Thursday, September 22, 2016

Five Ways to Make the Most of Trade Conferences

We're right in the middle of conference season, and lawyers around the country are attending events as part of their marketing and business development efforts. With varying degrees of success: some will walk away with new clients and new assignments, and others will walk away empty-handed. How to make sure you're in the first group? Here are some ideas:
  1. Don't Talk Too Much. Yes, you read that right. Obviously you want people to know who you are and what you do. But the real value in big conferences is finding out who everyone else is. What their biggest business concerns are. What they're looking for in a lawyer. What they like to do on weekends. And you'll never find that out if you're talking all the time. So ask more questions than you might think are necessary. And listen closely to the answers.
  2. Do Your Homework. Before any event you can generally figure out who's going to be there and what you have to offer them (whether it's "companies in the hotel industry" or "Jane Smith, Assistant General Counsel at XYZ Co."). Figure out what you're going to say, when you're going to say it, and how you're going to follow-up in advance of the conference, so that you only have to worry about execution rather than objectives once the seminar is underway.
  3. Be Present and Mingle. You can't make any new relationships or get any new leads if you're sitting in your room answering emails. Of course crises happen and of course your clients need you to respond quickly, but if you're not mingling and talking to people you don't know, you'll never have a chance to meet your next #1 client. And don't be afraid to sit at the "grown-ups" table or introduce yourself to a particular attendee. They're at the event to meet people, too.
  4. Remember: Everybody's Somebody. Conferences are full of high-level client contacts, directors of HR, and the like. More likely than not, however, there will be more junior executives than senior ones, people who will get promotions and greater responsibilities, who will be in a position to hire lawyers in the future. Get to know those people, too. They may not be decision-makers now, but it's just a matter of time before they'll be calling the shots (and calling the lawyers).
  5. Lend a Helping Hand. At a big trade conference, the chances are pretty good that everyone you meet is also looking to make useful connections, get to know some new potential clients, learn something about their industry or their profession that will help them be better at their jobs. So they're going to remember the person who took the time to make a couple of introductions, who offered them some advice on dealing with a co-worker, who pointed them to a valuable resource. Shouldn't that person be you?
The bottom line? Showing up and shaking hands is not enough to guarantee that an event is a valuable way to spend your time and money. You've got to work at it, too.

(Originally posted at JD Supra Business Advisor)

Monday, September 19, 2016

When Is the Best Time to Pitch for New Work During Business Lunch?

You're about to go to lunch with a connection who happens to be the CEO of a large company. You wonder: when during this lunch is the best time for me to ask to be considered for any upcoming legal work?

Answer: never.

Really. The best time to pitch for new business over lunch is never. Not before the main course or after the salad or at any point when you’re seated in a crowded restaurant enjoying a nice meal. Save the business talk for a meeting in the office, and use the lunch and its casual conversation as an opportunity to enhance your relationship with the potential client, to bring it to the point where you and your guest are comfortable meeting in a conference room to talk work. No one – not even your best friend – wants to hear a business pitch over dessert. And certainly not the CEO of a large company. They just want a good meal.

If everything goes well, that is, if you establish and build on a meaningful relationship, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to schedule more meetings where you can demonstrate your expertise as a lawyer.

So what, then, should you ask your lunch companion that will put you on the path to that meeting where you can pitch new work? Some ideas:
  • Ask about her company. Thanks to Google, it’s easy to find out recent news about virtually every company in the country. Maybe they just exceeded earnings targets. Maybe they just got sued. Maybe there’s an interesting human interest story about their employee community service program. Whatever the news, you should craft one or two questions that will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the things that are important to her. 
  • Ask about her industry. Again, Google is your friend when preparing for the lunch meeting. Asking your connection how the EPA’s rule on emissions from heavy duty trucks is going to change how they deliver – and price – their products shows that you understand the challenges that she’s facing (and that you might be able to help her overcome them).
  • Ask about her future. Obviously, you’re not interviewing your companion, so you can’t really say “where do you see yourself in five years?” But there are ways to elicit that information without being so direct. And because it gives your lunch mate a chance to talk about herself, she’ll likely enjoy that conversation.
  • Ask about her problems. Questions like “how are you preparing for the new OSHA rule on reporting workplace accidents?” or “what are you doing in the face of increasing low cost imports from Southeast Asia?” or “have you changed your drug testing policies in response to the new medical marijuana law?” give you an opportunity to learn more about her company. But more importantly, they allow you to turn what could have been generic follow-up – of the “thank-you-for-a-wonderful-lunch” variety – into specific solutions addressing the very problems that are keeping your contact awake at night: “You mentioned that you were having problems with employees abusing FMLA leave. Here’s an article written by one of my partners that lays out five steps you can take to reduce that.”
*     *     *

The bottom line? Lunch is a great time to build and strengthen the relationship you need to make the pitch for new work. Just so long as you don’t make that ask over dessert.

(Originally posted at JD Supra Business Advisor)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Senior Lawyers: Now It's Your Turn to Make Your BD Plans

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the challenges facing younger lawyers as they begin to formalize their business development efforts into a plan, and the three questions they should ask themselves to get the ball rolling. This week, we turn to the senior lawyers: partners and of counsel, of course, but also any attorney who has spent several years developing her own business, who has an idea of what works and what doesn't, who needs to use what little non-billable time she's got on activities that have a greater chance of producing new work and new clients.

As it turns out, the process of identifying the BD activities that you like and that you're good at so that you can pursue them is essentially the same for all lawyers, irrespective of the stage of their career. Because winning business development isn't about asking the right question. It's not about finding the magic bullet. It's not even about connecting with the client (or group of clients) that are going to make you rich and famous. Successful BD is about work. Honest, old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-at-it work: to identify your strengths and weaknesses, to define your targets, to craft the plans for going after those companies and to execute on them, to refocus your efforts when Target A doesn't (or does, for that matter) pan out.

So what are the questions that senior lawyers can ask to refine and improve their business development plans?
  1. What's working that I should do more of?
    You're no stranger to the game. You've spoken to scores of trade groups, written dozens of articles, established hundreds of meaningful relationships, you've set aggressive targets, and you've achieved them. Chances are that you're already focusing your time and efforts on activities that have been successful in the past. What are they? And more importantly, what are you doing to be able to do more of them? Developing and growing a practice isn't like investing, after all: past performance is entirely indicative of future results. Figure out what works, and do more of that.
  2. What's not working, that I should stop?
    Just as it's important to determine what works best, you need to identify the BD activities you're currently engaged in that are not going to lead to more work. Not because you need to necessarily stop doing them completely, but rather to be honest about what you hope to get out of them: your role on the board of the local food bank may never drive paying business your way, so maybe you shouldn't be looking at it as your main business development initiative of 2017. And there's a bonus: freeing yourself from BD efforts that have never produced an hour's worth of client work will allow you to devote more times to those that have.
  3. What else would I like to try, and why?
    Most of the lawyers I've worked with over the course of my career are creative problem solvers who have great business development instincts. They're don't lack new ideas about how they can better reach clients and prospects. But it can often be such a challenge to translate those new approaches into viable initiatives – for a wide variety of reasons – that they wither on the vine. The first step in breaking that cycle? Writing down the new ideas, fleshing them out, figuring out what has to happen for them to come to fruition. Accordingly, you need to spend some time thinking about the new things you'd like try, so we can work together to find a way to make them happen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Secret of Your Success? Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

What makes a great rainmaker? The ability to establish – and maintain – great relationships, says Michael Rynowecer, the founder of BTI Consulting who’s asked more than 14,000 C-level executives how they feel about their professional service providers. Competency and client service might get you additional work from a client, but a superior relationship is going to allow you to become your client’s confidante, problem-solver, and sounding board on all business-critical decisions. Turns out the cliché is true: people do like to do business with people they like, and the more they like you, the more they’ll go out of their way to create opportunities for you.

Accordingly, you need to invest time in relationships, but not with the objective of getting a new assignment or treating your favorite clients to ball games and golf outings or even turning every client contact into a close personal friend. Rather, because strong relationships are such an essential element of success in this profession, you must devote time and energy to the relationships themselves. Here are three things you can do today:

1. Protect your best relationship

Take a look at your current client list. Of all the people you know at all the companies on the list, identify your single best relationship. Now ask yourself: what are you doing to keep it that way? If you’re not actively building on and improving that relationship, you might be passively letting it slip away.

2. Fix your worst relationship

Using that same list of clients, identify the weakest relationship you’ve got. Just like there will always be a best relationship, there will always be a worst one. But if that “worst one” is at a company in a position to give out legal work in the near future, you need to move it up the list. What can you do to make that relationship better, now and in the near future?

3. Move somebody up the list

The final person to identify is one that you’d like to have a better relationship with. Maybe it’s a junior lawyer who will one day be the general counsel. Maybe it’s a fellow marathon runner you hit it off with at the last client meeting. Or maybe you met an in-house attorney with whom you enjoy talking about non-work related things and would like to continue the conversation. The reason isn’t important. Picking a contact and figuring out how you’re going to improve your relationship with her – in the near term – is.

The bottom line? Invest in your relationships and the work will follow. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll be on better terms with the people who decide which firms get their legal assignments, right? That sounds like a win all around.

(Originally posted at JD Supra Business Advisor)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Associates: Answer These 3 Questions To Begin Your BD Plan

Sometimes the hardest part about starting a task is, well, starting the task. And if I've learned anything from nearly 30 years in the business development business, it's that BD plans are often that project: the one that lawyers know they need to do, the one they plan to do, the one that they just can't get off the ground. That can be even more true for associates, who are often juggling multiple assignments from multiple partners working for multiple clients on multiple legal issues.

The good news is that your plan doesn't have to be written in stone or particularly formal or even follow a standard format. All you really need to do is ask yourself these three questions, then write down the answers:
  1. What are you doing now that you would like to continue? Take a look at the work you've done – and the clients you've done it for – over the past six or twelve months. What did you particularly like doing? What do you want to do more of? Maybe you worked on an FCRA matter that you enjoyed. Or found that helping a client resolve a particularly difficult IP rights issue was something you were good at. Perhaps you were able to work for some specific client types, like family-owned businesses, or restaurant franchisees, or companies in the sports industry, that you would like to continue representing. The idea is to identify the work you like, and develop a plan for doing more of it. Not because you'll never do anything else (you might even come up with an entirely different list six months from now), but because without a plan, your chances of doing what you want to do are reduced.
  2. What are your marketing strengths? No one would disagree with the statement that some lawyers are better writers than they are networkers. Or that some can talk to anyone about anything. So why shouldn't you focus your marketing efforts on your strengths, on those things that you like, that you do well, and that you want to do more of? Of course that doesn't mean that you should completely ignore a valuable writing opportunity, for example, because articles and blog posts aren't your favorite way to demonstrate your expertise. But it does mean that, all things being equal, you should play to your strengths rather than trying to fix your weaknesses.
  3. What new things would you like to try? Without taking anything away from the two previous questions, it's critical that you think about what you're not doing, too: legal issues you'd like to know more about, marketing skills you'd like to acquire or hone, client types you'd like to represent. Your BD plan is the perfect tool for setting goals and aspirations, starting with new things you'd like to try. Want to get to know the craft brewing industry? Set a goal of joining a local trade association and attending four meetings in the next six months. Need to improve your public speaking? Join a Toastmasters chapter and make yourself attend meetings. After all, it's your future.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Are Your Cross-Selling Efforts Stalling? Maybe You’re Doing It Wrong…

Whether you call it cross-marketing or cross-targeting or some other variation on the theme, cross-selling is not a new concept for most lawyers and firms. And it’s not particularly complicated to do: align the work you actually provide a client with the services they need, and implement a program for connecting their needs with your practices. Easy-peasy, right? So why is it so hard to find cross-selling success? Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 25 years:
  1. You’re focused on the wrong solution. By framing the problem as “how do we cross-sell more services?” you’re unwittingly eliminating all the other ways you can derive value from your client base. Yes, expanding the scope and breadth of representation is a pretty solid way to maximize a relationship with Company X or Y. But your existing clients can provide you a wide range of other types of opportunities. Perhaps you can use expertise you’ve gained working for an industry leader to create a practice devoted to solving the problems of similar businesses. Or draw on the individual relationships you’ve developed with clients to get more referrals. Or even work with an in-house lawyer to author an article that allows you to share your insight with a new audience. Whatever the tactic, if you re-frame the problem as how to leverage the value of existing clients, you’ll have a new perspective on solving it.
  2. You’re not trying hard enough. Cross-selling is hard. It requires perseverance and time, the kind that is measured in years, not quarters of an hour. You need to bring people together and ask them tough questions and find compromise and solutions that may not please everyone. There are no shortcuts to successful cross-selling initiatives. Most firms – and many lawyers – don’t have the patience and long-term vision to pull that off. Sure they’ll introduce an IP lawyer to their real estate client, but they give up on the concept of cross-selling if that single new relationship doesn’t bear fruit in a month or two. That’s not to say that you’re never going to get results with a single phone call, but if you want your cross-selling efforts to produce new representation you’re going to have to work at it.
  3. You’re setting the wrong objectives. It’s true: most firms look at cross-selling as a way to grow their revenue stream, to increase profits with minimal expense. After all, the cost of expanding work for an existing client is always going to be less than that of acquiring a brand new client. And that’s a fine objective: like every other business, law firms have to make money to survive. But the firm that seeks to provide more work to current clients because that’s the best solution for the client – because it allows the client to increase efficiencies and drive down costs, because it allows them to benefit from the institutional knowledge their lawyers have of their business, because it offers them better services at a more reasonable rate – is going to be more successful than the one looking to make more money.
* * * 
What could you do to improve your cross-selling efforts?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

6 Ways to Make Your Attorney Retreat a Business Development Success

Most firms have an annual attorney retreat of some type: all lawyers, all partners, all associates, etc. These events provide attendees with a chance to reconnect with colleagues, learn about new client successes, hear how the firm is doing, and generally have a good time in the company of friends. But firm retreats also present a great opportunity for each and every attorney to enhance their business development efforts. Here are six ways to do that:

  1. Schedule your meetings.
    Yes, you'll probably talk to most of the people you already know, those you've been waiting a year to catch up with, those who owe you a drink. But unless you actually reach out to the people you need to see – before you get there – you are probably going to miss a few of the colleagues that could be in a position to give you work one day.
  2. Do your homework.
    Want to work for some of your firm's marquee clients? It's not enough to tell the relationship lawyer that “you're available.” You need to express real interest in working with her client, tell her about work you've done for other clients in similar situations, and most importantly describe how you could help solve problems that her client is currently going through. That means doing your homework, and figuring out how you could actually help her client save money / avoid litigation / etc.
  3. Fine-tune your story.
    The elevator speech is alive and well. And having a good one is probably as important at the retreat as it is at any networking event: because there will be a lot of competition for the eyes and ears of those colleagues you're trying to reach, you need to be able to tell your story – that which makes you interesting – quickly and concisely.
  4. Be friendly and interesting.
    Your colleagues – just like your clients – want to work with people they like. So put on a happy face, smile, laugh, and enjoy yourself, because those are the traits that will ensure you get phone calls from fellow attorneys.
  5. Get out and mingle.
    Client emergencies aside, there's no reason you should spend the whole retreat locked in your room or the hotel's business center. It's OK to get away to recharge your batteries, of course, but a big part of why the firm is sending you to the meeting is to get to know and improve your relationships with your colleagues.
  6. Think big.
    More likely than not, every initiative you cook up with your colleagues at the retreat isn't going to come to fruition. All the more reason to think big, and set some big-picture business development goals that are going to take time and effort and meaningful intent to bear fruit. You might not get to them all, but you'll probably find that working together to achieve some challenging objectives leads you down paths to work you might never have considered. 

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