A prospect has been identified and qualified. Now what? Building rapport with prospective or existing clients and referral sources requires intentional ongoing communication and patience. Relationship building with qualified targets is the longest stage of a sales cycle, sometimes taking up to two or three years to see results. When relationships fail to progress, it is most often due to a lack of follow-up.
Attorneys should be thoughtfully connecting with each qualified lead six times per year at minimum, with two of those times face-to-face. At times, outreach can feel awkward or even like an insurmountable hurdle because of time constraints. Fortunately, with minimal upfront investment time, systemizing one’s outreach and identifying all resources available to leverage, can drastically improve results and help you add value to your targets.
While it’s impossible to know exactly how outreach to each contact will happen over the next year, it’s important to plan for it and do it in a way that adds value to the person you’re contacting. (The how is addressed later in this article.) Outreach should be treated like an important meeting or deadline and added to calendars with reminders, and a CRM if one is in place. Compile all targets by rank into one document (table or spreadsheet) for tracking purposes. Work with a business development colleague if you need help ranking contacts. At minimum, the document should include a target’s name, company, rank, columns for each planned outreach (six minimum), and next steps. It can be helpful to have a column that records quick notes that include major events or personal details about the contact such as upcoming travel.
Be In the Know
Staying apprised of news and industry trends that impact prospects in real time creates opportunities to keep in touch in a meaningful way that adds value and shows that you are genuinely interested in their business and success. The key is to leverage technology to automate how we receive this information. Connect with each person on LinkedIn and follow the person’s company. Check to see if your high priority targets are using other social media platforms like Twitter. If so, do the same as LinkedIn. Create Google alerts for the person and company. If one has access to law firm library services, ask what competitive intelligence tools are available. There are many tools that can send a customized rollup of news. All of this allows us to identify opportunities to thoughtfully reach out to prospects with minimal investment time.
It is equally important to build relationships with attorneys in other practice areas and know what services they provide. Staying up-to-date on what thought leadership colleagues are contributing to can be as easy as getting on your law firm’s mailing lists and collaborating with your marketing and business development colleagues. Be intentional about getting to know colleagues in other practice areas and treat them like an important referral source. Developing an understanding of all services that are available to your prospects, even if they are not your services, increases the likelihood of success because you’ll be able to better identify a solution for your prospect’s needs.
Success is achieved by what we do consistently. Once the above has been established, building relationships should be built into one’s routine and requires minimal time. Depending on the number of prospects, it takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to do a daily scan of social media, Google alerts and other news feeds. Set aside one to two hours per week to be able to act on the intelligence your technology is feeding you.
Once a system is in place, the opportunities to engage with prospects are endless and there isn’t one right way. The methods chosen to keep in touch will depend on the prospect and the attorney’s personality. The most important thing, when conversing with prospects, is to approach each conversation with curiosity and practice active listening. Let the person speak 80% of the time. When it’s your turn to speak, make it count by asking open-ended questions, offering something of value and confirming next steps.
Support and Add Value
Below are examples of how to genuinely build relationships with prospects by demonstrating your support and adding value.
- Support: Is your contact hosting or speaking at an event or conference? Attend. Did she win an award? Congratulate her. Did she write a byline? Share it on LinkedIn or tweet it. Was she or her company featured on LinkedIn? Comment, like it and share it with your network. Is your contact passionate about a particular charity? Donate or show up to one of the charity’s events.
- Offer: Make an introduction. Offer up a seat at a firm-sponsored charitable event. Share content. Extend an invitation to your firm’s events, both social and substantive. Ask if she would like to get on your firm’s relevant mailing lists. Invite her to lunch or dinner. Provide free onsite training.
- Collaborate: Co-author an article. Ask her for a quote on an article you wrote. Invite her to speak on a panel your firm is hosting. Co-present at a conference. Participate in a community or charitable activity together.
Jennifer Bettencourt, Marketing & Business Development Manager at Goulston & Storrs, has broad experience implementing all facets of law firm management from strategic planning to operational process improvement. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.
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