Pandemic Pivots: Business Development Strategies in an Age of Virtual Insanity

Pandemic Pivots: Business Development Strategies in an Age of Virtual Insanity

By Risa McMahon
November 18, 2021 | 4-minute read
Business Development Sales and Networking Techniques Content Type Article
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After 25 years, I’m still having trouble making heads or tails of the lyrics of Jamiroquai’s 1996 hit song “Virtual Insanity,” but I’ve always found it best to stick to brass tacks. In this article, I’ll share business development strategies for outside counsel to consider as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge our ability to connect in person with existing clients and new connections — resulting in nothing short of virtual insanity. I’ll sprinkle in a smattering of musical metaphors from a time, known to some as “BC” (before coronavirus), to help you remember that what was old, can be new again.*

*An extremely subtle reference for those who enjoy musical theater: Peter Allen’s 1984 All That Jazz hit, “Everything Old Is New Again.”

“What Have You Done For Me Lately” — Janet Jackson, 1986

Ms. Jackson does not mince words; she tells it like it is — but will your clients be as forthcoming? Or will they just call someone else? If you haven’t taken the time to show your appreciation to your clients for their business, put that at the top of your to-do list this winter.

There is no shortage of ways to express your gratitude. A few to consider implementing include:

  • A handwritten note in the mail (with or without baked goods prepared by a local business or a bottle of wine — but only if you know for certain there is not a substance abuse concern).
  • Offering a free continuing legal education (CLE) program to in-house clients on a topic of their choice.
  • Offering to take the client’s team out for a fun outdoor activity, such as a happy hour on a heated patio.
  • Send a popcorn flight from a minority-owned business (for example, Flavor Addicts in Chicago) to each member of their team so they have some fodder for a fun “compare and contrast” exercise at the beginning of their next team call.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing!

“Call Me” — Blondie, 1980

Could Blondie have imagined the power of a regular ol’ phone call? In the age of Zoom happy hours, Microsoft Teams Trivia Tuesdays and endless inbox inflow, a phone call can be a refreshing change. When we all work from home and live where we work, why not let your clients know they can call you any, anytime?

With in-house counsel facing more challenges than ever, outside counsel have tried to meet clients where they are — at home, in the car, at the park with their kids and everywhere in between. Catching clients while they are in their car on the way to pick up their Target Drive-Up order to talk through issues in those cracks of time can be the difference between the outside counsel who stays on speed dial versus the one who only hears the busy signal. (Important: Succinctly recapping the discussion by email is table stakes, not bonus points.)

If you haven’t taken the time to show your appreciation to your clients for their business, put that at the top of your to-do list this winter.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” — The Police, 1980

Was this 1980s hit by The Police a window into the future? Not being able to stand closer than six feet can make it a bit tough to make a connection, let alone the inner conflict about germ transfer when accepting someone’s physical business card.

Enter the creation of a touchless QR code tied to a vCard. My team and I received a time-sensitive request from a new attorney, who received an invitation to an outdoor networking event on her first day. Her printed business cards weren’t available, but we were able to create a QR code linked to the URL associated with the vCard on her website bio. We instructed the new attorney to save the QR code image to her phone so she could easily show it to new connections, allowing them to scan and save from their phones. The success of this touchless networking led us to making unique QR codes for every attorney’s vCard. Though QR codes have been around for decades, their resurgence in popularity through restaurants made familiarity with the technology soprano high, and resistance to the idea baritone low.

“99 Luftballons” — Nena, 1983

These ideas may not have gone over like 99 red balloons a few years ago, but I was pleased with how open the attorneys at my firm have been to giving some of these ideas a try. After all, attorneys all over the nation have pivoted throughout this pandemic, finding ways to keep up with one curveball after another, for the sake of serving their clients and protecting their clients’ interests.

Listen to the songs mentioned in this article on the Spotify playlist below.

Risa McMahon
Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.

Risa McMahon is the director of business development at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C., working out of the firm’s Chicago office. She has spent most of her two-decade career helping lawyers make lasting connections with their clients, and was delighted to have the chance to work with the firm’s 2021 SLIP summer intern, Triniti Groves, and other members of Greensfelder’s marketing and BD team to bring the ideas noted in this article to life. For a list of McMahon’s top 10 songs of the 70s, 80s and 90s, you’ll need to email her at