Author: Silvia Coulter, Principal, LawVision | LSSO Co-Founder & Advisory Board Co-Chair
Not too long ago, I was speaking with a legal salesperson who told me their law firm opened an office in a new U.S. jurisdiction and there was profound angst as to whether the firm would be able to attract quality talent as well as significant clients.
Six months later, that angst was gone. In fact, the new office had quickly secured millions of dollars in new business.
How did this happen?
Three key factors contributed greatly to these results.
Key Factor No. 1: The firm had a seasoned salesperson who knew not only how to get in a client’s door but also how to ask for business. Coached—and often accompanied—by this sales professional, firm partners enjoyed a higher rate of securing meetings with prospective clients and in securing new business. Sales knowledge is critical to effectively compete today. Firms with leadership who embrace hiring a client-facing salesperson are reaping the benefits (aka your clients).
Key Factor No. 2: Despite the drumbeat heard during numerous in-house counsel panels and in numerous industry thought leadership articles and in advice proven out time and again from experienced consultants, many law firm partners stay in their comfort zone and don’t reach out to nurture client relationships. This is particularly true for clients with whom lawyers have no active mandates. Again and again, clients volunteer feedback that partners do not proactively visit them, do not ask or know about their strategic priorities, and do not anticipate their legal needs. If a firm isn’t regularly engaged in meaningful dialogue with their clients—more than just post-matter/once-a-year surveys—then the door is wide open for competitors to nab the next matter or the entire client relationship, no matter the tenure of the legacy firm. Attention builds relationships and relationships get business. It’s that simple.
Key Factor No. 3: Connection is critical. No, it’s not easy to actively engage with a large group of contacts and clients on a regular basis. But developing a strategic approach—experts say a good rule of thumb is 50 individuals per quarter—can help make the task less daunting while also exponentially increasing the odds of winning new clients and/or new business from current clients. This is particularly true during economic downturns when many people go into self-preservation mode and forget to reach out to contacts and clients who are also experiencing a difficult time. Relationships matter. Firms that don’t encourage and support partners in dedicated outreach efforts are warming up their clients for their competitors.
A recent Forbes.com article reminded us “studies suggest that, depending on the industry you are in, acquiring a new customer can cost five to seven times more than retaining an old one.” Yet, I am constantly amazed at the opportunities lost by incumbent firms when there are relatively simple solutions to competitor-proofing client relationships.
Savvy—successful—firms will be the ones to employ these straight-forward key factors.
Silvia L. Coulter chairs the firm’s Client Development & Growth Practice. Silvia’s clients rely on her strategic account/key client expertise to help them retain and grow existing clients and to develop new business. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.