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We often hear that business development is a contact sport, and there is validity to that comment. The more face-to-face interaction you have with current and potential clients, the more likely you are to be at the top of their lists when they need legal services.
However, when we at Wicker Park Group work with attorneys in business development coaching, we often hear about the discomfort that comes with in-person business development meetings. We hear lawyers say, “I don’t know what to talk about and feel uncomfortable selling myself and my firm.”
My response to that concern: It’s not about talking or selling. It’s about listening.
One of the most effective ways to develop relationships is to ask informed questions and develop empathetic listening skills. Care about what the person is telling you and engage in the conversation.
Some timely examples of helpful, open-ended questions to elicit important information and deepen the conversation include:
- How is the economy affecting your business?
- What is the profile of your typical customer?
- Where do you want your business to be in three years? In five years?
- Who is your main competitor right now?
- What could your outside attorneys do to make your job easier?
Most business people enjoy talking about their business and their industry. Asking informed questions allows them to open up to you about their challenges and their hopes. As you talk, listen for ways to help clients with emerging businesses, potential future problems or any other unexamined issues. If you are not ideally suited for a specific problem or matter, be honest about it. But often you’ll uncover opportunities to both help clients and open the door for more work.
The more you have these conversations, the more you realize it really isn’t about talking and selling—it’s about listening.