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)
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