Recently, I was presenting to a large group of lawyers a business development program based on the preferences and hot buttons of corporate executives with regard to legal service and relationship development. The program, which is based on years of surveys and working experience, summarizes the techniques most favored or disliked by executive clients for selling legal services and building lawyer-client relationships. Not surprisingly, surveys show that sophisticated clients favor a variety of relationship building methodologies based on respect, understanding and trust-building.
As I explained to my audience, these client-favored methodologies for developing and maintaining a business relationship take time and effort because the mere touting of reputation and competence is no longer a market differentiator in a world full of highly skilled professionals, if ever it was. Landing a prospect as a client and then becoming their “go to” lawyer is more about relationship and trust building than it is about awards and advertising.
Nonetheless, one of the lawyers in the audience asked me if it is possible to just “short cut” all the work of identifying, approaching, and landing a coveted client with a quicker approach. For just a nanosecond, I thought about telling him that the “super secret” solution that I charge extra for is hiding in my pocket but can be viewed in a private room for a not so small fee.
But my internal editor kicked in, and instead I recalled for the audience something a successful CEO once said to me: “Revenue is not a goal, it is a result of consistent execution on a well-developed strategy.” Thus, successful organizations don’t just set targets for revenue increases, and take the “short cut” of asking their customers or clients to buy more, they do the hard work of developing products and services that their clients or customers favor and then figure out how to deliver them cost-efficiently in the way the clients or customers want.
There is parallel concept in professional sports. I recently saw an interview with Patriots QB Tom Brady where he said, and I paraphrase: “Our goal is to score on every offensive possession.” But he added that “reaching our goal is based on executing lots of little things correctly on every single play of one possession.” Sure, teams sometimes score on one long bomb “Hail Mary” pass to the end zone, but it is not a high percentage play, and neither is asking a prospect for business as soon as you meet them. There are no magic phrases or secret sales techniques to short cut the process of building a professional services relationship.
The keys to developing and building a fruitful relationship with a good prospect are having a game plan full of little plays that are designed to move the relationship forward, and executing on those plays consistently in a way that the prospect and eventual client will favor.
Please feel free to call me if you would like to discuss my program based on client feedback about “What Works and What Doesn’t in Legal Service and Client Development.”