You’ve put in your dues. You’ve worked hard to become the accomplished lawyer you are now, and you have all manner of credentials that demonstrate your expertise. You’ve worked with a variety of organizations and individuals, you’ve written articles and book chapters, and you may even have served a turn teaching.
How can you leverage all of that activity to build relationships so you can bring in more business? The answers to that question are as varied as the number of people who might ask. The four ideas I share here will form the springboard for what you decide to do.
- Be sure you have all of that activity listed in your biographical sketch. I’m always surprised when a new client tells me about past activity that I can’t find anywhere in his or her sketch. You did the work, so be sure you get credit for it.What’s more, listing the work you’ve done will help to build a bridge with contacts who review your sketch.How so? Your activity shows your involvement with various groups, and if you and a new contact have both taught at your local community college or law school, you’ll have a connection that can form the basis of conversation. You can get relationships off to a firm footing by having a well-rounded bio sketch.
- Reach out to the people you’ve met while doing your credential-building activity. Most often, you’ll build working relationships while building your credentials, and it’s up to you to take the next step and to move those relationships outside of their initial context. So, let’s say you’ve been working on a project with a committee of colleagues who may serve as referral sources. Reach out to those people, let them know how much you enjoyed getting to know them in the committee, and invite them to coffee or lunch (or, if you aren’t local, a scheduled telephone conversation) to talk about your mutual professional interests. They already know you, and if you’ve done your work well, they probably like and trust you. Build on that.(What? The others with whom you’ve been working are in your field and aren’t good referral sources?Get thee into a new group, where your professional strengths compliment, not duplicate, the strengths of others. Get started today. And remember this going forward: it isn’t business development activity if you’re marketing to people who do exactly the same thing you do.)
- Leverage your credential-building activity by bringing it to contacts who don’t know about it. So, let’s say you wrote an article that was published recently. Send it to your clients, your former clients, your referral sources, and your warm contacts who will find it interesting. Nothing fancy here: just a copy with a quick note, perhaps offering to chat if the article raises a topic they’ve been concerned or thinking about.Sending your article out offers the personal touch, can lead to further conversation, and shows that you have in mind the people to whom you send it.And that’s ideal for relationship-building: by showing that they’re at the top of your mind and sharing something useful, you bring yourself to the top of their mind. (Worried they already received the article through its original publication? Don’t be. You’re offering the personal touch, and even if it’s a duplicate, they’re likely to appreciate the effort.) You can also use what you’ve created to build relationships with new contacts, and to invite them to receive your useful article and your newsletter. (You don’t have a newsletter or some other mechanism for providing regular, substantive contact? We need to talk. Seriously. Drop me a note, and let’s set a time.)
- Take the expertise you’ve developed to a new forum. Once you’ve written or spoken on a topic for one group, look for ways to expand your reach. Take your presentation to a business networking group, to a specialty association, or to a different educational organization.More importantly, for the purposes of this discussion, broaden your exposure in a strategic way with a focus on relationship-building.If you speak, consider whether you (or your firm or business) might sponsor a reception following your presentation. Assuming the timing is right, people typically enjoy a meet’n’greet with a featured speaker, and you’ll have opportunities to follow up with the people you meet.
So, what can you do to leverage your credential-building activity for relationship-building purposes? The basic point here is to think about how you can bring the credentials you worked so hard to acquire to people who can benefit from your expertise and to use the products of that activity to build relationships. (And, incidentally, this conversation should illuminate for any doubters why the minimum professional credentials won’t cut it.)
Is this all you need to do to build relationships? No, absolutely not. The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling offers many relationship-building suggestions for lawyers, as will my forthcoming book, tentatively titled The Reluctant Marketer: A Guide to Igniting Your Client-Based Business. But these steps are a beginning point for leveraging your past work for relationship benefits.