A client recently confided that he had never actually asked for business from a potential client. Surprised (since I knew that his $275,000 book of business hadn’t just happened), I asked what he meant, and he responded that asking for the business means saying something like, “I’d like to handle that for you.”
A flat, bold statement is one way to ask for business, but as my client and I discussed, it’s just one of a wide variety of “asks” that he could make. Asking for business isn’t a nice way of describing demanding business, and it doesn’t have to be a show-stopper request that sticks out as an “ask”. Instead, asking can be a gentle statement or question that affirms your interest or ability to help.
I’ve previously written about what to bear in mind when preparing to ask for business — or when you notice that you’re shying away from making a direct request. As a foundational piece, you must be clear that discussing a potential matter is beneficial for a client (if you ask helpful questions and/or provide useful insights) and that asking for the business is a natural continuation in which you’re offering to bring your skill to meet a need that you and the potential client have identified together.
In other words, there is no magic formula, you don’t have to craft a single “right” way to make your request, and you should not feel that you’re trying to put one over on your potential client. Instead, you should listen to the potential client, ask questions to clarify the situation and your potential client’s goals and concerns, and discuss relevant experience or ideas that you have. And then you should offer to take the next step.
With the caveat that no two attorneys will likely ask for business in the same way, consider language along these lines:
- Would you like me to outline an approach based on our conversation?
- Based on what we’ve talked about today, would you be interested in moving forward? (Optional: when?)
- Please let me know if I can help you in any way with this issue.
- I can help you with [summarize issue]. (Optional: I’d be happy to do that.)
How many ways can you ask for business? Limitless. But the only effective way is to engage in productive conversation with a potential client who has a current unmet need and to offer your assistance in a way that genuinely reflects who you are and how you relate to others.