By Shelley Swanson
Dolan Media Newswires
When the next matter lands on your contact’s desk, what is the chance that he will pick up the phone and call you, rather than your competitor?
You can significantly increase your odds by building an authentic relationship and staying top of mind with your target clients. It sounds easy enough, but for most of us relationship building tends to fall by the wayside when schedules become hectic. The key is to narrow your focus and build a system that works for you.
Think of a championship basketball team like Rick Pitino’s 2013 NCAA champion Louisville Cardinals. While a squad may have top-to-bottom talent, there must be a starting five.
Likewise, a lawyer should review his contact list and choose five people in the best position to send along new business.
If you’re as fortunate as Pitino to have a roster of reserves with starter-type talent, great. Your competitors, whether in court or on the court, likely won’t possess such depth. Nevertheless, make a list of your “Top 5 Target Clients” and keep the all-star register next to your phone as an ongoing reminder of a streamlined strategy.
Next, find opportunities for meaningful outreach. You want to stay on your top contacts’ radar screen, but you do not want to spam them with information unrelated to their business.
Listed below are several ideas for building an authentic relationship with your standout players. Decide which ideas best fit the relationship and commit to at least one outreach per week, as you spread the ball around your five-client rotation. Your goal is to routinely offer something of value — and that you’re open for the pass.
- Let’s do lunch: … or breakfast, coffee, cocktails, etc.
- Join us: Extend an invitation to upcoming events. Firm-hosted programs and receptions, charitable galas, sporting events, or even a new restaurant opening all offer a perfect opportunity for an invitation.
- Google Alerts: Register online to receive email notifications on news items related to your target clients. When your contact or the company is mentioned in the news, send a note saying, “I just saw this and thought of you.”
- Content sharing: Whether it’s your firm’s recent blog post or an article in the New York Times, if the information is useful for your contact’s business, share a link to the article. By sending relevant news, you are advancing their knowledge in the area, adding value to their business and, subtly, demonstrating your acumen.
- Ask for opinions: Posing “if you were me” questions is a great way to demonstrate you trust his expertise and knowledge on a certain subject matter, and trust is critical in any relationship.
- Speaking opportunities: Extend an invitation to join you on an upcoming panel or roundtable event, again letting your contact know you trust and value his insight on a topic.
- Client visits: Have you seen business declining with a particular client? Scheduling an in-person visit is one of the best ways to roster the relationship and forecast opportunities for future needs. Ask open-ended questions that keep your contact talking about his business, and listen for ways in which you can add value.
- Free training/CLE: Offer to host an in-house training or CLE session, off the clock.
- Make it meaningful: Keep a list of important dates and information for each of your targets, including birthdays, kids’ names and ages, favorite restaurants and activities. Be sure also to note any dislikes, and review your list before reaching out to confirm relevance (e.g., hold off on an invitation to that new sushi restaurant until confirming your contact has a taste for raw fish).
- Follow and engage: Make sure you’re following both the personal and company profiles of your target clients on LinkedIn and Twitter. Which LinkedIn Groups do they follow? Join those groups and participate in the discussions.
Shelley Swanson is the associate director of marketing and business development at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen in Boston. She can be contacted at [email protected].