Procrastination? Fear of rejection? No clear objective? These are the most common excuses I find my clients have as to why they don’t follow-up. And when I refer to follow-up, it could be after a networking event, conference, meeting etc.
Procrastination: The longer you avoid it, the less likely you will do it. I give my clients the ’24-hour rule’. Unless your event or meeting takes place on a Friday, follow-up within 24 hours while you and they are still top of mind.
Fear of rejection: What’s the worst thing that can happen? They show no interest? Is that going to kill you? Nike! Just do it!
No clear objective: Ok, here is where it gets interesting. If you’ve met someone for the first time and you think they are someone you should get to know better, but you didn’t take that opportunity to at least find out something that you could refer to in your follow-up, then there’s really no point is there?
Here’s the thing. If you are going to invest your time meeting with people, networking, attending conferences, if you don’t follow-up to move that relationship forward, then you wasted your time. Do you like wasting your time?
You don’t show confidence by going on about yourself. That actually shows the opposite. The following tips are as relevant in a job interview as they are when networking, meeting with clients, or speaking at events.
Four key tips:
- Be brief and succinct
- Use only affirmative language
- Don’t be afraid to pause
While these four tips may seem simple, and they are by the way, they go a long way in demonstrating confidence. You can use this little menu and modify it to use in your writing as well.
- Be brief and succinct: Don’t ramble on and on. If you do ramble, you will almost always repeat yourself. Get to the point. Use short sentences rather than a whole bunch of punctuation. Rambling on is a sign of nervousness, not confidence.
- Use only affirmative language: Instead of “I feel…”, or “I believe…”, use ” I know…”, or “I’m confident…” This is very subtle but you might be surprised how it changes the tone of your communication.
- Don’t be afraid to pause: Do you feel the need to fill silence? Why not let the other person or audience for that matter have the chance to absorb what you just said. Silence is powerful!
- Smile: Pretty self-explanatory. Again, while subtle, it will go a long way.
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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.