Effective Business Development

Posted by on Oct 11th, 2011  |  Last modified on Apr 12th, 2013

Last updated on April 12th, 2013 at 09:11 am

This post summarises a previous seminar I attended (several months ago now) at my last law firm Follett Stock LLP where senior fee earners of the firm shared their knowledge in respect of retaining clients and winning new work.  I thought it would be useful to share my note on the seminar as some good points were made which are relevant for both online and offline marketing.

 These were considered the key overall points relating to successful business development:

  • Make sure you spend your time on the right prospects who will require your services or who will be in a good position to refer you to quality sources of work.
  • Always make an effort to share useful information with your clients, as well as ensure that information relating to business development is shared internally with other colleagues.
  • Identify who the most influential people are in both your geographic area and industry sector and focus on building relationships with them.
  • Really get to know your clients well so you are able to identify and even anticipate their key needs.
  • Never take any client for granted – continuous effort needs to be made in building and developing relationships no matter how long the client has been with the firm.
  • Develop the practice of co-selling whereby you find more ways to add value to your clients by recommending them to other people, both within and outside the firm, as well as outside the practice of law.

 What clients’ want

From experience these were the four key things that clients look for when choosing to appoint a solicitor:

  • An ability to show genuine empathy and to offer re-assurance and support.
  • Clarification of their problem(s) and identification of relevant solutions, with the solicitor guiding the client rather than just giving a range of options.
  • Confidence from the solicitor that they, their firm and their network have the right abilities and track record.
  • A good understanding of both the client’s industry sector and specific business.

Building good rapport

When looking to develop relationships with possible clients, it is vital to make a good impression at the outset and to build rapport quickly.  The following are the key points to bear in mind in this respect

  • Make sure you shake hands firmly, but not too strongly.
  • Always smile and give a friendly impression.
  • Always maintain eye contact, engage with people, be informative, keep nodding when others are talking and ask them the right questions to develop better conversation.
  • Get the seating in the room right, if you can help it don’t have a table as a barrier between you, sit on a corner if there are just two of you. 
  • Show positive intention.  If you think positively about getting work your attitude will rub off in general conversation.
  • Demonstrate re-assurance and an appreciation and understanding of their problem.
  • Ensure that you inject rhythm and energy into your conversation, be chatty and don’t leave any gaps.
  • Massage people’s egos – clients’ will become very responsive if you are a fan of what they do.
  •  Emphasize with people and find things in common.
  • Research everyone before a meeting and make sure you know as much as possible about their background.

Good questioning skills

  • Start with wide angled questions (open) – this reduces the risk of missing key issues       (e.g. who, what, how and when).
  •  Turn some of your statements into questions.
  •  Probe and be inquisitive – shows you are interested and people will remember you more.  Can then pick up on salient points mentione
  • Build your next question on what the client said in response (show you are listening) – even just repeat what they said.

      Identifying clients’ key needs (GIIN)

 A conversation strategy for developing a prospect into a client:

  • G          General background questions
  • I           Issues – questions

·                      Identify issues, needs, concerns, plans and hopes

You have a big company, what’s the issue of the moment”

  • I           Implications – questions

·                      What effect would that have?

·                      What are the implications of that?

·                      “You have a lot of employees?  That must mean a lot of HR issues”

  • N          Needs and value

·                      How can we help?

·                      “How valuable would it be to you if we were to …?”

·                      “Do you think it might help if I …?”

Useful questions and phrases

·                     Tell us about … (how you do things now)

·                     How’s business?

·                     What would be the effect on your business if that happened?

·                     That sounds like a situation we had recently where … (this was the issue, this is what we did, this was the outcome).

·                     What do you like about the way your current advisors work?

·                     What do you think could be done better?  (don’t disclose opposition)

·                     How do you handle the approval process for appointing the new advisors?


About Jonathan Lea

Jonathan is a specialist business law solicitor who has been practising for over 14 years, starting at the top international City firms, before then working at smaller practices and since 2013 for himself.

The Jonathan Lea Network is now a SRA regulated law firm that employs solicitors, trainees and paralegals who work from a modern office in Haywards Heath. This close-knit retained team is enhanced by a trusted network of specialist self-employed solicitors who, where relevant, combine seamlessly with the central team.

If you'd like a competitive quote for any legal work please first send an email to wewillhelp@jonathanlea.net with an introduction and an overview of the issues you’d like to discuss, following which someone will liaise to fix a mutually convenient time for a no cost no obligation initial call with one of our fee earners.

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