Mid-Atlantic Program Recap: “Catapulting Your Career: Becoming Your Lawyers’ Trusted Advisor… By Helping Them Become the Trusted Advisor of Their Clients” (Part 3)

By Leslie Valenza, media and communications consultant

A preliminary assessment, a check list of best practices, a document review – whatever the add – you have to give something of value to get new business in return, according to Mo Bunnell, founder and CEO of the Bunnell Idea Group.

In Part 3 of his four-part series, “Catapulting your career: Becoming your lawyers’ trusted advisor…by helping them become the trusted advisor of their clients,” Bunnell provides a framework for legal marketers to help their lawyers manage new business development opportunities to get a “yes” for new work engagements.   

Bunnell’s framework for developing business falls under four phases of a new client relationship: 1) the introduction, 2) “give to get,” 3) a small win, and 4) the big win.

The Introduction

The first step in landing new work is to introduce your firm to the client. But the main purpose of that introduction is not to talk at length about your own firm’s achievements. Instead, Bunnell advised, the goal of the introductory meeting is to ask the prospect client questions and to hear “their priorities in their words.”

Listen to what they say they need, what they want, what challenges they face, and what their goals and priorities are, and let their words guide you into the next phase of the meeting – the “give to get.”

The “Give to Get”

Bunnell recommends allocating 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss what your lawyers can do next to help solve the client’s problem or achieve their goal. While giving away legal advice or assistance may feel counter-intuitive, Bunnell stressed that doing so will build rapport with the client and demonstrate your lawyers’ skill, expertise, and commitment to solving the client’s problem.

The “give to get” creates a path for the client to hire you for an initial project, which Bunnell calls the “small win.” The key to forging that path is to specifically ask, “Would it be helpful if we …” Bunnell urges legal marketers to position themselves as business partners by using this phrasing when addressing their lawyers as well.

To design the ideal “give to get,” it must include aspects that appeal to all four kinds of thinkers under Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) model discussed in parts one and two of this series. Key aspects include: “Reciprocity” by offering a “give to get” free of charge, which dials up your “likeability” for feeling-based thinkers, and “scarcity” by offering a uniquely tailored “give to get” that you don’t provide to all clients, appealing to the holistic thinker.

The Small Win and The Big Win

Making specific recommendations on ways to achieve the client’s goal demonstrates “authority” to the logical thinker. Involving key decision makers in the meeting to establish “social proof” or reassurance for detailed-oriented thinkers that the next steps discussed in the meeting are the right path to follow. And again, offering a “give to get” shows your “commitment” to helping the client.

After agreeing on an initial project, Bunnell advised that lawyers provide just enough insight or assistance to interest the client in hiring them to perform the work necessary to complete the project. For example, your firm might offer to do a preliminary assessment of the client’s trademark portfolio to provide recommendations on what they’ll need to do next to strengthen it. Demonstrating that you understand their priorities and that you see what the client will need to do next will better position your lawyers to score the “big win,” meaning a more substantial project.

Getting Client Buy-in

Sometimes figuring out how to motivate a prospect client to hire your lawyers even after offering a “give to get” can be perplexing. To that end, Bunnell outlined five steps to nudge prospects through the buy-in process:

  • Listen and learn. Have you heard the client’s priorities in their own words?
  • Create curiosity. Does your “give to get” set up interest in hiring you to help solve a problem?
  • Build everything together. Before doing the work, align your goals and agree on how to approach the project; establish a timeline, who will do the work, and how the internal and external team will work together; and structure the terms and projected cost of the work.
  • Gain approval from firm and client leaders.
  • Land and expand the work and client relationship.

Bunnell urged legal marketers to visit BDHabits.com to access tools that will help their lawyers manage new business opportunities and move prospect clients through the five phases of the buy-in process. And he advised legal marketers to ask their lawyers, “Would it be helpful if I checked back in with you to see how the meeting went,” to position themselves as an “accountability partner” who is willing to help transition prospects into longtime clients. 


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