David Ackert, M.A., is the President of Practice Pipeline and a mentor to high-achieving service professionals and their firms. He has developed and implemented business development programs for hundreds of firms across the globe, many of whom hail from the top of the Am Law list. Widely recognized as a business development pioneer in the legal field, David’s programs have won the Legal Marketing Association's “Your Honor Award” in the US and Canada. The combination of technology and coaching has become a hallmark of his programs. David has published and been quoted in many major media outlets, and often leads panels and makes seminar presentations on effective communication and business development strategies. He regularly keynotes at law firm partner retreats and trade conferences. He serves as a guest lecturer at USC’s Marshall School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, and at the UCLA School of Law. David holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Ithaca College, and University of Santa Monica, from which he earned a Master’s in Psychology. He is also a certified Business Coach.
Most sales people have a traditional sales funnel designed to churn through hundreds of thousands of leads. They start with their total addressable market (TAM), narrow their suspects down to prospects, and convert some percentage of those prospects to customers. Once the transaction is complete, they typically never speak to those customers again.
But service providers such as lawyers, consultants, and accountants rely on a much smaller network of internal and external referral sources to generate new business.
Their closest professional relationships are often a result of proximity or happenstance (e.g., attending a conference and striking up a random conversation at the coffee station) rather than a conscious decision to meet a particular person who they know is a good fit given their professional goals.
Especially in sectors like professional services, what you’re selling is your relationship with the other person, in a way. For example, if you’re a lawyer, accountant, or consultant, the service you provide to your clients is first and foremost a relationship where you act as their trusted advisor. This is relationship selling, not the traditional sales funnel transaction.
In relationship selling, you become a human pipeline. Your sales funnel becomes much smaller and much more high-maintenance than businesses in other sectors.
To whittle your list down the most crucial people, you’ll need to qualify them to make sure you’re a good fit and can provide each other with value. When you put some care into selecting the people you interact with, and ensure the number isn’t overwhelmingly large, it becomes a lot easier to keep up with.
The Banana Principle
The Banana Principle illustrates this. In 2017, Weight Watchers launched a program to encourage healthier snacking in the workplace. They provided a bowl full of bananas and oranges in the break rooms at various companies across the country.
Employees started noticing that by 10am, the bananas were always gone. Why? Bananas aren’t that much tastier than oranges.
The difference is that bananas are easier to deal with. They’ve got a built-in wrapper, they’re easy to peel, they’ve got easy cleanup, and you don’t get juice all over your face and hands.
Given several paths, humans will tend to choose the easiest. And when it comes to professional networking, if the two paths that lie before you are “Sift through my 3,000 Outlook contacts to try to generate some leads” or “Reach out to my top 30 people,” it’s instantly obvious which one you’d prefer to do.
Practice Pipeline is a software tool that can help you manage the inner circle of your network. Its ultra-simple interface is designed for busy lawyers who need to get high-impact business development done in minimal time.