“Here’s a great pitch book idea: Bring nothing, because you’re going to ask me what I need, so why would you need to give me anything? In some ways, that’s the best pitch book of all.” — Christopher Lenhart, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at U.S. Bank
Remember the days when the marketing department collaborated with the business development team and competitive intelligence experts in the library to compile a thick dossier to make a law firm pitch to a corporate client? Those days no longer exist. And no one misses them. Especially the client you’re pitching.
Thing is, marketers at law firms have been telling partners this for a long time. It’s only now with general counsels delivering the same message as evidenced by the quote at the top of this post – sales 101, as a law firm marketer proclaimed – that firms are starting pay attention.
See: The Company We Keep: Mastering Client Collaboration in Relationship panel at the 24th Annual Marketing Partner Forum.
Don’t listen to answer, listen to understand
Ever listen to someone asking a question and wish they’d hurry up because you already have the answer? That’s not listening. You’re not trying to understand their problem. You’re more interested in offering a solution based on the services you provide. Remove that knowledge when you listen. Listen completely.
Of course, the exhortation to listen doesn’t mean you don’t come prepared. The questions they posit shouldn’t come as a surprise to you but let them talk. There may be a twist the story or a factor you hadn’t considered.
Take notes on the only things you brought to the meeting: a notebook and pen. Or, type into Evernote if you’re all about paperless.
Key research: Know how law firms hire outside counsel
Know what prospective clients want from outside counsel. Know their preferences. Know their processes. Seems simple enough but firms often talk about their own value and forget to do the research on how the client wants certain things done.
It’s not hard to find. More firms are laying out their processes in interviews and other mediums. In Microsoft is Overhauling How it Hires Outside Law Firms, the behemoth outlined the launch of a new program that will prioritize law firms with expertise in specific practice areas rather than general services. There’s more. A lot more. You should know this before the meeting.
In GE Creates ‘Yelp for Lawyers’ to Assess Outside Law Firms, General Electric announced an internal website available to its approximately 800 in-house lawyers to learn about outside counsel’s track record with the company. If allows them to get a handle on discounts they can negotiate with outside law firms and gain insight into the firms’ strengths and weaknesses. This is important information to have so you don’t get off to a rough start and immediately go into the “weaknesses” column.
If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter
The quote above is attributed to many. The idea is that you should take the time to whittle down your response to answering the question. Writing is the lump of clay. Editing is the molding of that clay into something meaningful.
Go ahead and pull from your knowledge management databases at the firm and the myriad information tools available today. But take the time to provide a succinct response. A thick binder with beautiful graphics showcasing your knowledge and expertise will remain unread or find the garbage can. No one has the time and you didn’t provide any value. Not a good way to start a relationship.
Provide an effortless experience
Finally, know that firms are looking for an effortless experience over an exceptional one. As I read Law firms of the future will give clients an effortless experience earlier today, it occurred to me that what I appreciate most about Uber or Lyft is the effortless experience. Not the bottle of water that black-car drivers offer. No one cares about that bit of “exceptional” service. They just want a clean car that gets them from point A to B right away and with no hassle. An effortless experience. Firms should add this narrative to their slim dossier.
But first, listen. Completely.