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Marketing is a contact sport (21st May 2013)

As the Nike slogan states: Just do it!

In our professional careers many of us have been guilty of this one. We spend our entire working day at our desk, holding most of our conversations with our colleagues, not clients. In particular, not with the clients or prospective clients we should be talking to. If that’s you, then you then you really need to out more and make contact with the clients that really matter. What exactly do we mean?  Networking. It used to just refer to meeting people the old-fashioned way, but we give things different labels these days. 

Just get out there and get talking

So the message is to get out of your office and start meeting people, the right people. If you are unsure where to start, get active in your local business community. Join the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and other service clubs. Go for the purpose of making as many new friends as you can.

What you need to constantly keep in the back of your mind though is that people “buy” people and they will not buy your services until they “buy” you first.
Therefore when you’re networking - and note it is networking not hard selling - your aim is to showcase your expertise and knowledge, to give freely, and become recognised as the dependable expert to whom people turn, not a pushy sales person fixated on talking about yourself.

Before you attend any networking event

  1. Who is your target client?
  2. What do they want?
  3. How are you going to provide it?

You would be delusional to think you will find yourself in a room full of your ideal clients. What’s important is being completely clear about what type of work brings you most satisfaction, where you want to “sculpt” your practice and identify how to win more of that type of work. Once you have that clear in your mind, it’s going to make it much, much easier for you to talk with ease, confidence and authority.

Now you are at the event and you are asked: “And what do you do?”  The last answer you want to give is a bald, “I’m a solicitor”. Why? Because it can be a conversation stopper and you’re likely to start feeling defensive because lawyers are not universally adored and this will be reflected in your body language.

What you should say and this should be settled in your mind beforehand (the Americans call it an “elevator pitch”) is a brief but compelling response whenever you’re asked what it is you “do”. Detailed enough to engage interest but succinct enough to be delivered in the time it takes a lift to reach your floor. One simple way of structuring it is: “I help (your clients) to (the problems you solve for them).” For example, if you were a small business lawyer you might say: “I help local small businesses stay up to date with all the changes in their commercial law needs”. 

Another way of saying it is to focus just on the challenges you address: “I work with (your clients) who (the problems they face).” So: “I work with local family law clients and help them navigate their way through their family law issues.”

If you are then engaged with the other person you can talk about how you navigate/stay up to date. Your aim is to illustrate to the other person what the benefits are so they can see the advantage in working with you rather than any other lawyer.

Now, though, you stop talking and start listening, remember it’s not all about you and it’s important to remember to talk 20%.