Solo/Small Firm November 2022
Make Successful Pitches
9 STEPS TO WIN NEW CLIENTS
Written by Martha M. Newman
Preparation delivers winning results.
Given the chance to pitch a potential client for new business, lawyers typically delay preparation until the last minute, scramble to gather marketing materials, and deliver a generic pitch full of self-laudatory talk. They mistakenly believe that presenting their impressive qualifications and touting their vast experience alone is going to win business. It does not. Self-focused pitches backfire.
The focus first should be on the prospective client. Diagnosing a client’s needs, knowing their competitors, and understanding trends in their industry will allow lawyers to propose customized solutions for the client’s specific business FIRMneeds and position their firms to capture that business.
Ace the pitch in nine steps.
Step 1: Research the prospect. Scour the company’s website and research the decision-makers. Uncover typical business problems that have plagued the client’s industry. Do case searches on the company’s current and past lawsuits. You want to walk into the pitch meetings armed with knowledge that will convince potential clients you understand their businesses.
Step 2: Call the potential client in advance. Find out who will be attending the pitch meeting and then research those people. Know the prospect’s goals before you go if possible. You will make a positive impression by demonstrating you have spent time doing your homework.
Step 3: Tailor the pitch to the client. If possible, wait until you fully understand the company’s specific needs before offering solutions. Example: “We see now that your problem is ‘X.’ Here is how we can help you with that.”
Step 4: Ask the right questions.
What challenges is your company facing right now?
What keeps you up at night?
What legal issues are you worried about?
What do you hope to accomplish?
What are your expectations about the law firm you hire?
What difficulties have you had in the past with law firms?
There are countless questions to ask that focus on the client instead of your law firm. The more you let them talk about themselves and their problems, the more they will like you and trust you.
Step 5: Build instant rapport. Mirror the potential client’s body language without being obvious. Make sure the demographics of your team match theirs. Speak at the same pace, give sustained eye contact, and incorporate some of the same words the prospects use as you answer their questions.
Step 6: Tell success stories. Use success stories during the pitch after you know the legal issues confronting the prospect. Go through your files to pull out compelling stories about cases the firm handled successfully for similar clients.
Relate the successful results you have achieved for past clients and follow with brief explanations of how you handled those cases, always observing confidentiality. Use “I” sparingly. Make the stories short. Choose stories with facts that will strike an emotional chord. Stories function as indirect testimonials and will live in the listeners’ memories as reminders of why they should hire you.
Step 7: Talk about solutions. After you fully understand the company’s problems and potential legal needs, act as though you have been hired. Give insights and useful analyses that provide value to the potential clients on the spot. Use words and phrases that show you are an experienced, knowledgeable attorney, but do not try to mesmerize them with big words and complicated syntax.
Step 8: Prompt the close. Ask for their thoughts about the ideas you have presented and pose questions that motivate them to reach a hiring decision.
For example: “Is there any more information you would like us to provide?”
“We would welcome the opportunity to help your company get the results you want.” What is the next step?” or “Where do we go from there?”
Step 9: Create a next step. The potential clients are unlikely to make hiring decisions without further internal discussions. So, when the meeting is over, ask if you can be in contact with them the following week (or sooner) to answer any further questions and learn how the hiring process is progressing. Do not wait for the potential client to contact you. Take the initiative and follow up with regular contact to build the relationship even if your firm does not get hired the first time. TBJ
MARTHA M. NEWMAN is a former oil and gas litigator and owner of Top Lawyer Coach. She has been awarded the Professional Certified Coach, or PCC, credential by the International Coach Federation in recognition of her coaching excellence. Newman specializes in lawyer coaching and consulting in the areas of law firm management, business development, leadership, time management, presentation skills, career advancement, and job interviewing. For more information, go to toplawyercoach.com.