Craig Budner talks about the key lessons he’s learned as the Global Strategic Growth Partner at K&L Gates. Find out about how Craig secured a multi-billion dollar company’s key litigation case way before the opportunity to pitch came up, the innovative way Craig generates leads that creates incredible value for the prospect at the same time, and why you shouldn’t be afraid to fail.
Mo asks Craig Budner: When did you realize that business development is good?
- Craig’s brother was a litigator and from an early age had his own firm. This taught Craig the necessity of creating a brand and cultivating referral sources in order to grow the firm.
- Craig took a slightly different path from his brother in that he joined one of the firms in Texas. It was there that he created the relationships and connections that made him realize the value of being an advisor to someone and not just on legal issues.
- After creating a relationship with one of the firm’s important executive clients, a partner encouraged Craig to run with what he was doing. During his associate days, Craig learned the value of doing a great job for clients and nurturing relationships.
- When he understood that clients were actual multiple sources of revenue, and that if he could cultivate relationships with people directly in his path of work delivery, he started to get the first call. He was being trusted by the people in charge of important projects, and that gave him the opportunity to do more fun kinds of work.
- How do you advise others to think about business development?
- Demystifying business development is the first step. The characteristics of good parents, friends, and listeners are the characteristics that make a good business developer. It’s not about the money at the end of the line, it’s about growth and learning, and getting better at putting yourself in the shoes of someone else.
- What do you think about mutually beneficial relationships?
- You have to be a better listener than a talker to develop deep relationships. If you’re always thinking about what you’re going to say, you’re not going to get enough information out of that relationship to make it mutually beneficial.
- Think about how you can be helpful to that person. You can leave a positive impression on that person by reflecting back that you have heard them and you’re going to try to advance their issue.
Mo asks Craig Budner: What is your personal “why” when it comes to growth?
- Craig’s father always had a history book in his lap and Craig was brought up in a culture of learning, so learning is at the core of why he does what he does.
- At a global law firm like K&L Gates, if you’re not sensitive to the fact that people grow up in different cultures and with different languages it’s not as much fun. The more perspective that Craig can have with what people are going through makes him better in his leadership role.
- How do you motivate yourself when things get tough?
- People are busy. Don’t assume a lack of response is about you. Craig burns off steam in a productive way most of the time, either by reading, meditating, or exercise.
- People, when they need you, are going to be responsive.
- What are your favorite ways to stay in touch?
- Craig is a fan of interacting over the phone. There are a number of social cues that you can miss via email. If it’s a warm relationship, a phone call to check in when there is some down time is ideal.
- The closer the relationship, the more likely a phone call will help you achieve that raving fan/trusted advisor status.
Mo asks Craig Budner: What is your favorite science, step, or story that you learned from GrowBIG Training or The Snowball System?
- Craig’s favorite module was on lead execution. That section of the program led to the idea of creating round table conversations instead of the usual webinars.
- The ability for clients to listen to their peers is incredibly valuable. It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, there are always parallel problems they are trying to solve.
- When Covid hit, they shifted the round table conversations online.
- The way that GrowBIG framed lead generation led to the idea of the Client Connect program that advances clients when they want to get more granular after a round table. It became a natural progression for a lead to move further down the line.
- Lead generation isn’t mysterious. It should be predictable and there should be a number of things you do every day or week to result in X number of conversations.
- What are your best tips to make those kinds of round table events successful?
- The big tip is to make the guest feel comfortable. Without that there are going to be a lot of introductions and not a lot of substance. Craig does a lot of homework on the participants so the conversation goes beyond the basics. It’s also confidential.
- Getting repeat participants helps new people by showing them they can learn more by jumping into the conversation. Craig also makes sure that the focus is on the clients who are driving the conversation.
- There are almost always issues that the participants haven't had time to address that you can provide value for and that makes them very receptive to a follow up.
- How do you make the offer to have a one-on-one conversation?
- Usually there is some indication on a topic a participant wants to talk more about. Craig usually follows up with an email within a day or two.
- One key element is asking participants how the roundtables could be better afterward.
Mo asks Craig Budner: What is a business development moment that you’re particularly proud of?
- Craig’s story involves one of the biggest matters of litigation that he’s handled. As a relatively young lawyer, Craig had to convince the client that they could trust Craig and his team with a multi-billion dollar company’s litigation against one of the top litigation companies in the world.
- It was about convincing him that Craig and the company worked the way he needed a firm to work along the way on other cases. The client had to evaluate the team’s behavior over time in prior cases.
- It’s often the things you do when it’s not showtime that matters. It’s how you treat the relationship with care, giving more than you’re taking, and how you reflect listening skills.
- The client saw that Craig’s team worked very well together as a cohesive team when the stakes were high.
- The bigger deals are won before the opportunity arises.
- Learning about the pressures the client was under and the goals of his position was key to developing the relationship that ultimately led to the opportunity to represent him.
- Treating everyone on the client’s team with respect and making sure that he saw other members of Craig’s team perform at a high level was key.
- Creating opportunities for interaction with the client’s team definitely added value. Craig’s team offered him a Hot 5, a weekly summary of the legal brushfires the client was facing, whether or not Craig’s team was handling them.
- Being in the trenches with the client and over delivering for them gave Craig the edge when the big litigation revealed itself.
Mo asks Craig Budner: If you could record a video about business development and growth and send it back to your younger self, what would it say?
- Craig would tell his younger self to not be afraid to fail.
- Have conversations with people that you may not be ready to start. Be willing to interface with people to learn their stories.
- It’s when you’re worried that you may not look good by asking people about their lives, that’s when you are missing an opportunity to grow and get better.
- Divorce yourself from the outcome.
- Business development is what occurs before the pitch.
- It’s better to be curious than it is to think of the things to say. When you’re curious you figure out how to further your journey.
- You control whether you make the ask, and whether you listen carefully and grow from what you hear. You don’t control whether someone is interested.
- Go to the conversation to grow.
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