Don’t make the mistake of trying to impress clients or potential clients by talking about yourself and your terrific experience during a business development meeting. As many others, and yours truly, have advised, an attempt to overwhelm a prospective client with one’s capabilities is more often a turnoff. I’m don’t saying it’s an ego thing (although it can be), but rather that some lawyers don’t understand the dynamic of selling effectively.
Unless you are asked specific questions, the better course is to ask intelligent and probing questions. Then, listen and listen some more. Only after you have an understanding of the wants and needs of clients should you address them. And, in a manner that is responsive and relevant to their specific needs. And some of that is best done later, not on the spur of the moment, with a seat-of-the-pants approach.
I love the story told by Marshall Goldsmith on his blog several months ago about a New York financial consultant named “Martin.” It seems that Martin was very successful, only advised clients with more than $5 million in net worth, and took home a seven figure income himself.
“That’s a lot less than most of his clients make in a year. But Martin doesn’t envy or resent his clients. He lives and breathes investments. And he loves providing a valued service for his well-heeled clients, many of them CEOs, some of them self-made entrepreneurs, some of them entertainment stars, and the rest of them beneficiaries of inherited wealth.”
Sounds pretty terrific, I’d say, especially the part about providing “valued service.” As the story continues, we learn that Martin is offered the opportunity to land a portion of the investment portfolio of “one of America’s most admired business titans.” Apparently, the titan in question uses many financial advisors. So, today is the day that Martin is given an hour to gain the confidence and trust of this individual in his office “atop Rockefeller Center.” Having done this many times, he is poised and confident as he sells his expertise by detailing many of his excellent trades and his reasoning behind them.
Again, sounds good, wouldn’t you say? Wrong!
The next day, Martin received a nice handwritten note from the titan saying that he had decided to go in a different direction. Goldsmith sums it up:
“Martin thought he was winning over the titan with overwhelming evidence of his financial acumen.
“The titan was thinking, ‘What an egotistical jackass. When’s he going to ask what’s on my mind? I’m never letting this fellow near my money.’"
This story vividly points out the dangers in focusing too much on yourself when trying to sell your services.