Business Development Is a New Language for Lawyers
One of the most challenging elements of business development for any attorney is “how to make the ask.” The mere idea of asking family, friends and even clients for introductions or business is just plain scary. As marketing and business development professionals, we may think this is a piece of cake. However, for many attorneys, making “the ask” is the equivalent of soliciting your boss to double your salary.
In my experience, there are three primary reasons for such reluctance:
- Fear of rejection or “head-trash”
- The impression of being too “salesy”
- The mindset that asking for business may damage the relationship
While there may be other factors, these three seem to hit home with many of the attorneys with whom we interact. The unfortunate truth is, without focusing on their best contacts and clients, attorneys are severely limited in their ability to obtain new business.
One of the best ways to get your attorneys on track is to help them leverage and harvest the low-hanging fruit all around them. Always start by creating a list of their “A”- and “B”-level contacts. The “A’s” are the contacts where the relationship is indisputable and the opportunities for new work or quality introductions are solid. The “B’s” are the contacts where the relationship is good and the opportunity exists, but there’s still room for improvement. While I’m sure you already know the importance of writing lists, the secret here lies in the next important step.
To remove some of the hesitation your attorneys may have, it’s important to provide some specific language to help them overcome the “head-trash” they are most likely experiencing. By scripting out some non-salesy language before making any calls, you will help get your attorneys on board with the program.
Here are a few scripts that have been very successful for my clients in obtaining new business from friends, family members, referral sources and, most importantly, existing clients. These scripts can be used to set up the meeting beforehand or can be used during the coffee or lunch meeting.
The key to success with these scripts is to:
- Use the script in a conversational manner.
- Make it permission based.
- Adjust and adapt each script to your own personality and style.
Script #1 – A friend with whom you’ve never discussed business before:
“I was thinking we haven’t had the opportunity to discuss our businesses with one another and it might be valuable to learn more about what each other does as new issues come across our desks. Would you be open to a lunch where we can learn more about one another?”
Script #2 – A long-time family member with whom you’ve never discussed business before:
“I’d love the opportunity to grab coffee or lunch with you in the next week or two. We see each other every year, but I don’t know a great deal about what you do. I’d love to learn more about your business and see how I can be a resource for you moving forward. I’d also enjoy sharing a little about what I do, as I know you run into people regularly with legal concerns. Are you free on… (provide specific dates).”
Script #3 – An attorney or past referral source you believe may have business opportunities for you:
“In addition to catching up next week when we meet for lunch, I’d like to share some possible contacts with you who might be beneficial to your (business/practice). I’ve been really focused lately on helping people who have helped me in the past. I’d also like to pick your brain for ideas on contacts that might make sense for what I’m doing. Is that okay with you?”
Script #4 – A happy client who is well connected and may be able to refer some amazing new business your way:
(Client “B” – close relationship)
“Before we meet on (date), I thought it might be helpful to think of some business connections that might be good for one another. As you know, I’m looking to meet (name a specific type of prospective client). If you’re open to it, let’s come up with a few names prior to meeting; that way we can both get more value from our time together.”
(Client “A” – great relationship)
“I know you’ve been very happy with the work I’ve done over the past few years, and I was thinking you may know other business owners who would appreciate the high-level work I perform. Would you be open to discussing a few contacts with me when we meet for lunch next week? It would be really meaningful to me.”
(Client “A” – great relationship, but you’re still uncomfortable with the first two options above)
“There’s something I’d like to ask of you, and it goes outside my comfort zone a little, but it’s important to me. I know how well connected you are, and I was hoping you’d be open to discussing some possible connections with me during our lunch next week. Is that something you’d be open to discussing?”
While there are different ways attorneys can approach the people they know for introductions or new business, it’s important to write out the scripts for the appropriate audience and practice them before attempting the real thing. Then, be sure to have them select two to three of their best relationships to use as success catalysts for these scripts. As you know, attorneys are always searching for proof and validation. Once you’ve helped one or two attorneys gain traction with these scripts, be sure to have them share their success stories with other partners.
Over the past 14 years, Steve Fretzin has devoted his career to helping lawyers master the art of business development and branding to achieve their financial goals and the peace of mind that comes with developing your own clients. What makes Steve unique is his "Three Ps" methodology for growth. In a recent interview, Steve commented, "We focus on planning, processes and performance improvement to drive our clients books of business through the ceiling. It's incredibly rewarding to watch my clients develop more of their own business and take control of their legal careers."
In addition to writing two books on legal business development, Steve has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s and Entrepreneur.com. He has appeared on NBC News and WGN Radio, and has written articles for Attorney at Law magazine, the American Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association. You can also find his monthly column in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.