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Confidence Necessary for Business Development Success

I've just finished reading Rosabeth Moss Kanter's book, Confidence. The basic premise of the book boils down to: Winning begets winning, and losing begets losing, because of their respective impact on confidence.

For me, this drove home the importance of developing confidence in your business development acumen in order to have business development success.

Women who are confident in their business development skills are more likely to put forth the necessary effort to succeed at business development. Colleagues who sense your confidence are more likely to refer business to you. Clients who sense your confidence are more likely to hire you.

In contrast, women who lack confidence in their business development skills shy away from marketing opportunities. Others sense this lack of confidence and act accordingly.

Tips for Developing Confidence

Observing this phenomenon begs the questions of how to develop confidence if you aren't as confident as you'd like. This is a complex area; let's explore a few tips that have worked for my clients:

  • Get clear about your personal business development strengths. Do you have a great network, marketing support, the ability to easily develop relationships, a roster of loyal and appreciative clients, a niche practice, or well-developed listening skills? 
    • Focus your business development efforts on your strengths. It will take less effort and return greater rewards. Business development doesn't have to be painful!
  • Develop a network of support. Kanter identifies collaboration as one of the cornerstones of confidence building.
    • In my Women Rainmakers Roundtables, groups of women partners come together to build their books of business. At these meetings, hearing others share similar challenges and how they have overcome them energizes and builds confidence for participants. Developing a similar support system for your marketing can help build your confidence.
  • Keep track of your successes--whether small or large. Keep a file of positive feedback you have received from clients over the years--thank-you notes, appreciative e-mails, referrals, etc. When your confidence begins to wane, pull out your file and read through the positive feedback you've garnered.
  • Start small. Most big marketing successes are made up of lots of little marketing successes--following up with someone you met at a networking meeting, sending consistent e-mails to an existing client, or sending an article that may interest a prospect. 
    • Set a small, realistic goal for yourself. Make it something you can do consistently. Meeting your goal will demonstrate that it's not that hard to market yourself. Start small and keep at it.
  • Be patient. Building relationships that lead to getting hired takes time. Don't be unrealistic in your expectations for any given marketing effort. Research shows that, to develop a significant book of business, a partner needs to invest 300 to 400 hours per year over a four- to six-year period of time. I don't share that to discourage you, but rather to suggest just how much patience is needed.
    • It's unlikely that someone you meet at a seminar will hire you on the spot, but you could use a conversation at that seminar to establish the basis for a follow-up contact. And remember that their learning more about your services or hiring you is probably much more important to you than it is to your prospects. If your calls or e-mails aren't returned, it's probably because they are dealing with matters that, from their perspective, are more pressing at the moment.
  • Realize that people can buy from you only when they have a need for your services. Buying legal services is not like buying a pair of shoes. People can't hire you just because they like you. By understanding and accepting this, you will learn that not getting hired is much more about timing than rejection.
    • Simply continue to follow-up until the time is right.
  • Take advantage of business development mentoring. Ask a successful rainmaker to help you, or hire a marketing coach.
    • Mentoring is a smart way to shorten the learning curve on business development skills. Knowing you have the support and guidance of a pro will make you feel much more comfortable putting your new skills into practice.


Confidence is a critical part of business development success. And, as you'll have noticed in the tips above, one of the foundational elements of confidence is taking action. So, starting today, try one of these suggestions, and watch your confidence grow.

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