the Red Sox to win the World Series. What a sweet release when the “curse” was finally broken! Similarly, business development does not always work immediately. To use another Boston reference, marketing a law firm is not a sprint, but a marathon. Be prepared to support the effort over the long haul.
  3. Never give up. I have found over the years that some of the most loyal and profitable clients are those who initially rejected the advances of a firm. Unfortunately, hearing a “No” sends many business development professionals to the showers. Stay in touch, keep your firm visible, and be alert for opportunities that may come at an unexpected time.
  4. Sometimes it takes 18 innings. Business development can be a grind. The first contact can be thrilling, but the next six calls become drudgery. It is important for a business developer to maintain enthusiasm and optimism over a protracted period. The best clients are worth the effort.
  5. Teamwork is key. While every team has one or two superstars, nobody wins a baseball game alone. The high level of collaboration on the field must be duplicated at your firm. Simply designating someone as a rainmaker and sending them off on a quest for new business seldom produce desired results.. The entire firm, especially the partners, must be aware of and involved in business development, supporting and cooperating with those charged with opening doors.
  6. Not every pitch is in the strike zone. You may have a vision of your firm as the best option for any and all clients. But not everyone will see it that way. Sometimes the fit with a potential client is simply not there. Or your “pitch” falls flat. You may need to adjust your approach to business development to achieve success. For example, Red Sox manager Alex Cora had his players take a more patient approach at the plate, being more selective and extending every at bat until they saw a pitch that was in the strike zone.
  7. You need to go to the wall. Mookie Betts demonstrated a knack for snatching victory from defeat by going “above and beyond” – literally. There will be times when you will need to show similar courage to make a breakthrough for your law firm. Perhaps it is a “leap” to take on a larger client or stretching beyond your comfort zone to support a marketing initiative. No risk, no reward.
  8. Analytics are essential. It sometimes seemed that Red Sox manager Alex Cora had a crystal ball in the dugout, making timely pitching changes and defensive shifts that proved to be spot on. What he really had were in-depth reports analyzing opponents’ strengths, weaknesses, trends and tendencies. The same commitment to research and analysis can make your firm’s business development program more effective. Knowing your market and understanding your prospects’ business will give you an advantage.
  9. Strong leadership is essential. Red Sox owners, general manager Dave Dombrowski, and manager Alex Cora worked in concert to build a winner. The commitment came from the top down and remained consistent throughout the season. That’s the kind of stability that creates an environment that fosters innovation, ingenuity, and initiative.
  10. Creating raving fans is a must. There is a reason generations of Red Sox fans waited patiently (mostly) for 86 years between World Series wins. The “Red Sox Nation” fan base is intensely loyal and devoted. Does your law firm create clients who demonstrate the same level of allegiance? Are you using your client base to advocate for your firm with referrals and recommendations? It is not automatic – they need to be nurtured, asked and recognized for their support.