Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
If you haven’t done this already, go out and see all of your key clients. Find out what they are worried about, what their current or immediate challenges are, and what they foresee as future challenges. What is going on in their day-to-day operations? Be genuinely interested in THEM. Here’s how it turned out for one of our clients: While on a call with a firm client, a junior lawyer learned of a pressing need. He communicated that need to his managing partner who immediately got on the phone with the client. Ten minutes later, at the client’s request, the managing partner met the client at this office and a few minutes after that, he secured a large mandate to help the client solve the problem the junior lawyer had learned about earlier that day. It can be THAT SIMPLE.
Get a pulse on what your clients are doing, what they need and how can you help them. To do that, you have to get out there and talk to them. The opportunity here is to create a value-based relationship. The impact of your social relationship with a client is important but will only get you so far, watch what happens when you create a value-based relationship. Business development isn’t always about getting new clients. There are opportunities with current clients. Go find them!
I find far too many lawyers put too much pressure on themselves when it comes to networking. And most of the time, the solution is in the ‘how’ and ‘where’ of networking. What is networking after-all? Well it’s not sales. You are not there to pitch yourself or your services. Networking is about meeting people. Outside of work, you meet people all the time and it’s natural. Why not take the same approach to your professional networking. This should be fun folks, not painful as it is for so many.
The way to make networking more natural for you is by taking a keen and curious approach to the people you are meeting. Get to know them. Ask questions. Questions which will lead you to understanding more about them and if you think it’s worth investing your time in building a relationship with them. One of my favorite questions to get a conversation started is “What brings you here today?”. Others include, “what do you hope to learn today?”, “how long have you been coming to these events?” Not only will you feel more comfortable when networking, but you will actually learn something about the other person, which if you choose to, you can use when following up with them.
If your firm is like most, then you regularly host client appreciation events. And this costs the firm a lot of money. Are you getting the ROI you should from these events? Are your lawyers engaging with your clients? Are they asking questions about your clients businesses? Are they going deeper to uncover hidden opportunities for your firm to further serve the client? Well I suspect the answer to be no to all of these questions. And it’s a shame. You take the time to invite your clients. They show up. Your lawyers are taking time out to attend. And what is there to show for it? A few hangovers the next morning.
Why not put on a workshop ahead of your next event and arm your lawyers with tools and approaches in how to effectively engage your clients and learn more about them. Teach them the value of cross-serving and not only what it could mean for the firm, but also their practice. Help them understand the types of questions to ask of clients to start a conversation and go deeper to find further opportunities to help your clients.
I just presented on this topic to the LMA here in Vancouver last week. There was great interest on this subject. And why shouldn’t there be? There are business development opportunities at your next client event. Leverage them. My column next month in The Lawyers Weekly goes into further detail how to set this up.
Everyone networks whether we like it or not. And networking is still one of the best ways to find more people who need your services, find more referral sources and make it easier for them to find you. How about if you had a sure-fire way of getting the conversation started in a genuine and meaningful way? One of the best questions you can lead with is “What brings you to this event?” You’ll be amazed at the amount of information you can begin to gather about the other person when you start with that question. This is also a perfect opportunity for you to continue with your ‘soft’ target market research by asking them, “What other events do you attend and why? What publications do you read? And, What topics are of interest to you? You can gather market research, learn something about them, and keep the process natural and genuine all at the same time.
The next time you are networking try a different approach. Don’t lead with your ‘elevator speech’, instead get the conversation started about THEM. Ask them some seed questions to begin to understand more about them and if they are people of interest. And don’t fear ‘small talk’, just don’t do it.
A great starting question is “What brings you to this event?” Some others include:
What other events do you attend and why?
Are you a member here? For how long?
What value do you get in attending these types of events?
From there a natural conversation will ensue and you will begin the process of getting to know them better. And don’t be surprised when you get to learn more about their challenges.
My clients often get tied up in coming up with that ‘perfect pitch’. And I tell them over and over again, “don’t pitch, ask questions”. Get to know what they need, what their challenges are. Use that valuable time to build or strengthen your relationship with and them demonstrate a willingness to listen and learn about them.
If you ask the right questions, your contacts, clients and soon-to-be clients will tell you everything you need to know in order to market to them and serve them well.
Raindance: The Business Development Guide Book for Lawyers is now available through Carswell. Click here to go to Carswell for more information and ordering.
If you are a lawyer just starting out with business development, or already engaged and looking to up your game, this book is your practical, step-by-step guide to follow in order to achieve your goals.
In following-up with your leads or prospects, always put yourself in their shoes. How can you add value? Why should they meet with you? What’s in it for them? If you take the ask and offer approach, you can answer those questions.
It begins with asking them how you can help? Is there some education you could provide their team in the form of a seminar? Then all you have to do is offer it to them. This is all part of taking the value-add approach to building relationships.
Many sales training programs will be framed around how you can control the process. I totally disagree with this approach. It’s unnatural for you and your prospect. Instead take a real and genuine approach by asking questions. When your prospect asks you a question, answer it to the best your ability at that point. If you don’t have enough information to answer their question, let them know.
Keep in mind that many of the people you will approach have been ‘trained’ to expect a pitch. When they don’t get one, they might be a little confused. They might even become impatient. That is why it’s important to answer their questions and not try and control the conversation or process. When you are prepared, you are in a much better position to go with the flow. Both you and your prospect will be more comfortable. And you will go a long way in differentiating yourself from your competitors approach.
Many of my clients previously got caught up in rushing to the solution when first meeting with prospects. While I believe this comes from a genuine desire to help, this is a habit you want to change immediately. Take more time and care to learn more before you offer your solutions.
DO NOT even bring marketing materials with you to that first meeting. Bring a list of carefully thought out questions so that you can learn as much about them as possible. When you think you know enough, keep asking more questions and find out even more.