Get Potential Clients Without Being a Slimy Salesperson

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

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New solo attorneys face all sorts of challenges. From dealing with difficult opposing counsel, to suddenly losing confidence in their instincts, to figuring out how to divide your day among the million plus tasks.

Perhaps the most critical element is client intake. If you can’t sign up potential clients, you won’t be around for long. Fortunately, there are ways to sell yourself to potential clients without sounding like someone selling a great piece of oceanfront property.

Sell yourself within your personality

The most important thing I learned about running my own firm is that you have to be a salesman. If you cannot sell your skills, your personality, and your services, you will close shop within weeks.

Selling yourself, however, does not mean you have to become a used-car salesperson or a hard-lined negotiator. For most people, it just means tweaking your approach. For example, the magic words of “I have experience with these cases” and “I can help you with this” will go a long way towards building a client relationship.

Those phrases are generally more useful than launching into “my fee to handle this will be $_____” without any form of introduction is a fairly hard sell. To most clients, it will be a turn off. Again, if you can pull that off with your personality, then go for it. But you can still sell yourself without going over-the-top.

Talk to your clients, not at your clients

In almost every situation, a potential client is already interested in hiring you to perform a service. In the age of the internet, your online bio hopefully has enough information to establish, at minimum, a baseline of competency. If done correctly, your bio should have enough information that the client already knows you can help, they just want to make sure your personalities mesh.

That means you can focus on getting to know your clients, rather than talking incessantly about how great you are and how many cases you have won. Again, maybe that is your personality and maybe it works.

For me, I want to establish that I’m a good listener, I’m empathetic, and I give honest, direct answers. Is it always effective? I have no idea. But more than one client has expressly said part of their reason for hiring me was because of my personality and how I can gave them straight answers.

You can always be the anti-salesperson

In many of my consultations, I tell people not to hire me (h/t to Sam on that one). I defend consumers in debt collection cases and depending on the amount of the debt, and other factors, I explain to them that hiring me is not the most effective use of their money. I always explain the risks in litigation, along with other avenues that have a higher likelihood of success, and may cost less money.

Many of these potential clients turn into clients. Many of these clients explain that hearing me honestly lay out their options immediately raised my credibility factor. Many of these same clients tell a story about another attorney who simply quoted and fee and seemed to present an unrealistically optimistic outcome.

You can be a salesman in more than one way. For some people, smooth-talking and glitz and glamor gets it done. For others, like me, straight-talk and even a somewhat anti-salesman approach work best. Figure out what works for you and sign up some clients!

(photo: Shutterstock)

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  • shg

    Oy, Randall. Your point is good, but why couldn’t you make it in a way that didn’t elevate salesmanship over all else? We listen to clients not because it’s good for sales but because it’s the best way to understand what clients seek of us, and allows us to understand whether we can provide the representation they desire and need. That it happens to also serve a sales purpose is fine but collateral.

    We turn away clients not to sell by being the anti-salesman, but because it’s in the client’s best interest. That it also happens to establish the sort of trust that clients want in their lawyer, and thus serve a sales purpose, is fine but colleral.

    In other words, doing right by clients, for no better reason than it’s the right thing to do, also happens to be the sort of conduct that serves to make clients want to retain you. But we don’t do it for the sales, we do it because it’s the right thing to do.

    Wouldn’t that be a better way to put it?

    • Correct on all counts. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and to clarify my intended meaning and purpose in writing the post.

    • Randall,

      Well done. I got the sense from the post that you become the “anti-salesman” when you genuinely feel it is not in prospective clients’ best interests to hire you. Thanks for not being heavy handed or sanctimonious about it.

      shg,

      Quit hatin.

  • Our clients come to us with a problem and want our assistance in addressing their problem or accomplishing their goal. The first rule is to be a good listener. The next is to establish clear goals and objectives within the parameters of the law. Clear goal setting helps the client believe that you understand their situation which in turn helps them hire you. Clients understand that we cannot guarantee success. Good listening and establishing clear goals help a client make the decision to choose you.

    • Gyi Tsakalakis

      @Perry, unrelated, none of my business, and just .02, but you might want to re-think your title tag. Read here.

  • The thing most lawyers don’t seem to get is that the “trick” to “selling” yourself to your potential clients is not to sell yourself to potential clients. And it isn’t really a trick. Just be honest, forthright, and helpful, and people will want to hire you.

    To the extent that counts as “selling,” fine. Call it whatever you want. But telling clients not to hire you isn’t a trick, it’s a recommendation based on your assessment of the client’s needs and the options available. The fact that the client may decide to hire you anyway isn’t the result of a sales tactic, it is a result of you being a good lawyer.

    • Like above, good comment, and good translation of my intended meaning.

  • William Chuang

    Listen to your clients.

  • Bruce Godfrey

    An attorney doesn’t have to talk about himself and probably shouldn’t unless asked. Instead, talk about what the client needs, wants, will experience and will receive in benefits (freedom, reputation, property, peace of mind, choices etc.) Clients don’t need us; they need and want what we can produce, control or predict. They all listen to WII-FM – what’s in it for me, “me” here being the client or the people the client cares about.

    It’s not about us “embracing our weirdness” or doing “epic sh*t” to quote one attorney’s manifesto; it’s not about us at all. it’s about WII-FM and delivering ethically and reliably on what we promise to clients. The rest is vanity.