Most lawyers recognize the need to actively pursue new work by generating repeat business from satisfied existing clients and by attracting new clients to the firm. Too many, however, still engage in random acts of marketing or “throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.” Even effective rainmakers could do a better job of being more intentional about their strategies. Intentional is defined as being deliberate, intended, planned, preconceived and purposeful. We provide the following tips on aspects of personal marketing and business development in which you can become more intentional. These should lead to better use of your time and more favorable outcomes.
Be intentional about every interaction.
Whether it is a conference call with a client, lunch with a referral source or an internal practice group meeting, take a few moments before you pick up the phone or leave for a meeting to jot down your primary objective for each interaction. What do you want to accomplish? Are there one or two other things you want to find out or do in order to further deepen or expand the relationship?
Listen with intention.
Becoming a trusted advisor and developing trustworthiness requires you to be particularly good at asking meaningful questions and listening to the answers, where you do more listening than talking. Knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy have become important components of effective client and business development. Before meetings with prospects and clients, do some research and prepare 3-5 questions you want to ask them. Listen to what they say, but also pick up non-verbal cues, hidden meanings and emotions. Become comfortable not jumping in to fill silence or gaps in the conversation. This is often when others fill in with important additional insight.
Be intentional about where and how you network.
Most new business will come to lawyers and law firms through word-of-mouth referrals. The best way to be introduced to your next client is through an existing client or referral source. As you plan your schedule for which events and conferences to attend, reach out to clients and others in advance to find out if they will attend or what other events they would like to go to this year. If you have decided to attend, make a list of clients and others you want to see or meet. Email contacts in advance to confirm that you will be there and will look for them; before leaving for the conference, schedule specific times/places to meet — don’t leave it to chance that you will see each other. Also identify any individuals likely to be there you don’t know and ask a client to make an introduction.
Be deliberate about which conferences you attend and speak at.
Most lawyers have gotten better about finding conferences and events to attend and be speakers at that are geared toward clients and those that are in a position to hire lawyers. However, too many still attend or speak at conferences filled with competitors or those in too low a position to hire firms. First, seek input from clients and referral sources about where they go to network or for information and deliberately select one or two of those conferences to attend. Second, when given the opportunity to speak, do your homework first to find out the level of decision-makers and the likelihood your clients or prospects will be there. [Note: our next post will be a longer article on speaking and conferences.]
Be purposeful about your personal brand.
Everyone has a personal brand and it often plays a critical role in professional success, advancement and business development. Whether or not you actively cultivate your own brand, others will form impressions of you based on what they know, see, hear or experience about or with you. It is imperative to understand the brand you already have and decide if it is the brand you want to have. Once you have defined or redefined your brand, you should establish, enhance and promote your professional brand in your firm or in the marketplace including:
- Being the responsive and trusted advisor your clients and others seek
- Increasing and showcasing your skills by speaking on panels at conferences where clients, referral sources and other “influentials” will be
- Looking for and getting involved in an important internal or external leadership role or activity
- Maintaining and monitoring your brand online (your bio, your LinkedIn profile and any other social media presence you have or use)
- Consider your executive presence and physical appearance. Remember that 70% of communication is non-verbal, 23% is tone or inflection of voice – only 7% is in spoken word.
Be intentional about your board and civic involvement.
You may have joined a board because you believe in the cause and have a passion for the mission. Other reasons for becoming active on a board or in a non-profit organization include being a successor to a senior, prominent partner in the firm who held the position or the organization is one that is highly visible in the community and filled with business leaders. You should carefully consider why you want to join or become active in an organization and make sure it helps you achieve a personal or professional goal. If there is some business development or marketing value, be sure that you identify key people in the organization and before each board or committee meeting, identify 1-2 people you don’t know and intentionally sit next to them or seek them out before or after the meeting (this means showing up early!)
Be planful about your career and business development.
Thinking strategically about what you want to accomplish in 5 years and then devising annual plans to meet those goals is the best way to control your own destiny. What gets written gets done. Without thinking about and committing your plan to writing, months and years may go by without you achieving specific milestones on your path. Set specific annual, SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) that are in alignment with your firm and practice group goals, but also help you meet personal and professional goals.
As most lawyers still are required to bill their time (and a lot of it!), it is imperative that the actions and efforts they undertake to reach important non-billable goals are focused and deliberately planned and executed. Developing the discipline to be intentional in much of what you do will advance your effectiveness and satisfaction.