Anyone who takes business development seriously has a list of names. Perhaps it consists of referral sources, key clients, prospects, or a combination of the three. It lives on a legal pad in your briefcase or on your Practice Pipeline dashboard. Hopefully you reference it often so you can stay top of mind with the people who contribute meaningfully to your bottom line.
But there is a category that is usually under-represented on such a list: your competitors.
Sure, they'd steal your clients if they had half a chance. But don't hold it against them. They can still help you. Schedule a regular lunch with your top competitors and explore some of these possibilities:
Market intelligence - Their perspectives are informed and relevant to you. Compare notes on the latest trends in your target industries.
Collaboration - Can you join forces in some way? Discuss opportunities to co-counsel or prioritize each other when conflicts arise.
Co-market - Present a webinar together where you sit on a virtual panel and demonstrate your expertise to a broad audience of prospective clients. You'll get some new business and so will they.
Recruit - Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday your competitor may find themselves looking for a new place to work. If you've nurtured a congenial relationship, you may find yourself on the short list of places they'd be willing to import their book of business.
Whether the market is soft or bullish, it's easy to adopt a hoarder's mentality. We can become overprotective and risk-averse, forgetting that a creative, counter-intuitive approach is the only way to identify unconventional opportunities. So put a few competitors on that list of yours. As long as you're judicious about what you share with them, you'll find that they can be more helpful than you thought.