Business Development Lessons from Hannibal Lecter

The answer is right in front of you...”

—Hannibal Lecter to Clarice Starling, FBI Trainee, in The Silence of the Lambs

The key to new business is right in front of you. The typical law firm has about 23% of the business they could be getting from a top client. But, the real mind bender here is the number of General Counsel I interview who say:

“Don’t they want more business from us? They sure don’t seem to.”

“They [my primary law firm] never pitch me or introduce me to other partners or practices—and I’m trying to work with a lot fewer law firms. Frankly it’s frustrating.”

New business is sitting there, right in front of you, to grab while the getting is still good. You can go from capturing 23% to 75% of the work available to you by taking advantage of a single proven, powerful tool: Talk to your clients, and talk to your clients now.

But how?

Let’s face it, The Mad Clientist has been telling you to talk to your clients for years.  Yet it’s not as easy as it sounds. Maybe your client is skeptical and hesitant to set up this meeting. Or maybe you just don’t know how to broach the subject.

The Game Plan

  1. Before you reach out to the client, have something important to tell them.
    Tell your clients you want to share how your top companies in the (fill in the blank for your client) industry are closing out year-end issues and getting a jump on 2015—you know what these companies are doing—if you’re not sure, discuss these issues with your partners and you  can all be prepared to have these conversations with your clients.

  2. Get in touch
    We have thousands of excuses of why there’s not enough time to contact a client outside of the current work we are handling. But I recommend not waiting until your current work is over to focus on business development…

  3. Make it about the client
    “Ms. Important Client, I’d like to come out there within the next week—no charge, naturally—to share insights from peer companies on how to get out of the budget mire and be ready for the new year.”

    There is a clear benefit to the client to set up a meeting with you. This isn’t a sales call. You are helping the client tackle a real issue. Remember, we can’t develop business without getting in the door…we need to get in the door.

  4. Provide value, then seamlessly mine for data
    Come armed with pointed, specific suggestions and a summary of issues your client faces at year-end. Wrap up your discussion by asking the client how this will impact the company’s current goals and changing business strategy. This is your seamless segue into a conversation about:
  5. a.  Their plans
    b.  Any issues which need to be addressed before the year is out
    c.  Preliminary objectives
    d.  Anticipated challenges or obstacles
    e.  Management initiatives
    f.   Nature and extent of management pressures
    g.  How and why they are bringing work in-house
    h.  New products and plans
    i.   Probe as to where your client needs the most help
    j.   Where does your client think you and your firm can help

  6. Follow-up or it’s all for naught
    Offer specific and concrete steps to help your client meet their objectives including tools like checklists developed with your partners to show depth and add value while you introduce new partners to the relationship.

Don’t wait. Talk to your clients now. Early fall is an especially good time for a conversation about how to end with all your client’s goals for the year wrapped up—and begin to plan for next year. Now is the time to add perspective to help your clients with their final feedback on their budgets and goals, and help them get what they need for next year.

Your clients will only plan with one outside law firm so we suggest you ask your client for a meeting sooner rather than later. The market offers few sources of new business. Lucky for you: the answer is right in front of you.

We believe talking to your client is so important, we welcome our clients and readers to call or email The Mad Clientist and we will be happy to talk through your specific situation to help you get things started.

MBR/JPD