The statement “I’ve got your back” is one of the most powerful business development messages there is. When you have someone capable and attentive on your side to offer assistance and cheer you on, you’re likely to be more willing to undertake new, difficult, or risky-feeling activity.
Consider this: a child learning to walk or to ride a bicycle will often look to a parent to be sure that someone is there to encourage them if they waiver. We applaud speakers and those receiving awards as a way of saying, “Good job!” And we’ve probably all called a friend for support after being rejected by a potential client or date, or a job opportunity. Just about everybody appreciates encouragement and support.
There’s another side to “I’ve got your back”, too: someone capable who’s in the trenches with you, ready to help. And that’s where “I’ve got your back” goes from a source of feel good emotional support to a do-good, hands-on promise. That’s also where it becomes a powerful business development message.
Think about your client’s perspective. Whether your clients are legally sophisticated large companies or individuals who have never worked with a lawyer or legal problem before, every client wants to know they’re in capable hands.
More importantly, clients want to experience being in capable hands. That means, for example:
- Having a lawyer explain the heart and the context of the legal matter, to an extent that feels comfortable to each particular client, and knowing that the lawyer fully understands and appreciates the relevant law and its impact on the client.
- Having a lawyer who’s proactive in flagging new issues and opportunities
- Getting calls and emails promptly returned by the lawyer or a knowledgeable staff member
- Knowing the status of the matter, including the reason for delays or quiet periods in a representation
- Being billed clearly and appropriately, in accord with expectations
- Receiving emotionally intelligent communications, whether that’s congratulations or an explanation of what went wrong and why (this is the feel-good side in a business context)
When you convey that you’ve “got a client’s back” through your actions, you’re laying the groundwork for great client service. You’re building a relationship that’s characterized by respect and support, in the context of legal skill. That service not only keeps your current clients happy but also creates the potential for repeat business or referrals.
You might choose to say, “I’ve got your back” (or more businesslike words that convey the same message), but your actions must back up your words. If not, your statement will backfire: your actions will demonstrate that you don’t have the client’s back and, almost worse, that you either don’t realize that fact or you’re willing to lie about it. (This, I believe, is one root of many lawyer jokes and the usual low standing of lawyers on lists of trustworthy professions.)
How can you demonstrate and perhaps say that you’ve got your clients’ back?
From your own perspective, working with someone who’s “got your back” as you undertake business development activity (which may be unfamiliar and feel risky, at least at first) can be a key factor in your success. It’s the flip side of the points above, substituting marketing for legal knowledge and skill. When you have great support, you get a cheering squad, a listening ear, a brainstorming partner, a source for new ideas and insight, needed resources, and more.
Here are a few ideas on how you can get the support you need:
- Join forces with one or two colleagues who are also working to grow their practices
- Join a rainmaker group (or create your own)
- Use social media for accountability and support
- Hire a consultant or coach
If you’d like to join a group of colleagues, check out Chapter 1 of The Reluctant Rainmaker (pages 26-30 in the print edition) for specific suggestions of how to find or create the right group. And if you’re looking to hire a consultant or coach, let’s talk and see if we’re the right fit.