Are you working hard to develop your book of business, but not reaping the results? Make sure you are not sabotaging your rainmaking efforts with one or more of these 5 common mistakes.
Pushy Selling. Do you like a hard sell? Do you feel that you’re in good hands with someone who tries to strong-arm you into buying his product or service regardless of your situation? No? Well, guess what? No one else does, either. People tend to avoid those who put pressure on them.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a salesperson whose goal it is to convince someone to hire you, view yourself as a problem solver. Ask questions that give you the broad outline of a prospect’s goals or dilemma, determine whether you are the right person to help and, if so, offer to speak with the person further. If you’re not the best fit? Make a recommendation or referral that will help your new acquaintance move forward.
Talking Too Much. Have you ever noticed that while others are speaking you are sometimes impatiently waiting for them to take a breath so you can offer your two cents? The reason you do that is that you believe you have something interesting to say and you want others to hear it. Wanting to share your views is certainly understandable, but when your goal is to develop a strong professional network and grow your practice, it’s important to be not just intelligent and informed but likeable, as well. Part of being likeable is helping others to feel good about themselves, and that often means listening more than you talk.
Accordingly, focus more on being interested than being interesting. Listen carefully to the stories others are telling. Pause and ask follow-up questions. Acknowledge their feelings, whether it be excitement, frustration or sorrow. Then, you can feel free to share your own experiences, particularly when they help you connect with the other person more deeply through a shared emotion or experience. If you find instead that you’re telling your bigger and better story in an attempt at “one-upsmanship,” steer clear.
Bad-Mouthing the Competition. Your mom said it first and it bears repeating – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. When you say something negative about another lawyer, the person listening walks away thinking less of you, rather than the target of your scorn. You come across as negative, unprofessional and lacking in character, which are 3 things most people don’t want in a lawyer. No matter how tempting the opportunity to gossip about others, take the high road. Your reputation is on the line and, as a lawyer, your reputation is everything.
Boasting or Bragging. An important skill in marketing yourself is the ability to talk about what you do and how you help your clients in a way that is compelling and memorable. There’s a big difference, though, between sharing your abilities and successes in a way that projects confidence and competence and beating your chest and unashamedly crowing about your accomplishments. Why does it matter? Because people love a lawyer who is a good practitioner and gets desirable results, but nobody likes a blowhard.
Make sure that when you talk about your skills or results, you are projecting competence and excellence with a healthy dose of gratitude and humility. That tasteful mixture will be more attractive to most prospective clients than a brash, in-your-face, immodest approach.
Complaining. I recently heard the following from an attorney at a gathering of small business owners: “My job stinks, I hate my firm, I work too many hours, I don’t get paid enough and I never should have gone to law school because being a lawyer is about the worst job anyone could have. By the way, you should hire me to represent you.” Okay, maybe that was not a direct quote, but you get the idea.
Given the choice between Lawyer A, who is down-in-the-dumps and hates her job, and Lawyer B who seems to enjoy her work and her clients, prospects will choose Lawyer B almost every time. Save your complaining for your significant other, your dog, your coach or your human resources department. If you really are unhappy, take steps, even small ones, to rectify the situation and get closer to your ideal practice but, whatever you do, don’t air your dirty laundry in public. Those you meet may empathize with you and even enjoy your just-can’t-look-away stories about how awful your job is, but they are not likely to hire you.