Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Gary’s column from The Lawyers Weekly, November 18 2016
Be honest: is your firm doing everything it can to better serve your clients? Are your lawyers taking the time to really get to know and understand the needs of your clients and the big picture view?
Before you go out and spend money on your marketing initiatives, ensure you are helping your lawyers better serve your clients, building valuable business partnerships, and truly understanding the needs and challenges, ensuring better alignment and increased value.
Going beyond business development and your ability to generate work, there are a couple of considerations you should think about if you’re looking to get on or speed up the ‘Partner Track’. The first consideration is to learn how to play well with others. Here I am referring to everyone with whom you come into contact on a daily basis; your assistant, paralegals, IT professionals, receptionists, firm management, marketing, library services, etc. Go out of your way to treat these people with the utmost respect and watch how in turn they will over perform and deliver for you. You will not become successful in your career without their support. So when they go out of their way for you, acknowledge their efforts. Take them out to lunch from time to time. Ask them how they would like to contribute. Find out how you can help them achieve their career goals by first understanding what they are. Treat them as you do your clients. In other words get to know them as much as possible.
Giving back to the firm
By this I am referring to what can you do outside your practice to provide value to your firm. Consider answering these questions as a place to start:
- What committees can you be on and contribute to?
- Are their opportunities for you to mentor a summer or articling student, or even an associate more junior then you?
- What can you do outside the walls of your firm in the community to better position your firm?
Follow this advice and you are more likely to become a partner at your firm.
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!
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.
In addition to speaking at conferences and events, putting on educational workshops is another excellent business-building tactic. There are many applications for this. You can offer workshops to current clients as a value-add, and it’s a great way to strengthen your relationship. It’s also and excellent way of building more relationships in your prospects company or organization. One of the reasons I like this tactic so much, is that you’re not asking your contacts for anything. You are providing them with valuable content and knowledge.
Let’s face it, if you aren’t following up with people you meet, then you’re wasting your time. Does this sound like you? Keep it simple and follow what I call the ’24-hour rule’. Within 24 hours of meeting someone new, do these two things:
1. Send them a brief email referring to something that you learned about them. Suggest you would like to continue the conversation, when are they available to meet for coffee?
2. Invite them to join your LinkedIn network. (LinkedIn is the easiest way to keep in touch and keep track of your contacts.)
Just try those two things following your next networking event.
Sure you’re already networking. But are you meeting the right types of people? Here are a couple of quick tips to ensure you are meeting more of the right types of people. Firstly, you want to make sure you are going to the right events. Simply ask your ideal clients and best referral sources where they hang? In other words what professional associations do they belong to and what events do they attend.
Then before attending your next event, reach out to the organizers to see if they will give you a copy of attendees. Target 2-3 people from that list to meet. And, circulate that list amongst your network to see if any of your existing contacts know people on the list. Have them make an email introduction of you before the event. Follow up with your own email inviting them to meet at one of the networking breaks. Finally, ask the organizers if they would introduce you to people they know. Follow these three strategies and watch your network grow.
Firms are always so quick to throw money at client events. But are you getting the biggest bang for your buck? Why not bring in a coach to work with your team ahead the event and set it up for success. You can use the event as a way of giving your team real practice of tips and approaches they have learned ahead of time.And you can build some accountability into the mix by having them report on their progress in follow up.
There are so many ways you can fully leverage the time of your professionals, give them a chance to learn, better connect with your clients, and watch what happens to your business.
I guess the title should be “One of the reasons I love LinkedIn”, there are so many. Here is just one example. Several years ago when I was just getting started I met a marketing professional here in Vancouver. We met, and at the time her firm was not interested in coaching. We connected on LinkedIn. Recently we re-connected on LinkedIn and are now in talks about what I can do for her firm in Toronto. That is the short version of the story. Professionals today must have a well developed LinkedIn profile, and that is only one reason.
The fastest way to encourage everyone on your front line to take part in business development is to incentivize them. Offer bonuses, and perks. I am aware of some firms that offer this to their law clerks as well as management. Everyone on your team has the potential to bring in more business. And the more people you have bringing in business, the more successful your firm or company will be.