By Robin Hensley, Business Development Coach
A “rainmaker” isan executive or lawyer with exceptional ability to attract clients, use political connections, increase profits, and bring in the business. A “habit” is a learned behavior that is done so frequently that it soon occurs automatically. In all my years of coaching lawyers and CPAs in business development and marketing, I have yet to meet a client who does not want to be a rainmaker.
Successful rainmakers have a clear, focused plan of action. Then they practice, day after day. Soon the practice becomes a habit, and what they have been working on starts to seem natural. It becomes a way of life.
The 7 Habits defined in this paper are easy to develop because they make common sense. When you apply these principles, you will find yourself working smarter, not harder; and you will reap the rewards that every successful business brings.
These are good habits to form. I know – I work this way every day.
Habit 1: Develop A Headline Statement
A “headline statement” is used to introduce yourself as quickly as possible so you can get out of your own way to hear what the other person has to say. David Sandler, the author of You Can’t Teach A Kid To Ride A Bike At A Seminar spoke at an American Management Association meeting years back. He said, “Everything comes in three’s—there are the Three Little Pigs, the Three Stooges, everything’s in three’s. In developing your headline statement, go back and determine three reasons why people hire you or what do you do for them that is different from someone else. Incorporate that in your headline statement.” As a personal example, when I met people I’d say, “I’m a business development coach for attorneys and CPAs and I help people come up with a marketing plan and I meet with them once a month and I hold them accountable” and on and on and on, until their minds drifted off and they didn’t care what I was saying. My headline statement wasn’t working. I went back and looked at the last 20 people who hired me. Why?
Number 1: They hate marketing.
Number 2: They don’t have time to do marketing.
Number 3: They are very frustrated with the results of the marketing efforts they have done.
So, now my headline statement is, “I am a business development coach for attorneys and CPAs. I help people who hate marketing, who don’t have the time to do marketing or who are frustrated with their marketing efforts.”
This helps, but now for the hard part. The most important part of the headline statement is to stop talking and listen. At least 95% of people you talk with are going to resonate with one of those things you mentioned and start telling you a story or telling you their opinion about that. That is ideal for me, because I don’t want to talk to people if they’re not worried about the marketing part of their business.
The same holds true in every profession, even the law. Whatever three reasons you choose, the idea is to say your headline statement and stop talking. Then you will have time to listen to and respond to the needs and concerns of the people in front of you.
The less you talk the better.
Habit 2: Define Your Specialty Brand & Build an Individual Marketing Plan
You are an individual, so you must have a marketing plan that has measurable goals and results that work for your individual requirements. When you combine the vast number of marketing strategies with wide variety of potential clients, there is a lot to consider.
Here’s a trick question: If you are going on a first class flight to New York on Delta Airlines, who do you want in the seat next to you?
Most responders are too general: “Oh, I’d like the general counsel of a huge Fortune 500 company” or “I’d like the CFO of a huge public company.” I say, “Get specific.” Which company? What type of company? What is your background of expertise?
The better answer is, “I want to meet John Smith who is general counsel of MNO Company.” If you don’t know your specific target market and your specific ideal client is, your marketing plan will reflect your lack of focus and you won’t get the results you want.
Build your marketing plan around your target people. Research and learn everything about them, for instance where they went to law school, what boards they are and who knows them through LinkedIn. We’ll get back to LinkedIn later on in Habit #6.
You will get more referrals if you make yourself known for a specialty area, even if you maintain a general practice. For example, general corporate work is one of the toughest things to market because people have a lot of choices. However, if you become well-known in the RICO area, the appellate area, or in another specific area, you can brand yourself as the go-to person. Reputation yields referrals.
Here are five ways to triple your target marketing success:
- Consider first the people and clients you enjoy working with and go for more of the same.
- Study your best clients and go with them to their own industry meetings. You can learn more about them and their industry and they can introduce you to other business owners who are similar to them.
- Go to where your clients go. Most of your potential clients won’t be found at Chamber of Commerce meetings. Go to the meetings that pertain to their industry and find out how to do their business better.
- Learn about your potential clients. What are the new items, the new things, the new key things that they need to be on the cutting edge of their business? What do they need to know? What keeps them up at night?
- Read what they read. Knowing about the industry trades will help you to get to know them better, and you will be able to talk about what interests them. It will get you very close to your client and the heart of their business.
Habit 3: Establish A Personal Powerful Presence
The first impression matters most. People make snap judgments about others and their capabilities in this order:
How you look/act - 55%
- Sound of your voice - 38%
- Words/what you say - 7%
How would rate your own personal powerful presence? Here are some categories that could build or destroy your business relationships:
Handshake. And it’s a true statement all the way from the handshake -- your very first handshake. Greeting people with a limp fish handshake or a vice grip that leaves their hand throbbing is not the way you want to be remembered. That first impression could be a knuckle/deal breaker.
Air of Confidence. Some attorneys and CPAs look very young, and that can attorney who speaks with confidence and acts like an attorney. Even if you don’t quite feel that way, act with confidence and be professional.
Dress. Some professionals resist the fact that they are working in a very conservative field. They want to dress in a certain manner; to the beat of their own drum. That’s their choice, but they will limit themselves when trying to attract clients.
Eye Contact. Have you ever talked with someone who is continually looking over your shoulder for the next best thing? This behavior is rude and memorable. Be remembered for the right things. Be focused and attentive with every individual you meet.
Many lawyers know how to dress for court and getting in front of a judge. But that is not your only target market. Nor is it your client. When you are in your law firm, consider this: Who votes on you to make partner? Who votes on your compensation? Who determines your compensation and your future at the firm? The people who judge you first are people right there, in your office. Is you personal powerful presence strong enough to make decision makers want to include you in their cases and with their clients? If you are looking unprofessional you will be overlooked for participation in an impromptu client meeting. Take control. Be ready to participate professional in anything that comes your way. Your harshest judges may be the people who are right next door to you in the office – watching.
If you don’t feel confident in your speaking abilities, hire a professional presentation coach – I do. It’s not the firm’s job to take care of your every single personal and professional need, so don’t rely on their approval. Invest in your own future, check with the experts, and get the help you need.
Habit 4: Transform Trusted Advisors Into Referral Engines Through Netweaving
A trusted advisor is really your personal “board of directors.” If you are a corporate lawyer, a trusted advisor might be, for example, a corporate CPA -- perhaps an auditor who could send you referrals. You want friends and associates who are willing to spend time spotting ideal clients and opportunities for you; and the best way to get them involved in your success is to be instrumental in their own.
If you are a business owner, your trusted advisors might include your lawyer, accountant, banker, your B2B insurance person or your public relations executive. They have clients who might be a natural referral from them to you. In turn, virtually all of your business associates, clients or vendors need people like those who on your trusted advisor team. The referrals flow freely when you trust and respect each other.
My friend, Bob Littell, introduced the concept called NetWeaving. It is a step beyond the general networking, and it gets better results for everyone. NetWeaving is about paying it forward: you find out what you can do for the prospective clients you meet. While simultaneously matchmaking potential clients with them, perhaps you can also add, “May I introduce you to my favorite banker or my favorite B2B insurance person?”
The next time you have lunch together you can expand your network, with both of you bringing people you would like each other to meet. This “mutual admiration society” can build a strong bond that can grow with each referral.
Develop an A List of trusted advisors or clients, the ones who click with you and your core beliefs. Keep them at the top of your mind for referrals. Once you establish a close relationship with four or five trusted advisors, you might choose to set up your own group that meets once a month for breakfast—same location, same time, say first Wednesdays of the month 7:30 a.m. This way you can get to know everyone even better, share around the table to find out what each person wants and needs, and help each other on a regular basis.
If this time commitment is too overwhelming, have at least some kind of monthly contact with your trusted advisors, whether it’s a lunch, email chats on a personal level (i.e. “How ‘bout them dawgs,” if that is what they enjoy), or a bottle of their favorite wine they told you about. Unless you know a person’s kids’ and dogs’ names you really don’t know a person, so find out as much as possible. Here, you are reaching the person behind the title. To make an even stronger connection, make sure that you know your clients’ Number One target for new business. Ask them how you can help them increase their sales or contacts. This might be something you can easily do, and it is definitely going to separate you from the other attorneys and CPAs they worked with in the past.
Sometimes the netweaving really pays off. I introduced two of my clients and, over the past two years, the CPA has sent the lawyer $500,000 of business.
Habit 5: Transform Networking Events Spent Wandering Around Marketing Into Focused Activity That Produces Tangible Results
First, choose the right events and organizations for networking. Who do you want to meet and why? Before joining, review the membership list to make sure you are putting yourself with the right group. Remember, the real reason for attending these events is for business development, not socializing.
Begin with the end in mind. To make better use of your time, list five people you want to meet who you don’t know and five people you want to get to know better. Before the meeting, review web sites and press releases about those people and their companies. Use Google and LinkedIn to find even more details. You’ll then have some current subject areas as you move into conversation with them. They will appreciate your attentiveness. See Habit #6 for more on social networking.
How to get the best results out of a business meeting:
Spend time getting to know new people; save chitchatting with your good buddies for another day
Sit next to new people instead of friends and associates
Look for the new people who could also benefit your trusted advisors
Stay away from “Velcro” people who keep you occupied with their longwinded stories or personal anecdotes – you have more productive things to do
Merely exchanging business cards is not going to build your practice
Make the best use of the non-billable hours you are using to attend each event. If the cocktail hour starts at 5:30, get there by 5:10 so you can meet the leaders of the organization and the planners of the event. Peruse the nametag table and get ready to talk with any of the 10 from your list who will be in attendance. Standing near the nametag table can give you a chance to meet one or two of your key targeted people before the evening gets into full swing.
Most attendees lose the advantage of the evening. They leave work late, get caught in the rush hour, and slide in just before the speaker starts talking. If it’s a dinner, they are stuck with the other seven or nine people at their table, eating rubber chicken and trying to catch contacts on the way out, after the event. This poor planning can be costly, not just in the cost of the event but also in the opportunities lost.
At the meeting you may also run into people you want to get to know better but who are not on your target list. Talk with them for a few minutes, but make a date for lunch or breakfast at another time. Then you will have time to develop a plan of action that will work for those particular individuals, and it won’t dilute your time spent at this particular event.
Habit 6: Leverage Social Media To Increase Your Visibility
Social media is new, confusing and scary, but there is no denying it will be beneficial to developing your business. Many lawyers say it’s a fad and it’s tedious, and many summarize, “I’ve been on LinkedIn for six months and I haven’t gotten any business from it.” They are not using this valuable tool correctly if they are simply responding “yes” to people who invite them to be LinkedIn. They are being quite shortsighted.
I remember back when we said that email was going to be a real fad; or that people said that they would absolutely never carry a Blackberry that hooked them 24 hours a day to the office; and that the whole website idea was just plain silly. Social media is serious, and LinkedIn appears to be where the serious folks go. LinkedIn is where professionals are showing up more and more – the average user age is 46, whereas with Facebook it is 22.
Here are some ways to leverage your effectiveness on LinkedIn:
Have an updated professional photo on your profile.
Make sure you have a company listing, especially if you are a solo or a small firm practitioner. Click on “What company do you want to search for or would you like to create a company?” Enter the name of your firm and create a site for your law firm on LinkedIn.
Here are keys to maximizing your results on LinkedIn:
Find out more about individuals. For instance, if you are attorney with ABC law firm and you are networking with a CPA from XYZ, review the XYZ website for info on the CPA and the firm. However it won’t show previous firms where they have been employed. By using LinkedIn, you can find out more about them and some possible areas that you have in common – for instance, a neighbor who used to work with them a few years ago.
Look at their connections, already formulating how you can do some netweaving when you meet.
Find out more about those connections. You might discover that a person you have targeted to meet is a first or second link to the person you have researched. You can ask for an introduction.
Review your own connections to refresh your memory. Perhaps the person you are meeting with and your own LinkedIn contact would benefit from getting to know one another.
Habit 7: Incorporate Systems For Staying In Touch Into Your Daily Routine
Lawyers already have the contact management systems they need for their day-to-day activities. Papers need to be filed on time and court dates must be adhered to. A lawyer’s effectiveness depends on extremely tight time management.
Because lawyers are already busy, their marketing plans seem to fall by the wayside. If everything else is computerized, why do marketing plans end up in a Hope-I-Get-To-It folder on the desk? Chances are those marketing plans will be forgotten in the ongoing rush of deadlines.
Regarding those trusted advisors mentioned in Habit #4, they need monthly contact with you so that the relationship can continue to grow. They should be on your Pending system, popping up to remind you to keep in touch. Schedule a lunch, make a phone call, and write an email or personal note. Whatever you choose to do, don’t rely on your memory and good will – put it in your time management system and you’ll find it automatically easier to complete.
Any system you are now using can probably be expanded to integrate your marketing plan and move it along each day. Outlook, SalesForce, or a special system such as Baker Donelson can work well with your marketing technique. Incorporating your marketing contacts into your daily routine can make it easier and less time consuming. Remembering birthdays is easy and makes a memorable impact.
Know Your A-B-Cs
Earlier I referred to your trusted advisors as your A List. Because of the monthly contact your trusted advisors are easier to remember, but your B List is just as important. These are good contacts who could evolve into the A List; you just haven’t built as close a relationship with them yet. That’s why it is important to keep them in your computerized system, at least for quarterly contact.
Your C List is your holiday card list; good people to know. This top Atlanta rainmaker has set herself apart with a new and better concept: Thanksgiving cards. Holiday cards are opportunities to hand write messages to friends and acquaintances you appreciate, so start early writing Thanksgiving cards. By preceding the December rush, you will have more time to think about those personal notes, and your cards (and you) will stand out.
Robin Hensley is a business development coach specializing in coaching attorneys and CPAs who are at the top of their game to maximize their rainmaking skills. Robin was on the audit and consulting staffs with Ernst & Young for five years and was with the Atlanta law firms of Kilpatrick Stockton and Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers in both marketing and business development roles for more than six years. She served on the Northside Hospital board for 10 years and currently sits on the board of directors of Superior Uniform Group, a NASDAQ company where she chairs the audit committee. Robin also serves on the advisory board of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and is an honorary lifetime member of the board of the Atlanta City Unit of the American Cancer Society. Named by Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of "Atlanta's Top 20 Self-made Women," Robin’s record as a business development coach has been featured in numerous publications including the Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Daily Report. She is also the Exclusive Executive Coach for Atlanta’s Business to Business magazine. Her newest book, Raising the Bar: Legendary Rainmakers Share Their Business Development Secrets, was published earlier this year. The majority of the profits from the sale of the book and its accompanying DVD will benefit the Endowment Fund of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.