Catching in a Pitch Meeting: The Key to Listening

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The tendency to start a business development meeting talking about yourself and your firm is a natural one - but one that should be done selectively, in very small amounts- after you have taken the time to determine the needs of the client. The focus of your meeting must be on your potential client, the problem keeping your client up at night, and how you can help the client solve that problem.

Most lawyers are very proud of what they do - as individuals and as law firms. They attended good law schools, mastered the practice of law and achieve good results for their clients. And they are just excited to tell potential clients all about it.

This is what do most lawyers do about a business development meeting:

  • Put it on the calendar
  • A couple of hours before the appointment, they ask marketing (if they have marketing) to pull together materials about the law firm.
  • Quickly plan with a colleague about who will deliver which parts of the presentation about the firm and its services.
  • Spend most of the presentation about the qualifications of your firm and talking about your successes.
  • Congratulate each other about how well it went.
  • Wait.
  • Two weeks later, they wonder why their firm didn't get the work.

  • Where did they go wrong?

    In any successful business development meeting the potential client should be encouraged to talk more than 75 percent of the time. Your lead representative should be posing careful questions and all of the lawyers should be listening, mirroring body language, taking notes and asking follow up questions to generate even more discourse by the potential clients. A business development meeting is not about you. It is all about your potential client.

    Step 1: Do Your Research: The first step in preparing for a business development meeting with a potential client is to start early and do your research. A lot of information about any company is available on the Internet - via the client's web site, content searches and case-filing searches. You can also look at competitors and do market research so you know about the client's space and where they are in their industry.

    Step 2: Pose Questions and Probe Your Potential Client: Call the potential client prior to the interview and ask about the company's goals, culture, emerging challenges and legal needs. This will always make a favorable impression. Identify who will be participating in the meeting. Go back to the Internet to find out as much information as you can about these individuals (Google-ing works really well!).

    Step 3: Learn Your Client's Industry: Any prepared materials should demonstrate - without going in too deeply - how your law firm has successfully solved problems for clients like them in industries like theirs. Generic firm, group and biographic materials can be included - but only as supplemental materials. The key is to show your potential client that you can truly meet their unique needs.

    Step 4: Mirror the Potential Client Behaviors: The firm's business development team should mirror - without looking artificial - the team of the potential client, including the number of individuals, age, gender, ethnicity, language, communication style and dress. Business development is all about relationships, and people find it easier to be persuaded by people who are similar to themselves. That said, team members should not be selected to be mere window-dressing; they should be the actual individuals who will be doing the work.

    Step 5: Focus Conversation on the Potential Client: At the meeting, well-prepared participants should ask specific questions about the potential client, its market, its administrative structure, its operations, and its business and legal challenges. The answers should be used to generate follow-up questions.

    When you understand the problem, switch gears and “leave it all on the table. ” Act as if the potential client has already hired you and provide advice of value that demonstrates exactly how you and your colleagues function as trusted advisers. Remember - if they could have done this on their own, they would have. Anything you can give them in a two-hour pitch meeting will not eliminate their need for outside counsel. At the same time, they will notice and appreciate your willingness to be of assistance.

    Step 6: Follow Up with the Potential Client: When the business development meeting is over, try to leave with a specific next step. Either set a date for follow up, or identify when and how they would like to hear from you. Don't wait around passively for the potential client to contact you. When you return to the office, send a thank-you note, along with information about any additional subjects that might have come up in the meeting. Follow up with a schedule of regular contact to continue to build the relationship.

    Step 7: De-brief the Potential Client: You will either get the work or you won't. In either case, have someone de-brief the client. If you get the work, find out what it was about your presentation that turned the tables in your favor. If you don't get the work, find out what you could have done differently to bring about a different outcome.

    Step 8: Plan for the Next Potential Client: Often, it is easier to have someone who was not on the business development team do the de-briefing interview. Use this information to continuously improve your presentation skills. Even if you are not hired to solve a particular problem, continue to find ways to add value to the potential client. There will be additional opportunities down the road.

    Successful law-firm business developers know how to turn the spotlight away from themselves and shine it on the potential client and the potential client's problems.

    Learn more about how to increase revenue, develop teams and grow effective leaders by reading any of the free law marketing and legal business development articles at Clear Impact's site:


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