Rainmaking -- Making friends, influencing people

Marketing is all about people: it is all about engaging other people in you as a person and as a lawyer. Many lawyers are intimidated by the idea of marketing, but they must overcome that fear because marketing is essential for gaining and retaining clients.

Communication with prospects

Effective rainmakers find out not only what clients or potential clients need but also what they want. That requires finding out how clients best receive information and then providing it to them in a way that they find useful. Successful rainmakers communicate in a way that builds loyalty and collaboration over time by putting the emphasis on the client and not on the lawyer.

Rainmakers take a customer-service approach to dealing with prospects, just like a successful shop or restaurant takes with its customers. They make clients feel like part of the team, seek out their opinions, and ask them what they want to accomplish. Rainmakers never put prospective clients on the defensive. They follow a win-win communications strategy that does not use the style of questioning required when taking a deposition or structuring a contract.

Having been trained to ask questions, I have often been told by my wife to stop interrogating her; all I basically wanted was to find out some information, but to her I am interrogating and putting her on the defensive. Lawyers must change that approach when interacting with prospective clients. Prospective client interactions are a conversation between two friends, nothing more.

The better prospects feel when talking to a lawyer, the more positive they are and the more they will seek out the lawyer's services. Thus, a rainmaker's key attributes are empathy and rapport, expressed by using a lawyer's skill to ask a hypothetical business client questions such as the following:

- What's the biggest project you have going on now?

- What kind of a year has it been so far?

- Are you concerned about recent product liability litigation trends?

- What do you think would give you the most help in dealing with employees or customers?

- What do you want your organization to look like on one year, two years, or five year?

- Will you be offering new products or services in the next year?

There is only one way to get this kind of information: personal, face-to-face meetings. Social networking on the Internet is effective, but personal contact is the differentiating factor that gets a lawyer noticed.

Finding prospects

Attending an industry trade show is an excellent way to meet prospects. There is no better way to establish effective marketing relationships with prospective clients than by establishing a presence at their trade shows and association meetings. By properly researching and targeting the right shows, a lawyer can meet more prospects in one day than might otherwise be possible in months. And physically being present at these meetings of potential clients demonstrates knowledge of their business, understanding of their concerns, and seriousness about offering solutions.

Rainmakers use this kind of contact to begin an ongoing process of contact with clients or prospects to develop and expand a working relationship outside of the lawyer's own services. The lawyer doesn't have to maintain an exhibit booth but merely a presence at the event, mingling with people on the exhibit floor and at the show's events. Aside from meeting and greeting people, you will also learn about the industry.

Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC, is a law practice management thought leader and contributor to this publication. His website is at www.lawbiz.com.

Published: Mon, Sep 21, 2015