Join Your Clients’ Team

Don’t you love it when someone else is genuinely interested in your success? We all do. And we all know when interest is genuine, as opposed to when it’s self-motivated and faked. Genuine interest is tremendously appealing, while self-serving is off-putting and even alienating.

Are you interested in your clients’ success? You don’t have to tell anyone but answer honestly. Depending on your practice, that interest could mean anything from a years-long involvement at the most intimate business levels to a deep interest in a limited aspect of your client’s experience that’s followed with well wishes, a farewell, and rare-to-occasional follow-up contact. If your answer is lukewarm, that’s a sign that something is out of alignment, and it deserves attention.
Assuming your answer is yes, you are interested in your clients’ success, the question becomes, how do you show your clients that you’re interested in them? When interest is genuine, it tends to flow naturally. Because life is busy, though, you’ll likely find it helpful to come up with some ways that you can demonstrate that interest. A few examples:

  • Communicate. The number one complaint about lawyers is the lack of timely communication, and knowing what matters to your clients and when and how to convey that is both a professional responsibility and a way to demonstrate your interest in your clients.

    The value of client communication was perhaps most vividly demonstrated in the early days of COVID-19 shutdowns. 
    Some lawyers reached out to their clients to see how they were doing, if they and their family were safe, how they were balancing work and having children in virtual school, and so on. Some reached out again later to see if clients needed help with PPP loans or otherwise working to secure the survival of their business. Some made sure to check in periodically as things changed, on a personal as well as a business level. Imagine how those relationships developed. Imagine how relationships with other lawyers who didn’t reach out fared in comparison.

  • Use your clients’ services and products whenever possible. Even if your representation is not business-related, patronize your clients. One lawyer I know makes a special effort to host lunches at a client’s restaurant. Another of his former clients is also his insurance agent, and he purchases gifts from another client’s yoga studio. You might question how much this matters, but imagine how you would feel if you discovered your lawyer hosted a staff luncheon at other restaurants in town but not yours.

  • Where appropriate, promote your clients’ business to others. The lawyer I mentioned in the previous example does this each time he brings someone to his client’s restaurant or sends out a gift from his client’s yoga studio. That’s a win/win—even more so if it’s appropriate to mention the client connection.

  • Look for opportunities to provide extra value to your clients. This might be business-related, but it doesn’t have to be. Anything from identifying a trend that might benefit your client to recommending an accountant or contractor counts. You know all those recommendations to circulate useful articles you read? That’s another example, when done well. The measure is what your client will find valuable. (And a hint here: business clients often receive news and updates from more than one attorney. Be sure yours stands out by making it personal in some way, rather than the same form that’s being sent to others.)

  • Watch for news about your clients, and respond appropriately. If you have a low-volume practice, place Google Alerts on all of your clients; if not, place Alerts on a selected number of high-priority clients. (Either way, be sure that the results are filtered or sent to a non-primary email address.) Celebrate good news, offer condolences, or extend a helping hand.

These are just a few examples of how your actions reveal your interest (or lack thereof) in your clients. The best methods, of course, are the ones that are most genuine for you and the ones that have the most positive impact on your clients. When you act from a genuine and appropriate interest in your clients’ business and personal success, you join your clients’ team. That tends to create client satisfaction (maybe even client delight), recurring business, and referrals, and it also tends to become an enjoyable extension of your practice.

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success At Work And In Life One Conversation At A Time

Have you ever been in one of those deadly conversations in which a lot of words fly about and yet nothing happens?  Or when decisions are made and strategies are crafted, but everyone sitting around the table knows that nothing will actually change because everyone is talking around the real problem?  What a waste of time!

Fierce Conversations revolves around the “Mineral Rights conversation.”  This simple 7-step process can be used to get to the truth of a situation, create understanding about it, tackle the challenges in the situation, and enrich relationships in the process.  The seven steps (with some sample questions) are:

  1. Identify the most pressing issue. What issue do we most need to resolve?
  2. Clarify the issue.  What is going on?  How long has it been going on?
  3. Determine the current impact.  How is this situation impacting me and others?  What do I feel about this impact?
  4. Determine the future implications.  What’s likely to happen if nothing changes?  What’s at stake in this situation, for myself and others?
  5. Examine your contribution to this issue.  How have I contributed to this problem?
  6. Describe the ideal outcome.  What difference will it make to resolve this problem?  What results will resolution create, for myself and others?
  7. Commit to action.  What’s the most potent step I could take to move this issue toward resolution? What’s going to attempt to get in my way, and how will I get past it? When will I take this step?

The critical tactic to make a Mineral Rights conversation a success is to ask questions and not to comment on the answers until you’ve completed step 7.  The reason is simple:  your goal is to interrogate (gently but fiercely — meaning powerfully, robustly, eagerly), to understand, and to assist in finding a solution.  This is your opportunity to listen and to provide uninterrupted attention, not to speak.  If your input is needed, you can provide it later.

And, as the author writes, allow silence to do the heavy lifting.  We’re often quick to fill a gap in conversation, whether from desire to show how much we know or to avoid uncomfortable silence.  Don’t do it.  Silence creates the opportunity to reflect on the situation — on the cause rather than the effect — and to appreciate its scope.  Reflection often yields new understanding that leads to action.

Imagine having a Mineral Rights conversation with a client or having a modified version of it with a potential client.  Imaging having it with colleagues representing a client with you, with staff, or even with your family.  Take a step today and answer this question:  What’s the most pressing challenge you need to resolve?  If it’s a situation that requires input from others, with whom should you have the conversation?

Fierce Conversations also includes other tools, including an exceptionally useful model for determining decision-making authority, which I previously described on the Fleming Strategic Blog. Please click here to read that post.

Observe Yourself To Improve

As a young litigation associate (about a million years ago!), I found tremendous benefit in getting feedback from a more senior lawyer who routinely observed my performance. The same was true as I moved into coaching, and even now, after more than fifteen years of coaching others, whenever I get feedback following observation, I always have new insight that helps me to improve.

Observation by supervisors is built in some way into almost every kind of professional role. Whether it’s business development skills, performing the responsibilities of your job, your leadership presence, or anything else, feedback is one of the fastest possible routes to improvement…

But getting feedback on business development activities can be tricky. Much of the time is spent in solo pursuits that make it difficult for anyone to have access to real-time performance. Fortunately, you can become your own observer and provide your own feedback.

Being both actor and observer can be difficult, but if you identify a single behavior that you want to improve and focus on that, you’ll likely find it easier than you might imagine. For example, let’s imagine that you’ve noticed (or someone has told you) that you have a habit of getting excited and interrupting other speakers. Your motivation may well be good, but the behavior is disruptive and can come across as disrespectful, so breaking it will likely improve your performance. You might decide to make a tick mark on your notepad each time you catch yourself interrupting in a meeting, with the goal of seeing a declining number of marks over time. Once you get a handle on that behavior, then you can identify and move on to something else.

If you have an opportunity to get external feedback, do. Meanwhile, try this exercise: choose one discrete aspect of your business development skills or habits that you’d like to improve. Then identify ways to get clear on your current performance level and ways to track improvement. Track yourself for a week to a month, depending on the magnitude of the behavior you’re observing, and see what changes you notice.

Identify People To Contact

Cultivating relationships is central to business development. After all, whether you represent individuals or the largest corporations, it’s people who will retain you, and it’s people who will decide how effective your work is.

Have you ever felt like you need to bring new people into your network but not known where to turn? Consider relationships you already have that could be revitalized and developed. Although results are never guaranteed, it’s often easier to start with someone you know and to work on taking that relationship to a deeper level than to find the right place to meet the right person and then grow the relationship.

Try this exercise to identify a handful of people you should contact today…

  1. Think of three of your social circles. These could include your law school classmates, former colleagues, former clients, other parents at your child’s school, members of your running club, etc.
  2. List three people in each of those circles. Think about the people in each circle who have some connection to your area of practice. Preferably, your list will include people you know well enough to call and have a conversation. Closer connections are better (especially when you’re seeking potential clients or referral sources), but don’t agonize to find the “perfect” contact to include on your list. If you can list more than three, even better… Just don’t call your exercise complete until you’ve listed three people in each circle.
  3. Identify the one person in each circle who seems to have the most potential, and reach out to those people as soon as you can, in the most personal way you can. An in-person visit is better than a phone call, a phone call is better than an email, and an email or social media contact is acceptable but not ideal. Your opening can be as simple as saying that you were just thinking about So-and-So, and you wondered how they’re doing. Especially if you’ve lost touch over the last 18 months since the pandemic began, your outreach may be all it takes to refresh your relationship. Friendly catch-up conversations that touch on business can lead to some interesting opportunities. Before you reach out, think about what you’d like to get across (are you looking to speak more often? have you recently changed firms?) and during the conversation, be on the lookout for how you can help your contact.

Use this approach once a quarter or whenever your contact list could use an infusion. The key is that you’re renewing relationships, not trolling for business. If you’re desperate for new work, this is not the right approach for you. This is an opportunity to invest in strategically selected relationships, which will likely pay off somehow, sometime, with no certainty about when or how that will happen.