During our client feedback interviews, we often ask what advice the client has for the law firm. The response is typically positive and often an encouragement for the firm to continue doing something the client values (i.e. sharing industry or business insights, providing practical advice, being proactive, making them look good internally). But when we ask firm alumni or an interviewee who has practiced at a law firm prior to their role at a company about what they would have done differently when they were practicing, they almost always answer something like: “I would visit or reach out more to connect and share information when we are not working together on an active matter.”
Almost every client understands most law firms are focused on obtaining more market share and developing business. They don’t cringe at the idea and appreciate that their own company is trying to do much of the same. However, most clients don’t like to be randomly pitched or aggressively contacted when they are already happy or serviced in a particular area. They are, however, interested in alignment where they may be underserved or dissatisfied. Outside counsel simply need to be intellectually curious enough to make sure they understand the pain points to align the conversations with something clients value and need.
For this reason, most clients share with us they actually welcome industry and company insights and connections from lawyers they know, like and trust. James Clear offers a “3,2,1” in his newsletters. Here are Tara’s Tips to approaching business development differently:
- Genuine resonates. If you are genuinely interested in your client’s business, industry and growth, you are far more likely to be well received.
- Don’t make business development about yourself. Make it about being intellectually curious and understanding your client’s or prospect’s goals, priorities and needs.
- Clients gravitate towards those who are top of mind. Keep it simple to start, making a habit of reaching out to one client or prospect a week to share a business or industry insight. Then limit your talking and ask questions.
- Take advantage of slower days. Summer can be a challenging time to personally visit people, but we often have slower days. Take the time now to schedule in-person visits in the Fall with your most valued clients to ensure you are prioritizing face time with clients when life gets busy.
- Consider this your nudge to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. As lawyers, we love to be perfect or ensure success with everything. Business development is more like cooking. It takes a little time. There are variations to success, but you can’t get better without doing it over and over.