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A foot in the door: Getting a first client meeting

Legal advisors recommend five steps to improve the odds

Struggling to get meetings with prospective clients?

First off, stop cold calling them, said Larry Bodine, a legal marketing advisor with Lawyers.com.

“It’s uncomfortable for you and for the person receiving the call,” he said.

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

“What happens is that when the discount disappears,” he said, “the client disappears, too.”

Bodine and David Ackert, a business development specialist at  The Ackert Advisory, instead recommend the following five steps for landing client meetings:

1.) Identify your targets

Take the time to sit down and work up a list of prospective clients, Bodine said. Begin with some soul-searching about what types of businesses are enjoyable to work with and what kind of work is gratifying.

Then divide 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.

2.) 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, Bodine said.

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

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

3.) Leverage your connections

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

“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 information about what is going on at the company.

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

4.) 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.

5.) 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.

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.


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