“Does anybody bring in new clients via Twitter?”
“What about blogs–do blogs bring in business?”
When I hear these questions from people, it seems as if they’re looking for a lollipop. They want to flip a switch and turn on the flow of new clients. Business development doesn’t work that way. Think about your marketing and business development efforts as bringing contacts into a large funnel. At the top, you have your first contact. At the bottom, you have people who actually hire you.
Sometimes your first exposure to potential new clients will be through your Web site, your blog or even a video you have posted online. This is just the beginning; these aren’t even relationships–they simply are visitors to your site. Visitors don’t often convert directly into new business, but sometimes they will leave their e-mail address, sign up for your alerts or even pick up the phone and call you. Then, suddenly, you have a real contact. Visitors become contacts and contacts (if you take care of them) can become clients.
I invited Stewart Hirsch, a business development and executive coach who also works with Trusted Advisor Associates LLC, to talk to me about business development, and the result was our article, Mining For Diamonds: Business Development Fundamentals .
So how do you make the most of existing relationships? How do you move them down the funnel? Hirsch helps lawyers and executives do just that and more. He helps professionals achieve trusted adviser status with clients. So how does that work?
Here is a transcript of our conversation:
Stewart Hirsch: Once you build a relationship it becomes an “existing relationship,” but all relationships need nourishment. Here are three ways to nourish your relationships that will help your business boom.
One, listen. Be available to listen, and really listen.
Adrian Dayton: Listening seems so passive. How do you ask people to “go listen?”
S.H.: We often make the mistake of actively listening, to solve a problem, as opposed to actively listening to show that we understand. It’s the listening itself that’s important. Charlie Green, CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC, wrote a blog on this very topic called, “The Point of Listening Is Not What You Hear, but the Listening Itself.” Most of the time, lawyers listen to solve problems, but before we rush to do that, we need to listen–both to get information and so that clients know that they are being heard. And so that they know we understand.
A.D.: This sounds a little bit like marital advice.
S.H.: Marriage is a relationship. Friendship is a relationship. A lawyer and client is a relationship. People are still people regardless of setting we’re in. And sometimes–maybe often–people don’t feel heard. When I was still practicing law, I also acted as a mediator. Often, plaintiffs brought their claim because they felt no one heard their complaint. There was no acknowledgement of their pain. At best, a simple, “I’m sorry this happened to you and it wasn’t our fault.” Very defensive, and not listening. I found that once people felt heard, they were more open to resolving their dispute.
Two, stay top-of-mind.
There’s so much activity competing for our attention: work with voicemail, e-mail and now social media, family and friends (and social media again)–many people are overextended and we are simply out of time. So how do we stay top-of-mind with clients and contacts? With some friends, you can be out-of-touch for years and you just pick up where you left off, but when it comes to business you have to stay in touch more regularly. And it’s the connection that helps you find out about opportunities.
One way to stay in touch is with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. And e-mail. But don’t rule out calling people, unless you’re pretty sure they don’t want to communicate by phone. Something my 21-year-old son said recently rings true: “Just pick up the phone and call–it’s more personal.”
One lawyer recently told me that he called a client to connect, and the client said, “I’m glad you called–I’ve got an issue to discuss with you.” If the call wasn’t made, that client may have gone to one of the other lawyers he retained.
Three, don’t assume.
We assume people know what we do. Too many times lawyers have said to me, “He knows what I do and if he needs help he’ll call me.” That assumption is probably wrong. Even in large firms where there are good [customer relationship management] systems and cross-marketing is a priority, lawyers don’t know enough about what their own colleagues do to refer work to them. How can someone outside know or recall your expertise? And even if they do, what makes you think they will call you and not your competitor? Have you ever had a friend tell you that he needed a lawyer and hired someone other than you? Often, when asked, the friend will say, “I didn’t know you did that.”
To summarize Hirsch’s points, relationships require care, just like your family or your significant other. Don’t take them for granted, or you may be missing out on the biggest opportunities to build your business.
To learn more how Stewart Hirsch helps professionals get business and gain trusted adviser status, go to: http://strategicrelationships.com
Adrian Dayton is a lawyer, speaker and author of the book, Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition (Ark Group 2009). He helps law firms ramp-up their social media efforts to build high-value relationships online. You can read more at http://adriandayton.com.