Lawyers know they have to stay in contact. Otherwise, you risk missing out on work simply because too long of a gap between communications made the client or prospect forget you. But too many lawyers struggle to generate relevant welcomed conversation with clients and prospects.
Most also know the old-school “let’s catch up” gambit isn’t going to get them onto many busy calendars these days. Nobody has time for that. Even if your relationship is strong enough to get you an audience “just to catch up,” a thinly veiled attempt to get them to allocate some, or more, of their legal spend to your firm and you is a non-starter.
So, what’s a harried lawyer to do?
You’ve Got to “Earn” a Conversation: Relevance
The conversation you dangle as your hook to earn a calendar slot has to be relevant to the person’s role, situation, company — and the industry within which all that operates. Unfortunately, too few lawyers understand their clients’ and prospects’ businesses well enough to be effective.
So say the clients themselves. A recent study of the British legal market commissioned by LexisNexis and Judge Business School at Cambridge University contains a stark finding: A stunning 40 percent of clients in the survey noted that senior partners of their law firms lacked more than a basic knowledge of their businesses.
If you make a commitment to understanding the business, you’ll solve your access problem and differentiate yourself from those described so negatively in the studies.
Step 1: Google It
You’re not doing doctoral dissertation research. All you’re seeking is an issue you can use as the basis to earn a conversation. Keep it simple. Don’t try to pose some insightful question that you’re not prepared to phrase correctly.
Open up your browser and Google [industry name] and the word “trends” or “issues.”
That’s it. That’s your starting point.
Let’s create a concrete example. Google “agriculture trends.”
Well, lookee here. Right at the top of the first page of the Google search results we see “Here are the five global trends catalyzing digital transformation in agriculture.”
How hard could it be to extract a worthy basis for discussion from that list? Nothing says “future” like “digital transformation.”
Scrolling down the results, we see the Forbes article, which reinforces the “digital transformation” concept:
A quick click to look inside gives us this nugget:
“The IoT is disrupting the agriculture industry — in a good way. In fact, there is extreme potential for using the IoT within the food sector. According to a report by Cisco, there is an estimated $14.4 trillion in value at stake with the emergence of IoT alone. The IoT is simplifying and streamlining the collection, inspection and overall distributing of agricultural resources using sensors on equipment and materials.”
Step 2: Phrase It As “How …”
Take a literal statement from the article and add “How does …” to the front and “… affect your company” to the end, like this:
“How does the IoT simplifying and streamlining the collection, inspection and overall distributing of agricultural resources using sensors on equipment and materials” affect your company?”
Next, add functional labels that tie the issue to your expertise domain, such as “ … need for capital,” or “hiring strategy,” or “IP strategy,” or “need to partner with startups,” which gives us:
“How does the IoT simplifying and streamlining the collection, inspection and overall distributing of agricultural resources using sensors on equipment and materials” affect your company’s hiring strategy?”
Convert to Email
Now, all you have to do is add a personal introduction that references your relationship and answers the “what’s this about” question that’s in the back of the recipient’s mind, then finish with a “are you willing to talk to me” question, like this:
|Subject: Would love your thoughts re: IoT in Ag
|The subject line must clearly identify your purpose. Don’t make them open it to find out what you want. They won’t.
It’s been a while since I saw you at [event]. Congrats on your recent acquisition of XYZ Company.
|This personalizes it, and shows that it’s not a mass mailing.
|I’m preparing to speak at AgTech 2019, and want to make sure that my remarks are timely, interesting and valuable. I’m looking at how IoT and AI are projected to simplify and streamline the collection, inspection and distribution of agricultural resources.
|This legitimizes you in the space, and tees up the topic.
|I can’t think of anyone as well-informed or insightful in this space.
|A bit of flattery never hurts.
|Might I be able to get on your phone calendar for a short call in the next week or so to hear your views?
|This is the ask. Don’t worry about the mechanics of how and when. All you want now is a “yes” or “no.” After he’s committed, you can suggest the how/when.
|Thanks for your consideration.
Reaching Out to a Stranger? No Problem
This works with strangers, too. You just have to acknowledge that’s what you’re doing. To start, you can use the same subject line. But if you’ve been referred, put that first in your subject line, like this:
Subject: (via Sally Smith) Would love your thoughts re: IoT in Agriculture
Sally’s name will get it opened, not yours. If someone sees this on their phone, make sure they see her name. Modify the email above slightly to acknowledge the arm’s-length relationship:
I just had a really informative call with Sally, who shared some interesting insights about how IoT and AI will simplify and streamline the collection, inspection and distribution of agricultural resources.
Sally said that you were probably the best-informed person she knows on this topic, and thought you’d be willing to let me pick your brain, too.
I’m preparing to speak at AgTech 2019, and want to make sure that my remarks are timely, interesting and valuable. Might you be willing to make time for a short call to share your thoughts?
Thanks for considering it.
As you see, this doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. About one minute on Google and I was able to inform these, even though I know absolutely nothing about AgTech.
Just think what you can do with topics you actually understand.
Step one: Google it.
Subscribe to Attorney at Work
Get really good ideas every day for your law practice: Subscribe to the Daily Dispatch (it’s free). Follow us on Twitter @attnyatwork.