Getting a first client meeting

By Correy Stephenson

The Daily Record Newswire

Struggling to get meetings with prospective clients?

Larry Bodine, a legal marketing expert and editor in chief of Lawyers.com, and David Ackert, a business development specialist at The Ackert Advisory, recently explained the key steps at a webinar sponsored by The Business Development Symposium, a firm that specializes in helping lawyers find clients.

Bodine first rejected several common methods lawyers use to try to get a client meeting, including cold calling.

"It's uncomfortable for you and for the person receiving the call," he said.

Discounted introductory rates are also a bad idea, he said.

"What happens is that when the discount disappears, the client disappears, too," Bodine argued.

Instead, here are five tips that will help you get that first meeting:

* Identify your targets.

Take the time to sit down and work up a list of prospective clients, advised Bodine. Begin with some soul-searching about what types of businesses are enjoyable to work with and what kind of work is gratifying. Then triangulate your list into three groups: companies and industries; familiar legal issues and problems; and relationships.

The overlap between the three is the best place to start.

* Move into research mode.

True research involves more than just looking up a company's litigation history or finding out what other firms work for them, said Bodine.

Instead, find out "how the business makes its money, what its business model looks like and who the management team is."

Ackert suggested setting up a Google alert or using a social media news aggregator to keep an eye on the company's latest happenings.

* Leverage your connections.

Take a close look at all possible connections, said Acker.

"You never know who the unexpected gatekeeper will be that will be your ticket in," he said.

For example, an associate at your firm might be friends with a paralegal at the target company. While lawyers may be inclined to dismiss that relationship, the associate can talk to the paralegal and learn potentially valuable insider information about what is going on at the company.

"It's like having a mole on the inside," said Bodine. "Even if it is just intelligence, it puts you one step closer to a meeting."

* Make contact.

Social media can play a valuable part at this stage, Ackert said. He suggested checking LinkedIn to see if you have first connections who are linked to someone at the target company, and then asking them to make a personal introduction.

* Build the relationship.

The best way to nurture the relationship is to proceed in an environment that won't come across as just a sales pitch.

Acker suggested a golf game or a wine tasting can work well.

Bodine recommended attending a speech the prospect gives and then following up afterwards, or offering to moderate a panel for a trade association and contacting the prospect as a speaker.

The goal is to make a request for a subsequent meeting develop naturally, Ackert said.

Published: Tue, Apr 10, 2012

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