In this last of my series of three posts on Business Development Basics, I will discuss the importance of crafting key messages, or talking points, as you embark on business development and marketing efforts. The first two posts in this series covered “Defining Your Individual Brand” and “Identifying Your Target Audience.”
The Elevator Pitch
Before we begin, I’d like to say a quick word of caution about the elevator pitch. While it is always good to be prepared to talk about what you do, I counsel attorneys against offering up one standard elevator pitch as soon as they meet someone. Instead, I advise them to ask questions to learn a little more about the person they are speaking with to understand which of their services (or their colleagues’ services, keep reading for more on this) will be most relevant.
By arming yourself with talking points in a variety of areas, you will position yourself to be more memorable to the person with whom you are conversing.
By asking questions, the other person will walk away feeling fantastic about the conversation and will be much more open to following up with you, which is key.
The idea is to build rapport, have a reason to follow up, invite those who are potential clients or referral sources to get together again, and at that meeting get into a more in depth conversation about how you all might be able to help each others’ businesses. You do not need to sell people your practice on the spot. But let’s continue with key messages for first conversations at a networking event.
Talking About Others or Your Firm
If you are just getting started in business development, or still feel uneasy about tooting your own horn, it may be easier for you initially to arm yourself with talking points about your firm or your colleagues’ practices.
For example, our firm is currently redeveloping our website. As a part of the process, I have had the opportunity to speak to many of our clients about information and functionality that would be helpful for us to include. I have also encouraged my attorneys to mention this project when they speaking with clients or attending industry events. We’ve generated really good feedback this way, and we’ve gained valuable insight into how clients and prospective clients value technology and communication from their law firms and other service providers.
I would also encourage you to learn more about your colleagues’ practices so that you can sell them. My firm is growing its family law practice, and I always mention this to people I network with. Unfortunately, divorce happens (not to mention all the other issues that accompany it.)
Talking About Yourself
Even if you are not comfortable initially, you’ll want to think through personal and professional talking points prior to networking. When you are first meeting someone, I would encourage you not to share too much detail about your work. This is when it is important to have a quick statement about what you do in general terms. For me, I simply say “I direct and manage my law firm’s client service, business development and marketing efforts.” Then I start asking questions to find out as much as I can about the other person so that I have targeted reasons to follow up with him or her.
If I want to be really brief, I simply say, “I get paid to make friends.” While this statement is a serious overly-broad generalization about what I do, it usually gets a laugh from people and piques their interest.
How would you describe what you do in 8 words or less? Consider what you would talk about in relation to your personal and professional life.
- Personal News: As the parent of a toddler, I’ve talked about potty training frustrations, Elf on the Shelf, and daycare woes more than a few times at networking events in the past few months. One way to build rapport quickly – get somebody talking about his or her kids. You may also wish to talk about charity events with which you are involved, the marathon you are training for or the trip you are planning for this summer. The idea is to find common ground with the other person as a way to build rapport.
- Professional News: Did you have a recent article published? Are you speaking at a conference in the next few months? Don’t be afraid to mention it, if you believe it would be of interest to the person you are speaking with. A copy of the article or an invitation to the presentation is a great way to follow up. Again, make sure you are sharing the right kind of information about your work, either your individual practice, your colleague’s practice or your firm. Ask questions to discover which of these areas may be of interest to the person you are speaking with.
After you’ve been at it for a little while, you will find that you develop some “go-to” stories, anecdotes and one liners. That’s what you are going for! As attorneys we have to let go of perfection and just get out there and do it. Even those of us who “get paid to make friends” still get nervous while networking after all these years. A little prep work can go a long way in those situations.
Want additional information on effective networking?
Here are a few good articles to keep you going:
- How to Master Non-Awkward, Effective Networking, by Hannah Fleischman
- Nine Proven Sales Tips for Introverts, by Grant Cardone
- Seven Habits of Super-Networkers, by Lewis Howes
- 4 Ways to Ace Your Next Networking Event, by Amanda Ebokosia
***I’d like to give a “shout out” to Camille Stell of Lawyers Mutual of North Carolina and Kathryn Whitaker who presented on “Building a Buzz” as part of the ABA Women’s Rainmaker series. Some of the information included in this post I learned from their presentation — it was very helpful!