Monday, July 6, 2015

Keep Epic News to Youself

It's tempting to open a conversation with a prospective client with a tale of your epic vacation to Tahiti. You had a wonderful time, the weather was beautiful and Tahiti is an exotic place few people get to enjoy. Who wouldn't enjoy hearing about your epic vacation?

It turns out, you will feel worse off after having told the story because people will feel less like you. I've noticed this phenomenon in my own sales presentations but didn't understand why this occurred. Epic tales (a large purchase or exotic vacation, for instance) are extraordinary. To be extraordinary is to be different, and social interaction is grounded in similarities. It runs counter to what you would expect, but social research backs this idea up. Participants in a recent study thought that sharing their extraordinary experiences would make for an engaging conversation. But in fact, the opposite happened as the people being told the extraordinary story felt more distant and less able to relate to them. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Single Most Important Question To Ask Every Client

A simple yet very effective way to gauge how well you are doing in servicing your clients is to ask one simple question: On a scale of 1 to 5, how likely are you to refer my services to your closest business associates, peers, family or friends?  The question is known as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and has been used extensively across many different industries for the past two decades. When I was the VP of Marketing for a regional bank, we added the question to as many customer touch points as we could and reported the monthly average score on our management reports. Financial reports are a trailing indicator for your firm's performance. But the NPS gives you a real time snap shot into how you are perceived by your clients and their willingness to participate in your success. 

Monday, June 22, 2015


A person's pupils expand and contract depending upon what they are thinking and how engaged they are in a conversation. When a person's pupils are large and remain large, it can indicate they are interested and engaged in what you are saying. Conversely, when the pupils get smaller, the person has lost interest, their brain is overloaded or their mind may be wandering.  But don't stare at your prospects pupils too long. Looking into someone's eyes for longer than 5 seconds will make them feel uncomfortable.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Help Yourself by Talking to Strangers

Striking up a conversation with a complete stranger is hard. But it may just prove more useful to you than the target of your conversation. Engaging others in conversation not only opens up potential new relationships and connections but it can also improve a person's sense of well being and put individuals in a more positive mood. Being civil toward random strangers is typically believed to benefit others—society at large or those who are befriended. But results of recent research indicate that 'pro-sociality' benefits the individual as much if not more than the target of the kindness. Think back to the times when a stranger has started a conversation with you or even just commented on something you both just witnessed.  In the vast majority of those instances the person proved to be interesting, friendly and good natured. So say hello to strangers and start a dialogue. You'll be glad you did, and happier.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Humility Is The Secret Sauce of Rainmakers

Attorneys who are humble tend to develop relationships faster and are seen as more trustworthy and accessible. They also make better leaders and often can be the source of strategic value by uniting people in shared values across practices, offices and geographies.  

Humility is manifested in self-awareness, openness to feedback, appreciation of others, low self-focus, and pursuit of self-transcendence. Humble people willingly seek accurate self-knowledge and accept their imperfections while remaining fully aware of their talents and abilities. Humble rainmakers  appreciate others’ positive worth, strengths, and contributions and thus have no need for entitlement or dominance over others. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

More Often Than Not, Networking is Unnecessary

Many professionals launch into networking without first considering whether or not meeting new people is necessary. They attend events, collect business cards and strategize on how to build a relationship with their new found target. But is 'networking' really necessary? If you have lived in a vacuum since birth, it may be. But if you have traveled life's path building friendships, meeting acquaintances and being friendly to peers, you may not need to network. Most professionals do not realize the number of people they already know who can be valuable contributors to their network. Cataloguing your current and past associations can reveal a treasure trove of valuable contacts- all of whom share with you some common ground already. So before you decide 'networking' is a key business development strategy, first make sure you don't already know the people you need to know to be successful.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What Do General Counsel Want?

Guest Post by Bruce Heintz 

This question represents a dangerous intellectual pursuit for a client-handling partner. Why? It assumes that all general counsel have similar needs and preferences.

Do you remember your logic classes in high school? Applying the general (What do general counsel want?) to the specific (What does your client’s general counsel want?) is false logic . The assumption can lead you to an incorrect conclusion – and possibly a big problem with your client!

Take the Rules of Engagement as an example, despite what you may read or hear, most companies develop their own rules for their law firms based upon the company's operational needs and its strategic objectives. How you serve one company may not fully translate to another. The focus on Alternative Fee Arrangements is another area in which the hype does not follow the practice. While some general counsel believe strongly in AFA's, many find them hard to set up and administer, and sometimes even causing them to overpay. Instead, a growing number of general counsel report that it’s easier to find a trusted law firm and  “pay as you go” using the traditional billable hour model.

Conversely, one can't take what a general counsel on a panel says at face value either. For example, I heard a general counsel panelist state that, instead of having a third-party interview him, he would prefer that the law firm’s responsible partner come to meet with him. However, this general counsel had never been interviewed by a consultant on behalf of a law firm. As such, he had no basis to compare two different interview regimens. He was simply stating his preference to speak with the relationship partner. This, in and of itself, is revealing. Asked about it, the general counsel revealed that no relationship partners had ever come to visit him!

With regard to client interviews, the individual conducting the client interview depends upon what the firm is trying to do. If the firm is simply monitoring whether the matter met expectations, the relationship partner can handle the discussion. If the firm is interested in deepening or securing the client relationship, having a Managing Partner meet with the client can make a big impact. But if the client is trying to understand client needs and preferences and get a sense of its market and competitive position, a third party is the best course of action. Regardless, client interviews are not depositions. They require training in how to tease out valuable information and avoid defensive comments and body language that can derail the conversation. But done correctly, client interviews can help you avoid making assumptions about your clients and their business.   

 “Assumptions can kill you!”  Particularly with regard to your most valued clients. Instead, ask your client’s and their general counsel, specifically, what does he/she want from you and your firm. And then do it.

Bruce conducts client interviews. He can be reached at