In coordination with Jim Hassett of LegalBizDev, the ILN put together a series of five educational webinars available to member firms on a monthly basis. Jim is the founder of LegalBizDev, which helps lawyers to develop new business by applying best practices from other law firms and professions through coaching, webinars and workshops, retreats and much more. Jim comes highly recommended by the Legal Marketing Association, who regularly relies on his expertise for their conferences and webinars. More information about working with Jim and his colleagues can be found on their website.
The third webinar, How to Find New Clients: From Prospecting to Closing, took place on March 25, 2009. Jim described the session: “This presentation will describe how to address the challenge of finding new clients. The basic principles are simple: you must meet the right people and advance the relationships. This presentation will describe best practices for referrals, cross-selling, networking, and publicity, and emphasize the importance of developing systematic processes to assure consistent followup.”
Some of the highlights from the session included:
* Jim observed that finding new clients is the hardest thing someone can do in a suit. So he said that in order to maximize success, they need to do the right things in the right way. He emphasized that above all else, persistence matters.
* To start, Jim broke business development down into two types: current clients, which he had addressed the previous week, and new clients. For new clients, he said that some lawyers would be better at bringing in new clients than others, and firms should support those who are successful. He said that bringing in new client is more difficult and harder to evaluate than bringing in new business from current clients. However, he added that bringing in new clients is critical to long-term success, while working with current clients is critical to short-term success.
* Jim focused on five main points during his presentation: the challenge of new clients, meeting the right people, advancing the relationships, closing the deal, and what the lawyers should do.
* Challenge of New Clients: Jim explained that selling is a numbers game. He said that 25% or more sales professionals fail, while top performers often sell ten times as much as average performers. In order to succeed, sales professionals need a lot of contacts to make a small number of sales. Using examples, Jim showed how planning to reach a large number of prospects and persistence are necessary in selling. He also talked about whether it’s possible to predict which lawyers will be successful rainmakers, saying that tests cannot predict success. He also cautioned the audience to beware of sales stereotypes, saying that instead, firms should support and measure the results of those attorneys who are willing to try.
* Meet the Right People: The next point in Jim’s plan focused on meeting the right people. He suggested that the attorneys start with a plan, which should include defining their niche, defining their ideal clients, meetings the right people, and then qualifying the prospects into who will buy, who will buy soon, and who will buy from them. Next, he encouraged them to follow up with (in increasing order of difficulty) referrals, cross-selling, networking and publicity (speaking/writing). The second two topics will be covered in the fourth webinar, so Jim just focused on the first two.
– How to get referrals: Jim detailed the four steps for how to get referrals, which include asking at the right moment, following up immediately, thanking people repeatedly, and keeping them informed. He went through each step to explain to the audience the best way to achieve success and emphasized the importance of always framing the requests in terms of the needs and desires of the people that they’re asking.
– How to cross-sell: Again, Jim encouraged the audience to think in terms of meeting the needs of both the other partner at the firm and the potential clients. He recommended that they start by looking through their own client lists to see which clients might benefit from some of the other services the firm offers and then offer to share these clients with a trusted partner. Jim said the next step was to aim for a few small successes, by giving the clients advice that saves them money or better meets their needs. He called this “integrity-based cross-selling,” a term coined by Larry Smith at Levick. Jim added that Mark Greene of Nixon Peabody had identified four key factors in cross-selling success, which are communication, compensation, competence, and control. He went through these in detail to explain how they aid in successful cross-selling.
* Advance the Relationships: Jim went through the next section quickly, reiterating that an advance is any action that moves a sale forward. Since less than 10% of face to face meetings lead to a decision (either positive or negative), it’s important to plan what the next advance will be. Jim suggested that the attorneys plan their primary advance, their secondary advance, and a list of questions to ask before every meeting.
* Close the Deal: While some people think that selling is all about closing, Jim likened a focus on closing to teaching a gardener how to pick tomatoes. It’s more important to teach them how to grow tomatoes, and then picking them is easy. Jim adapted Robert Kimroy’s tips for insurance sales into something he calls the “Zen of Selling by Not Selling,” which focuses on building relationships over time. Part of this involves keeping in touch with a fair number of prospects over time, and Jim suggested that attorneys aim for quarterly contact with their prospects to stay top of mind. Newsletters are one option for this, but Jim said that the best systems require little lawyer effort, provide value, and most importantly, are personal to the recipient. He ended with a few common sense tips from How to Win Friends and Influence People, including agree, don’t criticize or complain, give sincere appreciation, become genuinely interested, smile, be a good listener, and talk about the other person’s interests.
* What Should You Do?: Jim suggested that most lawyers start small and define an action item that they are likely to perform. They should set a deadline, and follow up. In terms of group action plans, Jim emphasized the importance of supporting both high performers and the motivated. He recommended that groups respect individual differences, and treat action steps as pilot tests, so that if something doesn’t work, they can move on to something else. Then, they can refine their tactics to fit the firm culture, and publicize successes. Jim ended by discussing the three steps to business development success he had written about in one of his books, along with the thirteen steps to new clients he had identified in another book.
* Jim summed up by saying that selling is a skill that anyone can learn. He challenged the attorneys to start today by defining their action items, using the worksheet he had made available in the handouts to the participants.
The webinar recording and materials for this third session are available to ILN member firms at a low cost- please contact me for more information.