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IBA: Client Development Through Relationship-Building

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As a seasoned professional, you know the ins and outs of laws and regulations, the guidelines and the sound strategies that will benefit your clients. You have no trepidations offering advice. When it comes to your business, however that confidence often evaporates. For many lawyers the mere thought of client development causes unease. The word “sales” is foreign—and terrifying.
 

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Yet client development is not about sales. It’s all about relationship development. It doesn’t have to be a painful effort. Working with a business/executive coach has helped many lawyers discover how naturally client development can fit into their day, once they learned some basic techniques.

Using the Professional Practice Program, an experienced coach can help you understand and implement a series of tools and actions making a significant impact on gross revenue, from both existing clients and new ones. Five basic principles are the foundation of this approach: who, what, how, tracking and compelling reasons.

Who

To begin a client development program, you need to identify your target audience, beginning with existing clients. Then, the focus can expand to the circle of influencers and referrals. It’s also very helpful to identify the types of clients you would consider your “Dream” clients, the “Good” ones, “So-So” and “Nightmare” accounts or clients.

Don’t laugh. We all have a few clients that fall into that “Nightmare” category. By analyzing which clients bring the greatest return-on-investment of time, you can alert to spotting this same potential in new prospects. You may also learn to say “No, thank you” to a prospect that you instinctively predict will fall into that “Nightmare” category.

What

Next in the Client Development model is the step where you work on what you need to say to clients and prospects in order for you to grow your practice. New business is based on new relationships and renewed relationships with existing clients. You have to connect in a meaningful level. Memorizing a few facts about the client is not enough to project a sincere impression of wanting to help that client.

Being involved in the client/prospect’s growth and future is important to maintaining that relationship. It also helps create Top of Mind Awareness—another goal of what you want achieve. This means you want your name to be the one your contact thinks of immediately whenever someone says “Know of a good lawyer?” This is the foundation of your referral network.

How

In this step, the Professional Practice Program offers several very specific tools to help you achieve your client development goals. This is the step-by-step portion of the program that gets you actually doing the work. Samples of elevator speeches, letters invitations and tips for networking with clients and prospects are some of the very helpful, practical tools typically discussed.

Track

Without tracking the steps you take and analyzing the results, you may be just spinning your wheels. Giving yourself measurable goals is just one of the tactics you can employ to make sure you are actually contacting clients, building relationships and asking for referrals. The actions you take can be simple, but the important part is that you actually take an action and meet your goals. Tracking those actions keeps you accountable to your most important supervisor—you.

Compelling Reasons

You may already feel compelled to take an active role in client development. Or, you may just have a slight nagging thought at the back of your mind that maybe you had better get around to that one of these days. In either case, here is a statistic that will certainly compel you to work on your business development skills. On average:

A 60 percent increase in referrals + 200 percent increase in marketing contacts = 30 percent increase in gross revenue.

Think about that. Do the math. You’ll see client development can have some big pay-offs, ones that are simple and painless, to create. It’s all about the relationships, the contacts and your associates in the practice of law. So the next client meeting you have, take another look. Get to know the person, not just the facts. You’ll see a big return on your investment.•

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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