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Professional Services: Turning Networking Events Into New Business (PART II)

In my last blog I talked about helping my lawyer friend Zoe with her ambition to become a Partner.  She recognised that she needed to be able to bring in new files, new clients and create more commercial success from her firm’s marketing activities.

In this blog which is Part II we look at the commercial roadmap that I created with Zoe which helps her to convert more interested people into fee-paying clients:

 

Step 1:  We created a database of Zoe’s past and present clients.

Step 2:  From this database we created two lists:  A Premier client list (10 clients Zoe would really love to receive a file from) and a Supplementary List (max 30).  Following the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) the clients on this list were going to see at least 80% of Zoe’s new business prospecting attention with 20% unallocated time for those clients who simply walk through the door.  This is by far an inverse ratio for most lawyers who will spend more like 0-20% of time prospecting for new business.

 

Step 3:  Seminar

An effective seminar is one that is focused, well promoted and has a keynote speaker sharing valuable insights into the topic.  If they are treated with the sales and marketing respect they deserve, they can be a goldmine.  If not, they can result in no leads and a general sense of frustration.  I gave Zoe the following four pointers about selling at the seminars:

 

3.1  Market well

Send out a seminar invitation to your database.  In terms of the messaging, spend extra time on outcomes – what will attendees walk away with?  We brainstormed these benefits together.

 

3.2  Don’t just exchange pleasantries – persuade!

Zoe and I structured a phone call template to each potential seminar attendee.  This was no ordinary call – we made sure potential attendees were given some exciting messaging.  We added exclusivity and some additional qualifying questions.

 

3.3  Develop a seminar strategy

Once Zoe had a confirmed guest list for her firm’s seminar, I encouraged her to spend some time on a seminar selling strategy, answering questions such as:

  • How many prospective clients will you be able to talk to?
  • How many extra staff from your firm will be available?
  • What opportunities are there to talk?  E.g. on arrival, first break, close of seminar.
  • How do you plan on entering and leaving conversations?  Getting tied up in conversations is a hard thing to deal with at times!
  • Can you contact prospective clients prior and let them know that you would like a brief meeting at the seminar?
  • Is there a way of harnessing and collecting referrals? (eg prizes, feedback forms, offering to send the PPT deck).

3.4  Plan the conversation

When talking to the client, how would Zoe envisage moving the client to the next logical step in the sales process?  Is Zoe crystal clear on what that step may be?  Is the segue way smooth or awkward?  Does she go through with the plan to go to the next stage, or shy away at the last moment?

 

Step 4:  Meeting with Senior Partner

Zoe’s next step from the seminar is a lunch meeting with a Senior Partner.  The idea of this meeting is to explore the client’s world and find an angle to potentially gain the first file.  Critically Zoe recognised that in order to be successful the client must be relaxed and the conversation free flowing, so she would choose both the Partner and the venue best suited to the occasion.

 

Step 5:  Client site visit

Zoe’s suggested her penultimate step in her sales map is to suggest a site visit so that the Partners can get a sense of culture, meet key stakeholders and make a short credentials presentation.  I agreed that this is a great thing to do, as it shows a genuine commitment from her, the Partner and the firm.  This step might be combined with Step 4.

 

Step 6:  Handle Objections

Zoe and I talked about her starting to appreciate rather than dread objections.  They can be genuine reasons not to proceed, and therefore roadblocks to the sale, granted.  However they can also be buying signals.  Zoe and I went through a list of objections such as “we are well represented by xyz competitor” and how to handle them.  The key tip I gave Zoe was to change the way the client feels about the objection.  An objection is a valid concern, and if a sale is based on depth of feeling, which it is, then Zoe must learn to change the conversation to a more positive and forward-thinking angle.

 

Step 7:  Receive a file (close)

Closing the sale in Zoe’s world is definitely not a crude, car-yard “Would you like it in blue or black?” close.  Yet questions still have to be asked.  Zoe and I talked about some of the more acceptable yet effective softer closing questions for Zoe such as:  “Would you consider us for your panel?” and “Would you consider us for a new file, if or when one arises?”

 

On the right track

Zoe is on the right track.  We have another couple of sessions coming up in the next 60-90 days, because it is one thing planning all of this activity, it’s another thing managing the time to prioritise sales and it’s a third and most remarkable thing to get it all right first time.  She will make mistakes, and she will need to modify aspects of her sales approach.

 

It all comes down to attitude.  As long as Zoe maintains her motivation to be a Partner she will introduce many new clients to her firm and absolutely achieve her goal.

 

If you are at a legal or professional services company firm and see some parallels with what you are trying to achieve, then please do call and give me your brief.  We will be able to change mindsets and map out a process that works to receive lots of new business via our sales training.

 

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