By Barbara S. Kaplan
Special to the Legal
We learned that Christopher Columbus refuted the prevailing belief that the world was flat.
However, if he were here today, we could prove him wrong.
The Internet gives us free access to information. It’s very democratic. There are no barriers to entry. This is a critical paradigm shift from the days when a seller or provider of services held the power because they had access to and were keepers of information that those who purchased from them didn’t have and couldn’t acquire. In today’s world, clients and customers often know as much, if not more, than those with whom they transact.
Because we all have access to the same content, the world has become flat. There is a leveling of power. We live in a buyer’s market. Purchasers have more choices than ever before and often call the shots. With this phenomenon comes a decrease in loyalty. Purchasers negotiate on their own terms. It is not about what you are selling; it is about what they are buying.
How often is it that we pump our own gas, buy books, plan our vacations, and apply for loans online? We go to a car dealership knowing what we want. We go to the Apple store set on the iPhone we have already determined meets our needs. More and more, purchases take place one-on-one. We find the best deal because we can.
What does this have to do with the legal marketplace? Attorney bios (proven to be the first stop for those searching for a lawyer), websites, microsites, LinkedIn and other social media, rankings, ratings, referrals and recommendations, and opportunities to examine results and compare and contrast have changed the conversation and the way we need to connect with clients. Clients don’t have trouble finding lawyers. They have trouble choosing one.
It has always been about putting the client first, providing outstanding client service and earning client satisfaction. Now, however, lawyers have to come to clients and prospects with a stable of well-honed client development skills that make them unique and enable them to distinguish themselves by building a special kind of relationship.
How will you stand out? How will you be the one who is chosen?
Here are some action steps that will move you toward making a new kind of connection:
- Go into each meeting with a trio of powerful questions. Ask open-ended questions that let you unpeel the onion to get to the core of the thought, for this is where real business development conversations take place. Open-ended questions get you to concerns, motivations and pain points. When you plan your questions in advance, it’s far easier to have the conversation.
- Listen more. Talk less. Listen more than 50 percent of the time.
- Make the client your friend. Connections are often a combination of the personal and the professional.
- Probe for your prospect’s perception of “value.” What are the factors upon which you will be evaluated beyond the givens? What will help you exceed expectations in order to be memorable and engender loyalty?
- Steer the conversation so it is always about the client. They know about you. You want to know about them.
Everyone can do this. There is no one right way. Know your strengths, play to your strengths and take advantage of your strengths.
Barbara S. Kaplan is the principal of BSK Strategies, a firm working with lawyers and law firms to hone their business development skills, target and win higher-value work, and earn client satisfaction and loyalty.