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January 18, 2012

How to find new clients (Part 1 of 2)

This post was adapted from my new book the Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide which is being published today.

In today’s challenging legal marketplace, finding new clients is more important than ever, and harder than ever.  But if you follow these ten steps, you will find new clients.

Step 1: Define your priorities and how much time you will devote to looking for new clients

  • Turn to the chapter (in my new book) entitled Action plan – Your two-page action plan, and fill it out to specify your personal priority for finding new clients, and the time you will devote to it

  • Before you begin working on a systematic plan to find new clients, it is important to ensure that you have the resources and commitment required to maximize the chances of success

  • We recommend a commitment of at least two to five hours per week, for an absolute minimum of six months.  If you cannot or will not make this kind of time commitment, you should forget about finding new clients.

Step 2: Make a list of new clients you would like to have

  • In the “new clients” section of the Two-page action plan, fill in the names of some ideal clients.  (Also see the chapters on Planning – Define your niche and Planning – Define your ideal clients.)

  • If you don’t know people’s names, list the companies and job titles of possible clients in your niche.  Compile a list that is as specific as possible, such as:

    • Senior partner in the Bradbury hedge fund
    • CFOs at Fortune 500 financial service companies   
    • General counsel for large biotech firms
    • Leaders of unions with at least 500 members
    • Owners of closely held businesses with 100 employees or more 
  • Remember, business development is a numbers game.  You will need a large number of prospects to get a small number of new engagements.  Over time, your list should grow.

  • The process of developing new business is based on planning a series of smaller steps to the sale.  (See the chapter on Advances for background.)   If you already know what your desired advance for any or all of the clients in your list, fill in the To Do list on page two of the Two-page action plan.

Step 3: If you can easily arrange a face to face meeting with someone on the ideal client list, do it

  • Set up a face-to-face meeting or a lunch to learn about their business and their needs

  • Do not try to sell your firm in the first meeting.  Spend the time getting to know the person, and what matters to them.

  • Listen at least 50% of the time.  For examples of what to talk about, see Meetings – Checklist to increase results from your next meeting.

  • Make sure that your value proposition can be stated quickly and succinctly, and is adapted to the interests of each person you meet.  See Elevator Speech – Six steps to create or improve your elevator speech.

  • Keep asking yourself:

    • Why should these very busy people talk to me? 
    • What value can I provide immediately?
    • How can I help these people?
    • What can I give them for free?

Step 4: After you meet with each person, set a goal for how often you should be in contact with them in the future to stay “top of mind”

  • After every meeting, ask yourself: Will they buy?  Will they buy soon?  Will they buy from me?  See Qualifying – How to avoid wasting time with the wrong people.

  • If they are likely to buy soon from you, set a plan for regular follow-up and meetings

  • If you think they will never buy from you, and never help you to sell to others, take them off your lunch list.  But keep sending holiday cards, just in case you’re wrong.

  • For everyone else — all the people who may buy some day but won’t buy soon — plan to keep in touch about four times per year so that they will think of you when they need legal services.  See Follow-up – A checklist of best practices for keeping in touch.

Next week’s post will describe six more steps.


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