How to Influence a Prospective Client to Engage
When coaching your lawyers in navigating an effective pitch, it is important to remember the five-stage framework of a sales conversation: 1) building rapport, 2) identifying pain points, 3) offering a solution, 4) overcoming objections, and 5) making the close. At each stage of the sales process, there are questions that can guide the conversation in order to uncover clients’ pressing business needs and corresponding legal solutions to those challenges. Presenter David Ackert discussed these steps at length in "Navigating an Effective Pitch: How to Influence a Prospective Client to Engage," a webinar hosted by the Virginias and Baltimore Local Groups on August 15, 2018.
- Building Rapport
Building rapport is the foundation of a successful opportunity to engage with the client and grow their trust in the attorney and firm. Expression and delivery are more important than content, so be genuine in your approach and focus on open body language and pleasant tone to leave a lasting impression. During the first introductory face-to-face meeting, the prospect is asking him/herself: "Do I like him/her? Can I trust him/her? Can s/he help me?"
- Identifying Pain Points
In identifying pain points, seek to understand the personal and business pain points driving the client’s decision to hire counsel. At this step, ask open-ended questions that allow for the client to provide feedback without feeling like there is an obligation to answer. For example, transition the conversation to inquire: “Here’s what we know. What else should we know?”
- Offering a Solution
After assessing the client’s needs and understanding their pain points, provide a concise solution, or series of alternative solutions, to address their business problem. When offering a solution, Ackert recommends this approach: “Here’s how we think we can help.” Offer examples of relevant wins and how you have helped other clients.
- Overcoming Objections
Depending on the client’s level of trust in you and receptiveness to your solution, you will undoubtedly encounter the next step in the sales conversation: overcoming objections. Ask questions in order to address all of the client’s concerns: “Do you have questions about the solutions we have proposed?”
- Making the Close
Asking for the business is the final and most important step, but one that can be the most challenging for attorneys to approach, particularly if they already have a relationship with the client or prospect. Come prepared with a closing strategy.
One strategy is to ask the prospect to make a decision while you are meeting with them, not after the meeting has concluded. “How can I help? How shall we get started?” If hesitation from the client persists, you have not addressed all of their objections and may need to propose an alternative solution. Pause for a moment after asking the client how to proceed to allow for response.
Another strategy, an advice close, entails offering a sound piece of advice in order to influence the prospect to disregard vetting competitors without your unique offering or solution. For example, point out that you have seen too many clients disappointed by firms who X, or to make sure the competitors can provide Y, preferably a differentiator your firm has that the competitor does not.
Planning a Value-Oriented Follow-Up Strategy
The GC survey conducted by BTI Consulting reveals that it requires up to 14 touch points before a target will respond to a solicitation from a legal service provider. However, the same survey reveals that 90 percent of lawyers quit after the first unsuccessful attempt to contact a prospect.
Ackert offers several recommendations to combat this “quitter's mindset” and show the prospect that you are not too busy to take on a new client: Take a service-oriented approach. Add personal or professional value with each touchpoint. Don’t attempt to automate or delegate a key relationship.
A service-oriented mindset provides lawyers who are uncomfortable with the high-pressure, aggressive tactics in a traditional sales process with low-pressure alternatives. Think of follow-up as representing a series of opportunities to be of service and deepen a client relationship. Value-added follow-ups by phone, by email, or in-person remove the barrier of intrusion.
Examples include: trainings and in-house CLE; invitations to social or industry events; offers to speak at conferences or to write for publications they find of value to their business; introductions to strategic business contacts; sharing relevant resources, such as case studies, checklists, best practices, articles, or white papers; and notes of congratulations.
Ackert recommends using your firm’s CRM to organize key pursuits and follow-up efforts, and following the steps in the sales process to increase the effectiveness of your client relationships and pitches.
By Inna Kolomiytsev, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Niles, Barton & Wilmer, LLP, for the Third Quarter 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter