Imagine a series of meetings with a potential client. You have established your own personal brand: you have selected and are comfortable with the fact that your non-verbal traits and attire are professional and project the image you want. You have developed a great relationship by being curious, listening carefully, asking powerful questions, and avoiding jargon. While these steps are all important and necessary, that's not the end of the process. You must still take the final step of asking for the business.
In his book, Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century, John A. Farrell tells how Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, legendary Congressman and Speaker of the House, learned an important lesson from his neighbor, Mrs. Elizabeth O'Brien. In 1935, O'Neill was running for the Cambridge City Council.
When she saw him on Election Day, she said, "Tom, I'm going to vote for you even though you didn't ask me."
"Mrs. O'Brien," the young candidate replied, "I've lived across the street from you for eighteen years. I cut your grass in the summer and shovel your walk in the winter. I didn't think I had to ask for your vote."
"Tom, let me tell you something. People like to be asked."
There are a number of reasons why people do not take this critical final step to seal the deal. Ask yourself, what holds you back from asking for the business? Have a frank meeting with yourself about what exactly makes you uncomfortable. Are you concerned that:
- you will be rejected?
- you will be perceived as rude or pushy?
- asking for the business will ruin your rapport or seem unprofessional?
- you will not be able to field objections raised by the client?
Whether it is one of these concerns, or something else, face your fears directly. Pretending they do not exist will not make them go away. In fact, these kinds of "gremlins" typically grow bigger the more we try to avoid them.
Once you are clear on what's holding you back, ask yourself how you would like to approach asking for the business. What are some different ways to approach this final step in the business development process?
- I am making it easy for the client to get the legal advice/representation needed.
- I am helping clients prevent or resolve problems.
- I am showing clients that I value their business and respect their decision.
- I am creating a bridge to a solid partnership.
Deliberately and consciously choose how you will approach asking for the business. There is no right or wrong way. Ask successful rainmakers you know what works best for them, and adapt their words to suit your situation and comfort level. Practice in front of a mirror or with colleagues until you are comfortable. Here are some suggestions:
- Our firm has extensive experience in labor matters like the ones you've described. We'd be honored to represent you. Would you like me to draw up an agreement?
- Shall we get started on this matter right now?
Don't let business slip through your fingers just because you were afraid to ask. Will you still land business even if you don't take this final step? Maybe. Then again, you may be leaving business on the table. Are you willing to take that risk? Mrs. O'Brien wouldn't like that.
Miriam Bamberger, CPCC, and Heather Bradley, CPCC, are the co-founders of The Flourishing Company, which helps emerging professionals sharpen their leadership skills to generate immediate and lasting changes in their ability to successfully manage complex work relationships. For additional information, visit: www.TheFlourishingCompany.com.
EXCITING FREE RESOURCE!
In 2003, MCCA® launched an integrated strategy to help those in its network to take charge of their professional development.This self-help was provided via a series of articles and companion teleclasses known as the "Diversity & the Bar Briefs," each of which spotlighted specific skills that all lawyers need to possess.
MCCA will continue this highly successful offering in 2004. The free teleclass on Rainmaking Strategies is scheduled for Wednesday, February 25, 2004 at 4:00 p.m. (eastern time). Registration is available online. Register and dial in!
From the January/February 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®