vii contents acknowledgments ix int ro d uc ti on: wi n th e c oi n toss xi s e c t i o n 1 opening plays 1 don’t fumble the kickoff 3 2 establish field position 13 3 nail the opening series 21 4 establish quarterback-receiver rhythm 29 5 develop pocket presence 33 6 the right play at the right time 41 s e c t i o n 2 opening strategy 7 avoid the scrum 47 8 own the open field 57 s e c t i o n 3 right connections: the relationship advantage 9 the triple option play 77 10 plan your draft picks 85 11 respect your front line 97 12 be a better teammate 103 13 find open receivers fast 109 14 master the locker room speech 115
c o n t e n t s viii s e c t i o n 4 right conversations: the information advantage 15 run, pass, kick 125 16 call the right play 139 17 command the huddle 147 18 no trick plays 159 s e c t i o n 5 right context: the experience advantage 19 show your skills 167 20 your prospects aren’t the opposing defense 171 21 set the tone for the team 179 22 play the odds 183 23 get more first downs 189 s e c t i o n 6 open-ended 24 stay open 197 25 winning in the red zone 199 26 coda and resources 203 ind ex 211
xi introduction: win t he coi n toss let’s open with some “closing” words: closing is finite. closing is an end. it’s likely that you’ve been taught differently when the subject is sales. our business culture promotes closing as the most vital element of selling. and why not? closing implies tangible results now, not later. in the opening playbook, we’ll take a counterintuitive approach. closing before you’ve appropriately opened a business relationship is the sound of a door shutting in your face. here’s the mantra for the twenty-first century: always be opening. especially for professional services providers, opening a relationship the right way and keeping it open for the long run leads clients to step forward and to select you and your firm . . . and even to work with you again and again. getting bought is better than selling. also, the benefits of opening an authentic advisory relationship (a real relationship, not a manipulative one) accrue over time in a way the short-term, transactional drive to close deals never can.
i n t r o d u c t i o n : w i n t h e c o i n t o s s xii coaches, teams, and athletes rely on playbooks to define orchestrated plays, patterns, and progressions that increase the likelihood of scoring. in baseball, the more at bats you get, the more likely you are to score. managers have defined strategies for making that happen. in football, the more often a team can get the ball in the red zone, the area within 20 yards of the oppo- nent’s goal line, the more likely it is to put points on the board. football play- books have frameworks for making that happen. in soccer, the third of the field where one team is trying to score against the opposing team is called the final third. soccer playbooks have frameworks for getting players into that favorable position. in the same way, the business development framework in the opening playbook was crafted to more frequently put professionals in a position to be bought by their preferred prospects and clients of choice. technique and finesse are the operative words here. once most profes- sionals get in the room with an ideal prospect who has a real and immediate need for help, those professionals usually can do a fine job of demonstrating their differences and winning work. that’s a play with a high probability of success. the problem is that too many professionals don’t know how to get into that room in the first place. the opening playbook describes the best sequence of actions to put you, the soon to be trusted advisor, in more of those opportunity-filled rooms more frequently. foresight about your prospects and unique relationships that advance your credibility are the legal tender of business development. each step along the opening path draws on these reserves, requiring a delicate touch of tech- nique and a fistful of finesse.
i n t r o d u c t i o n : w i n t h e c o i n t o s s xiii here’s the trick: there is no trickery . . . just authenticity. no manipu- lation, no game playing, no cheat codes. success does, however, involve a transformational view of the players on the field. it requires you and your pro- spective client to get on the same team as early as possible, long before you propose work or are officially hired. this brings us to another key point: your prospect or client is not the opponent. no, the opponent is whatever stands in the way of a prospect’s success and the view that anyone but you is capable of and devoted to obliterating the prospect’s obstacles.
i n t r o d u c t i o n : w i n t h e c o i n t o s s xiv opening plays are executed together—prospect and advisor—looking for and then creating openings that advance field position toward the final third and the ultimate goal. success also depends on a proven progression of moves. at first glance, the sequence of plays for moving down the field seems simple enough: conduct enough of the right conversations with enough of the right connections often enough and in the right context. put in an easy-to-tweet way, this would be opening = right connections + right conversations + right context. however, determining who and what are right is essential but not nearly as simple as it initially seems, and executing consistently and frequently on this formula requires a diligence that escapes many professionals. common sense is rarely common practice. the opening playbook provides how-to action steps that will motivate you to persist and succeed. the opening playbook mirrors how a football coach reviews game film and breaks it down play by play to improve players’ performance. watch the footage a play at a time. stop the film, analyze and discuss the play, and establish plans for executing differently the next time. watch some more footage. stop, analyze, discuss, learn, execute. that’s how the opening playbook is arranged. our game film—more to the point, our business development story— plays throughout the book. our story follows six months in the life of sam wentworth, a sixth-year associate at a large law firm in a major city. sam has spent his career to date proving his mettle as an answer-man attorney who in support of his more senior partners completes client engagements with unre- lenting drive. (sound familiar? there’s a bit of sam in all of us.) sam stands on the verge of making partner if only he can quickly dem- onstrate his business development ability. trouble is, he’s never before proved
i n t r o d u c t i o n : w i n t h e c o i n t o s s xv himself in this way, and he’s certainly never dealt with pressure to demonstrate his rainmaking chops. the chapters that follow the story thread of sam and his many unlikely allies who apply the lessons of the opening playbook start with the opening words “roll game film.” next, as the story unfolds, we’ll stop the film at critical junctures to break down the story situation and provide a how-to framework and specific action steps to help you achieve optimal performance. we will highlight activities that create and sustain openings along with those that prevent entry. these coaching chapters will also help you rely on situational “reads” to modify your actions in the same way a quarterback has to read the situation and possibly call an audible. (for those not conversant with football, an audible is a change of play at the last second, called when the quarterback gets a look at the exact defense he’s facing.) chapters that provide direct instruction and that deliver commentary on the action in sam’s story start with “coach’s commentary.” “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat,” sun tzu said in his classic text the art of war. agreed. aiming before firing is usually a good idea. the opening playbook puts marketing strategy first. opening strategy—or positioning, as it is known among marketers—provides roots and grounding for any client development tactics in which you engage. to clarify, there is nothing theoretical about strategy, at least not in the opening playbook. a theory is abstract reasoning or speculation not necessarily rooted in real-world experience. strategy is a well-informed plan of action, validated by experience, that increases the likelihood of business development success. there’s no theory in this book. everything in the opening playbook has been battle tested and found to produce significant relationship and revenue gains if it is diligently and sus- tainably applied. that’s because the opening strategy approach we will share gives you the ability to crisply answer these questions: • who are you? • what do you do? • why should anyone care? • what are you famous for?
i n t r o d u c t i o n : w i n t h e c o i n t o s s xvi this strategy also serves as your primary decision-making tool for prior- itizing the way you spend your business development time most effectively. perhaps more important than your billable time is your prioritized time. the key question in today’s ever-shifting economy is not “how much time can i bill this client?” but “how else can i spend my time in a way that yields the most value for the client and for me and my firm more quickly?” speed matters, and strategy helps you accelerate. sun tzu also said, “strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” agreed. you’ll get plenty of tactical advice from the opening playbook, too. steve ross, the legendary shoot-from-the-hip ceo who transformed the parking garage and funeral home company kinney national into the media giant time warner, claimed that his father had given him the following words of wisdom: there are three categories of people in this world. the first is the individual who wakes up in the morning and goes into the office and proceeds to dream. the second is the individual who gets up in the morning, goes into the office, and proceeds to work 16 hours a day. the third is the individual who comes into the office, dreams for about an hour, and then proceeds to do something about his dreams. you need to go into the third category for only one reason: there’s no competition. figuring your opening strategy and planning actions linked to that strategy equate to your hour of dreaming, and this strategy is useful only if you use it to guide the rest of your working day. if your tactics and actions match and support your strategy, you are on the right growth path. it’s time to open your mind. it’s time to open relationships and revenue. it’s time for a new way of approaching business development. it’s time for the opening playbook.
3 0 don’t fumble the k ickoff roll game film did you ever have one of those moments when you knew your life was about to change for the better? a moment when all your hard work, all your dedi- cation, and all your effort combined to throw open a new door for your career and all you had to do was walk through? sam wentworth was there. he was standing at the threshold. on this particular morning sam was a sixth-year associate at the law firm of habersham & smith llp. his legal skills were impeccable; that was what they said in his annual review. they told him that he was on the partnership track, that within a few years he’d be enjoying the profits and perks of that pedigree, a shareholder of a century-old firm with as much prestige and history as any in this city. he just needed to show that he could bring in the work nec- essary to keep that prestige alive. the firm’s senior partner was a gentleman named roger smith. you know the type. he had a rolodex—yes, he still used a rolodex—a rotating spindle of business cards the diameter of a basketball. his grandfather had started the firm and passed it down to his boy, and then roger had inherited it. he’d taken sam under his wing, showing sam how he did business. 1
t h e o p e n i n g p l ay b o o k 4 for sam, who’d grown up in comfortable but by no means privileged cir- cumstances, roger’s mentorship had been an enlightening experience. the man seemed to know salesmanship like no one sam had ever met. his motto was “no is not an option.” (granted, he wasn’t the most original thinker, but he didn’t need to be.) he approached every conversation like the litigator he was, treating it as a closing argument, a sale he hadn’t made yet. you wouldn’t believe how many stories he could tell about the new clients he’d brought to the firm. of course, since sam and his ilk were professional advocates—“we’re not used-car peddlers, after all,” roger often said—roger wouldn’t say the word sales. but that was what he meant: “you need to be a closer.” today, roger had handed sam the rod and reel to land his first big fish. sam had gone with other partners to visit clients before, but this time it was a prospect, not a client, and sam was to do it alone. joseph jordan was general counsel with the fastest-growing technology company in the region, specific engines. roger believed that jordan’s company could use a little help negoti- ating its employment contracts as it expanded, and he’d known joseph jordan for as long as he could recall. he gave sam the rundown on jordan—wife of 15 years, two kids, ohio state grad, friendly fellow all the way around. in other words, it was a perfect opportunity for sam to jump-start his own book of business. close this deal and it would be partnership dead ahead. the firm’s assistant set up an appointment with jordan for 3 p.m. on a tuesday. perfect time, roger said, early enough in the week that someone hadn’t gotten worn down by the grind but far enough from monday morning that everyone was already humming and ready to work. “tuesdays,” roger said, “are when deals get done.” this particular tuesday was a rainy one, which also boded well. sure, people were often in a down mood on rainy days, but you could turn that to your advantage. you could bond, stuck inside together, in a way that you can’t when minds are wandering on brighter days. as sam walked into spe- cific engines’ sleek building, he could see cars and buses sloshing through the downpour, a man huddled in a newsstand smoking a cigar. this was the city, sam thought, and soon it would be his city.
don ’ t fu m ble t he kickoff 5 sam already had a bit of skill with people. charm, one might say. and he thought on his feet as well as anyone. though he was still in his early thirties, he believed that he knew enough about enough things that he could jump in the deep water of anyone’s pool. he believed he didn’t need to spend a whole lot of time preparing for a client meeting—and yes, he was already envisioning specific engines as a client, because that’s what closers do. as he rode the elevator up 26 floors to the company’s downtown offices, he thought about how he’d present himself to jordan, and he started getting the tiniest bit nervous. he checked his reflection in the gleaming doors of the elevator. every hair in place, suit crisp even after the rain, teeth gleaming. sam wasn’t knockout handsome, but he had the look of a best friend from college, a familiar haven’t- i-met-you-before appearance. once in the waiting room, sam looked around, trying to discern clues to what the company’s executives valued by the kinds of decor they’d chosen for their walls, the kinds of magazines that rested on the coffee table. the fur- niture was angular, minimalist; the art was . . . well, nothing that he could readily identify. hues and tones and swipes and shapes. the magazines were the standard mix of news, finance, and sports with a couple of avant-garde architectural publications in the mix. sam couldn’t find anything relatable to latch on to. quickly, he took out his phone and called up the day’s headlines. strife in the middle east . . . the dow up 10 points early . . . striking workers at the city’s civic center. he tried his best to take it all in to have something to talk about. “mr. wentworth?” the receptionist’s voice startled sam, and he jumped ever so slightly. “sorry. mr. jordan will see you now.” sam tucked his phone into his pocket, rose, and straightened his suit jacket. he paused only long enough to say roger’s mantra in his head—“no is not an option”—and followed the receptionist through specific engines’ corridors. as he walked, he tried to focus on anything distinctive he could notice to help him get an edge, an in, with jordan. this was his moment, this was huge, this could make his career—and then, before sam knew it, he was at jordan’s door.
t h e o p e n i n g p l ay b o o k 6 “mr. wentworth!” jordan said from within the office. “come in, come in.” he extended a hand in greeting, and sam remembered the lessons his father had given him—firm grip, two pumps, look a man in the eye. done. jordan returned the handshake and motioned for sam to take a seat. “you come highly recommended from roger,” jordan said. “how is he, by the way? i haven’t seen him since you had that christmas party at the city club . . . was that two years ago?” “i believe so, sir. he’s doing very well. very busy. as a matter of fact, that’s why he sent me to you. he believes that i could do a fine job of representing your business in some of your—” jordan put his hands up. “whoa, whoa, slow down there, sam. we’ll get to that.” he turned to the receptionist, who was still standing in the doorway. “amanda, would you mind getting us something to drink? sam, what can she bring you?” sam tried to think. it was after lunch, but was it too early to have a drink? should he have a drink? or should he go with water? a soda? too late in the day for coffee. . . . “whatever you’re having,” he finally said. “two bottled waters,” jordan said, and then, as if reading sam’s uncer- tainty, “this isn’t mad men. you ever see that show?” “now and then,” sam said, hoping jordan wouldn’t press the point. “i don’t watch a whole lot of television. movies are more my thing.” sam let the bait hang, and jordan bit. “that so? what have you seen lately?” “the new james bond film was a lot of fun. keeps your interest for the whole film. can’t say that about many movies today.” “i used to love james bond!” jordan said, and sam felt a surge of sat- isfaction. “what do you think of the new guy? i was always a connery fan myself.” there we go. a glimmer of light. keep going. “the new guy is great!” sam said, his voice steadier than it had been all day. “when i was a kid, i used to think that roger moore was the best. it’s only now, when you get older, that you realize gimmicks aren’t the heart of the james bond franchise; it’s the style and the cool. but there was this one time in moonraker where—”
don ’ t fu m ble t he kickoff 7 jordan had been listening politely, but as sam began talking the minutiae of james bond movies, he shifted visibly in his seat. sam recognized the sign. “control the conversation,” roger had said. it was slipping away. “we can talk about this the next time we get together,” sam said. “i’m sure you’re very busy.” “would rather be talking james bond, to be honest,” he said. “but we still have a little work to get done today, right?” “we do. and i’m glad you said that, because—” sam started to reach into his briefcase and pull out a portfolio of his credentials. “boy, you don’t mess around, do you, sam? i’d like to see what you brought, but let’s talk a little more first. tell me a bit about yourself. give me the biography of sam wentworth.” breathe, sam thought. breathe. you’ve got him on your side. don’t lose him. “well, i went to undergrad at michigan, which i hope you won’t hold against me, being from ohio state and all.” jordan nodded at sam with a smile. so far, so good. “i’ve been in practice for three years. my specialties include employment law and—” “kids?” that threw sam. “sir?” “joe. call me joe. do you have kids, sam? a family?” “not yet, sir, but someday. still not married either. i’m sure your two keep you very busy.” he smiled again, but this time it lacked warmth. “three, sam. i have three kids.” “really?” “really. it’s not a puppy that’s kept me up most of the last six months, i can assure you.” sam’s mind raced as if he were slipping on ice. roger’s information was out of date! third kid? at jordan’s age? was he on to spouse number two? sam’s thoughts were scrambling. . . . should he ask? maybe his new wife was a lot younger than jordan was. what else had roger gotten wrong? what else did sam need to remember about jordan, and was that wrong too?
t h e o p e n i n g p l ay b o o k 8 again jordan seemed to sense sam’s discomfort. “sam,” he said, bringing sam out of his head, “let’s see what you’ve got there.” sam handed him the portfolio, grateful for an opportunity to move on from his stomach-churning embarrassment. jordan flipped through the portfolio, a collection of his résumé, his legal writing and court opinions in his favor, and his firm’s marketing brochures. for long minutes the only sound in the office was that of turning pages. sam tried to stifle a cough and could not. jordan looked up at him and closed the folder. “this is wonderful and i’m very glad you brought it,” he said, tapping on the folder’s cover, “but i’m not exactly in the market for new outside counsel. we’re doing just fine on our own with our in-house team.” “i’m sure that’s true, sir, but let me take a moment to tell you the many ways in which i could help you.” sam sat up straighter in his chair and began his prepared speech. “i offer my clients unparalleled drive, the resources of one of the state’s top firms, a willingness to go the extra mile and—” jordan started laughing. laughing! it wasn’t a cruel laugh, but it was a laugh nonetheless, and sam felt his stomach drop. “is this a commercial? sam, relax. i’m sure you’re very good at what you do, but at the moment i just can’t use you.” no is not an option, sam reminded himself. “how many employment lawsuits are you a party to right now?” the laugh vanished. “excuse me?” jordan said. sam felt the faintest curl of cold creeping around his gut but pushed onward, expecting that he, like james bond, could outrun any impending explosion. “how many new hire contracts does your team have in front of you right now? i could certainly help with—” “we don’t share that information, sam,” jordan said. sam recognized the tone in his voice but kept pushing. maybe, just maybe, he could push right past this and get back into jordan’s good graces. everyone likes persistence, after all, right? “i understand that, and of course you wouldn’t,” sam said. “roger told me you’re growing fast, and, well, i’m not suggesting that you can’t handle what you have. . . . i’m just saying that perhaps you could handle what you have a little bit better.”
don ’ t fu m ble t he kickoff 9 “really,” he said. “and why would you think that?” “well, it’s easy to drop balls when things are moving so fast. and a lot of times we’re so close to our contract negotiations that we miss things others with fresh eyes can catch.” “that’s why we already have five lawyers in house, sam. and we’re about to hire a sixth.” “sure, sure,” sam said, and he could hear his voice getting higher. he stopped for a second to bring himself back under control. “i’m sure they’re all very good. why would they be here if they weren’t, right? what i’m saying is that if we worked together, we could all benefit. would you mind if i took a look at one of your employment agreements? i bet i can find some ways to improve it.” jordan smiled and looked out the window at the rain. then he stood, put sam’s folder on his desk, and extended his hand. “it was a pleasure to meet you, sam. please give my best to roger, all right?” sam took his hand and shook it, though his grip wasn’t nearly as strong as before. “sir?” “thank you for coming in, sam,” he said, and then looked to the door. “oh, here’s our water. sam was just leaving, amanda.” “i—ah—” sam tried to compose himself even though both jordan and amanda had made it clear that it was time for him to go. “so . . . we should meet for dinner sometime soon. we can talk a little more james bond.” “that’d be lovely. check with my assistant to set it up.” “sir.”samstoppedatthedoor,roger’smantrapoundinginhishead.“i’dreally like the opportunity to work with you and your colleagues. i really think we have something to offer your organization, and i feel like i didn’t get that across here.” “sam,” jordan said, putting a hand on the young attorney’s shoulder, “it’s my experience that i almost never have to use the word no, because most people know when a conversation is headed that way already. you already know, sam, but just so there’s no doubt . . .”
t h e o p e n i n g p l ay b o o k 10 sam felt his insides curl up. he knew what was coming. “. . . no.” he slapped sam genially on the back, a slap with the slightest bit of a push behind it. as his stomach dropped to the soles of his feet, sam got the message. loud and clear. sam left without a word to the receptionist. later, he would say it felt as if he just appeared down in the lobby so many floors below, rain pelting down onto the sidewalk out front. what had just happened? how had everything turned out so wrong? sure, he didn’t know how many kids jordan had, and he might have been a little aggressive in going for his business, but wasn’t that what he was supposed to do? outside, everything was exactly the same. the rain was still falling. the cars and buses and cabs were still running. the newsstand proprietor was still smoking his cigar. but for sam everything had changed completely. the rain no longer felt like a good omen, the clouds seemed darker, and the puddles were deeper than he remembered when he’d arrived less than 30 minutes ago. how could sam face roger now? how could he go back into the office, knowing he’d failed? roger would make it clear: sam had not just let him down, he’d let his entire firm down. roger couldn’t care less about how sam felt. his concern would be for the reputation—and revenue—of the firm. and sam knew exactly what he would say about this afternoon. this was not good. sam couldn’t go back to the office. he just couldn’t. there was no way. not yet. he needed time: time to collect himself, time to figure out what had gone wrong. in specific engines’ building there was a behemoth coffee shop, a space so huge that it seemed more like an auto dealership. it was a caffeine factory. a line of people ran out the door and into the lobby: a line of people who all looked exactly like sam. hardly soothing. sam needed solitude. he needed space to think. sam stepped outside into the deluge. down the street he could see rays of warm light from another shop cutting through the driving rain.
don ’ t fu m ble t he kickoff 11 he moved rapidly toward the light. he laughed humorlessly at this hallucination. maybe, he thought, i’m having a near-death experience. as sam sloshed through sidewalk puddles, though, the mirage turned out to be real. the shop’s corner windows were stenciled with intricate drawings of coffee cups and cupcakes as well as laptops and cell phones. inside, he could see people sipping at coffee cups but also working away in a quiet, calm setting. the place was called the open note. sam didn’t know if it had decent food or coffee, and at this point he didn’t care. if they were functioning in this economy, they were doing something right, something better than what he was doing. sam pulled his coat up over his head and trudged through the downpour toward the light. available in print and ebook from your favorite retailer