Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
The cocktail season is upon us. What are your plans for networking and meeting some new contacts?
Over the next few weeks you will likely have many opportunities to meet new people and gather business cards. Ask these people some really good questions so when you follow up with them in the New Year, you will have a good place to start.
Have a wonderful holiday season.
My clients are always asking me for ways to add value to their client relationships. The best (not only) way to do that is to be able to offer ‘big Picture’ advice. How can you do that? By understanding the big picture of your clients business, goals, the legacy they want to leave behind. So instead of just reacting to a request, next time sit down with your client and find out more about their business and their goals and why they want you to perform a certain task. That way you will be able to see where they are going and potentially save them a few wrong turns. This is really about ‘discovery’, the third step in the On Trac four step business development system.
Today I had my last session with one of my best clients. We have worked together for the past nine months. Why is he one of the best? He did the work, he was a sponge in soaking up information and knowledge, he has had amazing success and is now on the cusp of full partnership, and to top that all off, he was very appreciative of my advice and coaching. His career is about to really take off.
In my last blog entry I started the conversation about why it’s so important to focus strategically on your target audience. Here are a few tips on how to do that. First you need to identify if the areas you are working in are emerging or established and what are their long term prospects for growth. Also consider the types of work you like and the people you like to work with. Finally you need to look at what your firm is doing and make sure it is aligned with your own goals. Then begin to learn everything you can about those markets. How do you do that? Ask your current clients that fit your ideal profile, what is of interest to them? What do they read and why? What associations do they belong to and what events they like to attend. Then start attending those events and reading those publications to better understand what is important to them. If this sounds simple, that is because it is. It is also very strategic and it works.
I can’t count how many times I have begun working with a lawyer and one of the first things we look at are their target markets. If you have too many, how on earth are you going to be able to target them all?
I understand when you are starting out as a junior associate you will likely be working in a number of practice areas. But as you mature in your career it would be wise to narrow those down not only to focus more strategically but also to build expertise in one or two areas. One of the very first things I do with clients through the creation of a business plan is to really examine who they want to target and why?
There are several ways associates can leverage the experience, reputation, work load and knowledge of senior partners. The first thing to mention is that you have to be proactive. Don’t wait for them to come to you-they have their own practice and life to worry about and are not likely sitting at their desk thinking of ways to help you. So if it’s work you are after, make a point of walking the halls everyday and popping into their offices to see what they are working on. I have heard that if you bug them enough they will throw you a file just to get rid of you.
If you are looking to raise your profile and don’t think you have enough experience to write an article, approach a partner to co-write it with you. (Meaning you do all the work and they edit it and add their name to it along side yours). You still get the name recognition and profile raising as well as experience getting published.
If you don’t have a mentor or you don’t get along well with your assigned mentor, look for someone who you would work better with and make the request. This is your career. Be more proactive in getting what you want.
If you are active in marketing, provide excellent client service and look for ways to differentiate yourself in today’s market-then the world is your oyster. Trust me, I have worked with enough lawyers to know, it takes very little effort to do the above, and the results can be extraordinary. A good number of my clients have become bright stars within their firms by doing exactly that. Every decision you make should prompt this question “Is this the best I can do”. If the answer is yes, do it. If it’s no, think again until you can answer yes.
During a final coaching session with one of my clients today I posed the question, “When you talk with your friends and colleagues about me, what do you say?”
The answer: “I tell people you are take a very practical approach. You are a very good sounding board and your program has kept me very focused on business development and marketing over the last few months.”
My last post I talked about managing communication expectations. Now I want to talk about managing the file expectations. If a client calls you up on a Wednesday and needs something done by Friday and there is no way you will be able to get to it, you need to be honest. You could offer to find another lawyer at your firm or you could let them know you could get it to them by Monday. The worst thing you can do is promise and then not deliver. Be honest with your clients.
And if you are working on a file and something turns sideways you need to let know know ASAP in order to give them time to figure out how they want to proceed. Procrastinating in this scenario will only spell major trouble for you and you could lose the client.
Perhaps one of the most challenging things lawyers face is managing client expectations. They too often can be very demanding and unless you learn how to manage them, you will be forever chasing your tail. Right out of the gate ask them how they expect to be communicated with and how often. For more complex files come to an agreement on what and when they need to know something. And it’s ok to explain that after 7pm your blackberry will be turned off so you can enjoy some time with your family, but if it’s an emergency, they can call you on your cell phone. This way you train them to only contact you when it is of the utmost importance. Watch for more tips to come soon.