Turn rejection into rainmaking
Losing an existing client or failing to win a new one is incredibly frustrating and can sometimes leave you feeling baffled.
Whether it is a multi-million pound joint venture or a small house purchase, every lawyer spends time perfecting their pitch, letting the client know why their firm can do the job better than anyone else. So to find out that the client has taken their business elsewhere can be a huge source of disappointment.
More so, it is a missed opportunity. Particularly with potential clients, once the job has been lost, we may never speak to them again. But why is that? Fine, the client may not feel the need to contact us, but why do we let them slip through our fingers forever. Most people will need legal services more than once in their lifetime, so just because you lost out on that deal this time, doesn’t mean you should write that client off forever.
Lawyers tend to be guilty of this more with potential clients than with existing clients. With existing clients that go elsewhere, lawyers that have a good understanding of client relationships still keep in contact with their old clients to let them know that they are still here if they are ever needed.
What about potential clients? You have had the meeting, spoken about the transaction, quoted for or estimated its cost and the client has decided to go elsewhere. So why don’t you ask if you can keep in touch with them? The easy answer is to say that lawyers are arrogant and, if the client doesn’t want us, we don’t want them. But that is not really the case. The answer is much simpler: they were never clients in the first place, so it is easier to believe that they wouldn’t want us to call them than to have the confidence to ask if it would be ok if we called every so often to see how they or their business are doing.
The reality is, when it comes to winning clients, ‘No’ doesn’t have to mean ‘No and good riddance’. If you did your background work well when you had the client meeting, you will know there are possibilities for the future. As you would do with an existing client, ask the potential client if you can keep in touch; that you would like to know how the transaction goes.
Then diarise to call the client again around the time you said you would have the transaction finished (a good CRM system will help with this). This is your first marker to compare your services with the firm the client chose to use. If the transaction isn’t finished, find out why; it could be that the lawyer they are using has been slow or was less-equipped to get the job done. If it has completed, find out how it went, if the client was happy with the service and what their plans are next. If your background notes suggested follow-up work could be done, ask if it is getting done. If it is not, why not? This could be where you step in and fill the gap left by the current lawyer. And if the follow-up job has been taken care of, diarise to call again, just to say hello. The client will appreciate the fact that you haven’t given up and that you have taken an interest in their longer term goals.
Yes, it takes time, but business development and relationship building is part of what a lawyer has to do and this is a much more effective way of winning clients than going out to networking events, ticking off that box and then waiting for the work to come to you.
Most lawyers simply don’t appreciate how valuable this type of business development is. You have been given the opportunity to interact directly with a potential client rather than through or because of an intermediary, yet you let the client walk away forever.
And if you’re really clever, you’ll speak to the client about all the other services your firm provides, so that even if they do not need you now, they might need one of your colleagues in another department, thereby showing off your cross-selling skills to the partners and you very quickly develop a reputation as a rain maker.
Think about how many existing or potential clients have said “Thanks, but I’m going to use someone else” and your response was essentially “Ok, bye” and you never spoke to them again. Now imagine how many more contacts (and therefore potential clients) you would have if, instead of saying “Ok, bye”, you said “Ok, but let’s keep in touch”.