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Business Development for Lawyers

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In this week’s blog, TPC Leadership Associate Tom Bird is focusing on business development for lawyers.

Are you a lawyer for whom sales or business development is on the bottom half of your ‘To Do’ list because it is not a task you look forward to? If so you are not alone. For many lawyer’s that I work with, business development (BD) is one of their least favourite activities: you went to law school because you want to practice the law not to be a sales person. The reality is that BD is a vital activity that must take place for practices to grow and thrive. So how can you build BD into your daily routine to make sure it gets done and, once you get that opportunity to pitch to clients, how can you maximise your chances of winning the business?

Focus and discipline

Most lawyers aren’t motivated to do BD every day, so in the absence of motivation you need to have discipline. As a lawyer you know that BD and client development is important but not urgent and so if it’s not urgent, you’re probably not doing it because you love doing the urgent client-facing work instead.

With the focus and discipline to commit just 15 mins a day to BD related activities you can achieve a lot

  • Build your personal profile
  • Research a new sector
  • Read about your clients, their business and sector
  • Write articles
  • Attending virtual events not in order to network and win business but in order to learn more
  • Build your internal network
  • Track the winners.

What do we mean by tracking the winners? Many lawyers will spend time with the clients they like the most and that they have the easiest access to. But you need to identify the people in a client’s organisation who you think will succeed in the long term and stick close to them, adding value and insight when you can. If you do this, when you are in a position to need to win work, those contacts are likely to be in a position to award it. So, it’s a question of objectively thinking which clients present the best opportunity and which individuals are the most switched on/most ambitious.

Pitching to win as a team

When you get the opportunity to pitch to clients, how can you increase the chances of winning the business?

I recently interviewed a Lawyer who has a really good win rate on pitches and I asked what his secret was. He told me that a lot of his colleagues, when preparing for a team pitch for work, would simply review the documents and have a few email conversations between them before the day of the pitch. When a client is looking to choose a team for some important work, they take the technical expertise for granted. What they put more emphasis on is the team itself: do they come across as knowing each other, as being at ease with each other or are they coming across as a group of individuals who don’t seem to work together? The importance of meeting up before a pitch, agreeing who is doing what, agreeing handovers and who will take questions are all important differentiators that communicate a greater sense of ‘team’ to the prospect.

The Lawyer that I interviewed said he would get together with his team in a cafe prior to the pitch so they would be at ease with each other when they go into the pitch.

So, you really need to consider how you can foster this feeling of team within the group you’re working with. At the very least try and get together prior to the meeting, talk to each other, get to know one another on a deeper level, this will really help project to potential clients that they have a team in front of them.

Building a relationship for the long term

“The expert-for-hire is inwardly focused on their own methodology and expertise; the client advisor is outwardly focused on learning everything they can about their client’s toughest issues and challenges.” Andrew Sobel, Expert to Advisor Model.

In this model Sobel says when you are in conversation with a client there are two things you can pay attention to:

  1. Are you focused only on the task at hand or are you asking more context questions?
  2. How does the client experience value from the relationship with you? Is it delivered through knowledge and expertise or is it delivered through insight you can bring (this insight only comes from asking the questions you don’t know the answer to)?

Though you might start a relationship being the expert for hire and delivering value through your expertise, it’s a dangerous place to stay as plenty of others will have the same level of expertise. In order to build a longer-term relationship, you need to position yourself as a trusted advisor to your clients.

To achieve this trusted advisor status, you need to ask more collaborative, searching questions to find out more about their business and consider how you can share knowledge about other clients to deliver insight, this is what provides the real value to clients in the longer term and moves you out of the role of expert for hire.

If you’d like to discuss any of these challenges, get in contact, we’d love to hear from you.

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