Get Potential Clients Without Being a Slimy Salesperson

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!

Randall Ryder
Randall Ryder is the Director of Appellate Advocacy & Lecturer in Law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

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