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!
As you seek to grow your firm it will be advantageous for you to become the best possible leader you can be to inspire, motivate and lead your team. I read somewhere that great leaders don’t create followers. Great leaders create more great leaders. That is a great approach to take, to empower your people to become better, to take on more responsibilities and leadership roles within the firm. This is also a great way to support your succession plan (which I talk about later in this chapter). Some tips on becoming a better leader. In most cases, it boils down to having great communication skills.
- Treat each member of your team individually.
- Have regular one-to-one time with each team member and get to know what truly motivates them and what they want to achieve in their career.
- Provide regular feedback on their work. Tell them what they are doing right or great and why, and tell them how and where they can improve.
- Set up clear expectations from the beginning so there are no miss-understandings later.
- Ask for their feedback on client and firm matters-this is a great way of empowering them. They have a ton of ideas that could benefit your clients and the firm-just ask them.
- Always remain approachable and willing to listen.
- Share your vision for your firm and engage your team to be a part of that vision. Most people and especially this younger generation like the team approach. Take advantage of that and leverage it.
- Create systems and processes to make it easier for your people to do their jobs. And if you don’t know where to start-ask your people how you can make their jobs easier.
- Share your knowledge and mentor your people. Share what you have learned about time management, client management, file management, email management and help your people become as efficient as you’ve become.
- Lead by example. If you are asking your people to do something that you don’t or won’t do yourself, you can’t really expect them to do it either
Work with your clients from the very beginning and set up realistic expectations. Never promise anything you can’t deliver. It’s better so say no, then to say yes and not get it done. Walk them through the variables and educate them on the process as much as possible. They will really appreciate it. Remember, you’ve done this a million times. This could be their first time going through the process. Depending on the nature of the file or the work you are doing for them, they could be going through a very tough time. Don’t underestimate the discomfort they may feel, the level of uncertainty. This isn’t about your ‘lawyer’ skills. This is about your ‘people’ skills and level of service which will go a long way in separating you from your competition and providing more potential referrals.
The easiest way to get more referrals is from your clients. The fastest way to do this is to ensure they are completely happy with your service. In my opinion, that starts with effective communication. One of the top complaints lawyers get from clients is that they don’t communicate often enough and make assumptions. Communication is at the heart of your service to your clients. So get agreement from the very beginning on how often and by which method your clients would like you to communicate with them. And also explain, the more that communication is required, this will add to the cost of your services.
The next thing I recommend, is to give your clients permission to give you feedback throughout your dealings with them. Your clients might be intimidated by you and not want to point something out when it’s relatively small. And you want to know if something isn’t quite to their liking so you can fix it in that moment before it grows and festers to the point where they don’t want to pay their bill. Often when mistakes are made, it’s not the mistake that people remember. it’s how quickly and effectively the mistake is corrected or reversed.
You are a service provider right? That means you help people in one way or another. If you are a lawyer, perhaps you help your clients through a sticky situation or prevent it from happening at all. If you are an accountant maybe you save your clients from paying too much tax. And if you are a personal fitness trainer, it could be about transforming someone life through better health and fitness.
Whatever service you provide, you can’t help people you don’t know. So don’t feel small about helping people. Don’t feel small about getting out there and finding more people to help.
The key to follow up is to provide your contact with a good reason to engage with you further. If you don’t have a good reason, don’t waste their time. At the same time, the questions you ask in your follow up will help you ascertain if your contact is truly interested in furthering the relationship. You need to find this out before you invest too much of your time in building this new relationship.
How you do both is simple. Offer something of value that shows you are taking an active interest in their business. If they decline, you know they are not serious about this relationship at this time. Move on.
The more you can say in the least amount of time, the better. Do you often feel the need to fill silence? Silence can be very powerful. Whether you are in a meeting or giving a presentation, silence allows the people you are communicating with to absorb what you are saying.
The next time you are communicating, email, phone, in a meeting, networking, or giving a presentation, try being a brief as possible. Try using less words to say more. Keep your sentences short. Pause more between sentences. Look for more powerful words to use. And if you have a certain amount of time allotted to you, don’t be afraid of using less.
Whether you are at the RFP stage or simply sending an email to follow up, my general rule of thumb is to always give them a choice of Yes’s. This strategy takes using open-ended questions to the next level. So your prospects and clients aren’t given the easy way out of saying yes or no. You give them options to answer yes.
Let me give you an example. Say you are sending out an email to follow up with someone after meeting them at an event. Keep it short, to the point, and offer them options.
“Hello Bob, it was great to meet you at xxy event last week. Out of the following times, which is best for you to meet and further discuss that situation you mentioned?
Tuesday Feb — @ 2PM
Thursday Feb — @ 10AM
Monday Feb — @ 3:30PM
I would be more than pleased to come to your office. Let me know what works best for you.
In the example above, not only are your providing them with a choice of yes’s, you are offering them three different times to meet. They will likely have one of them available. You will cut down on the email back and forth demonstrating that you can be efficient with your time and theirs. Try it the next time you need to follow up with someone.