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Five (different) tips for landing the next client.

I know. You’re not technically in a sales position. You are a professional. I also bet that just doing a great job is not enough of a magnet to attract and retain every prospective client. You can always improve, and that’s why it helps to think like a sales rep sometimes.

Before you roll your eyes at yet another sales article, I thought about that too and tried to look at this topic from a little different perspective. This won’t be about active listening, consultative selling, SPIN or other sales seminar approaches. Here are a few simple sales tactics that you can employ to improve your close ratio, meaning the percentage of perspective clients who become clients:

  1. Build commonality. The product (you) has to be good for a client to sign up. If you weren’t a lawyer, accountant, or like me a consultant, I’d say that people would buy because they like you. Your prospective clients will, however, buy because they think you understand them and feel their pain. Ask a few introductory questions to find that link, like you are both single parents with two kids and like to invest in IPOs between triathlons.
  2. Differentiate. Sure, lots of firms offer the same services. Law is law, or it’s just counting the numbers. But nuances in your product, and how you deliver that product, can be a powerful differentiator. Start with the things that bug your clients. Can someone else in your office answer a client question if you’re unavailable? Do you provide regulatory or other background research at no charge? With a couple of items like these, all of a sudden you really start to stand out and you set the standard for comparison with other firms.
  3. Create a continuum. This isn’t the Star Trek thing. It’s building a detailed timeline that extends as close to the final solution as possible. Then the immediate steps, like signing a contract, become a much smaller part of the whole process. The client focuses (rightfully so) on follow-up and the various next steps, instead of just on your contract.
  4. Just ask. Talk about differentiating. How about simply asking for the client’s business at the end of the meeting? To make this easier, focus on the step after the signature, then back up when you have the client’s agreement on that step. Here’s an example, “John, in order to hit our March 30 date that we’ve outlined today, we’re going to have to get your Form 59.b drafted by Friday. Let me pull your retainer paperwork and we’ll get going.”
  5. Follow up. The client signing up on the spot is best, within what time frame is the decision normally made? One week? One month? This time frame is critical for the prospective client to continually see your name and message. Send a thank you email highlighting a next step. Have a senior partner send a note. Send a relevant article about the business at hand or the commonality you’ve developed. Keep it nice and simple, just a paragraph or two to minimize your time and maintain attention. Compare that with the other lawyer/professional who just moves on to the next meeting. From whom would you buy?

If the client doesn’t sign, be sure you ask why. This is important data that you can use to improve your future success. Winning is the best result, but you can often learn more from the losses, including when no decision is made. Don’t waste the data.

If you are still a little concerned about how best to try these ideas, test them first. Lure a friend or associate with the promise of a free meal, coffee, or adult beverage. Then talk through these ideas or role play. You can have fun laughing as you learn, and you’ll be better prepared to try these ideas on prospective clients. Don’t forget to send your friend a follow-up note afterward…

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

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