Question: After several networking lunches and casual meetings with a potential client, she invited me to come meet with her and her staff to “tell us what you can do for us.” What should I do to make sure I stand out and get the work?
Stacy Smith: Congratulations, your networking has paid off and you’ve secured the business development meeting that may result in a new client! Now, how do you distinguish yourself in a cluttered market? Focus on the client.
Know the client. Who is the client? Do your research and arrive prepared. Educate yourself in all things client: background, products, services, industries served, competitors, finances, trends in the market and recent news and updates. In-depth knowledge of the client’s business and industries will enhance your credibility.
Know your audience. Who will attend the meeting? Know who you’ll be face-to-face with. Review their biographies and LinkedIn profiles. Identify shared experiences and interests and be prepared for casual and friendly conversation.
Know your competition. Who currently represents the client? How are they different from you? Can you leverage the differences in your favor? Think firm size, experience, industry knowledge, niche practice areas, use of technology and alternative billing practices.
Be inquisitive. After all, this meeting is about the client and what you can do for them. Ask questions about their challenges, strengths, weaknesses, business objectives and goals. Convey your personal interest in their overall success — and not just in their legal needs.
So to conclude, what can you do for them? You can use your knowledge of their business and industry, combine it with your unique skills and approaches, and tailor solutions to meet their needs and achieve their goals.
Stacy A. Smith is the firm administrator and director of marketing and client relations at Carter Conboy, a full-service law firm with offices in Albany and Saratoga Springs, NY.
Jim Jarrell: I assume that you’ve already done some due diligence to learn as much as you can about this potential client’s company and the potential legal needs that they may have. If not, this will be the first thing you need to do. If you don’t have a researcher who can track this information down, a lot of it can be gleaned from simple web and docket searches. The bottom line is that this intelligence can help arm you with the knowledge you will need to strategize the direction of the conversation at your meeting, and how you might frame your practice or firm as a provider of choice.
Ideally, you want to find out the company’s size (sales or revenue as well as number of employees), their geographic reach (to help define logical geographic synergies with your firm), and the scope of any legal history they might have (the kinds of cases, transactions or intellectual property activity they might be engaged in). Use this knowledge to help tailor your service offering to fit the needs of their organization, from both a legal services and personnel perspective. (Who else will you bring to this meeting?)
Hopefully, you have drawn some conclusions through your interactions with this prospect about what the company values from a legal services provider. Articulating in your presentation how you can provide that value will be key. Perhaps you know what other firms they’re using for their legal work, which will help you determine how you need to distinguish yourself.
Ultimately, you need to give this prospective client a reason to hire you. Going into this meeting well-prepared to serve their business needs is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Good luck!
Jim Jarrell manages marketing and business development activities for Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg’s litigation department as a member of the firm’s Chicago office.
Paul Bonner: Nurturing your relationship through several networking lunches and securing this meeting was no small feat. Nice work. Pat yourself on the back, once. Then start strategizing how to maximize your limited time with them and increase the odds you will soon have a new client.
Use this opportunity to communicate your personal brand. Connect your skills and expertise to the issues that the attendees face. Do not be lazy and simply recite your past professional conquests. While you undoubtedly are accomplished, you need to find discussion points and examples that speak to and engage your audience. Doing your homework before, having a plan and following up afterward will empower you to set yourself apart.
Before the meeting. Answer these important questions: What are the meeting’s logistics? How much time will you have? Will there be AV capabilities? Does the prospect have a preferred meeting format? How formal should you be? Who will be attending? What are their roles and backgrounds? What current issues — business and legal — are affecting your audience? What keeps them up at night? How specifically could you assist? Develop an agenda. Incorporate the information you gleaned from your networking lunches and research. Ask your contact in advance for feedback on the agenda and welcome additional topics.
At the meeting. Have a plan, but be willing to deviate from it. Be sure to pause and ask the group for any additional topics, questions or comments. Engage the audience whenever possible. Strive to make the meeting resemble a working session with you.
After the meeting. Follow up. Not doing so is legal marketing malpractice. Obviously, you should thank your contact for arranging the session and the attendees for participating. If someone significant could not attend, offer them an individual session. Provide relevant materials but tailor them to what was discussed.
Paul Bonner, JD, MBA, is a marketing and business development consultant who has more than 10 years of in-house experience at AmLaw 100 firms developing the strategic sales support function critical to assisting lawyers in knowing their clients better and in becoming more effective in their business development efforts.
Good Question! What’s Yours?
No, not every law firm has a professional marketer or business development coach on staff to answer questions. So send us your questions via email or in the comment section below, and we’ll pass them on to the experts at the Legal Marketing Association. Watch for the best responses here in Ask the Expert.legalmarketing.org The Legal Marketing Association provides professional support and education as well as opportunities for intellectual and practical information exchange.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors.
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