Updated: Oct 5
By Liza Vasquez ICF CMC and Jeffrey F. Silber CPA MBA CMC
Certified Master Business and Life Coaches
The Science of Lunch with a Prospective Client
There is nothing new about a lawyer having lunch with a potential client. However, over the years, it simply amazed us to learn that most lawyers approach these breakfasts or lunches as nothing more than a pleasant meal.
Of course, it is a good sign that your prospective client has agreed to have a meal with you. Something you said or did piqued their curiosity enough to want to invest an hour or two with you.
So, we congratulate you because there is no doubt you are making progress. Naturally, you want this meal to bring you closer to converting this prospect in a fee-paying client.
There are some possible ways you might put a foot wrong that could slow your progress with this potential client or even worse might end your chances completely. You need to be aware of these possible mistakes.
On the other hand, there are proven ways for you to use this meal to accelerate the process of getting closer to your goal. Today we will emphasize those steps you can take to maximize the benefits of a business meal.
Good, now the meal is scheduled, and you will have the great pleasure of meeting your prospective clients in person again, it is important that you realize there is an exact science to taking full advantage of this marvelous opportunity to interact as two people face-to-face.
The key is to realize that a lunch like this is not a meal for you, it is a high-level presentation with goals, steps to be accomplished, objectives and goals to be met. If you do it right, you can appear to be relaxed but it will be anything but a relaxed social meal.
In our coaching programs, we teach our students to break their existing paradigms. That is, going into the lunch, keep in mind that you have professional competition. What this means is that while you may be one step ahead of your competition by being at this lunch, this is still only a meeting with a potential client. It is far from a done deal.
Your competitors may have technical skills and a proven track record equal to yours, or perhaps even superior. That is why you will need this lunch to help you close the deal.
There will be time during the lunch to discuss the legal issues facing this person and their company and the experience you bring to the table, but you need to be clear in your own mind what are your objectives. After all, going into any meeting, you as a lawyer need to know in advance what you want to achieve so that afterwards you will be able to say: “that was a successful meeting.” We want you to be able to say: “that was a successful lunch.”
As you your coaches, we tell you that your primary objectives at lunch are these:
On the Human Side:
o Present yourself in a friendly manner and be interested in this person, you
will come across as very approachable.
o Without being intrusive:
· Find out about this person’s family, their spouse, children, hobbies, vacations, etc.
· Gather as much personal information as you can.
o Start to build Trust by finding ways to be helpful.
o Ask: what is the most important priority for them? And, why is that so important?
Your Pre-Lunch Homework
One of the most important elements of a successful business lunch is to be prepared. This means doing your homework.
o You MUST do your homework before you go to the lunch. You cannot expect it to be just a pleasant chat between two people because you will have too much riding on this lunch.
o Know as much as is reasonably possible about the person you are meeting with, about their company and about their industry. Do NOT attend the lunch unless you have this knowledge:
· Find out as much as you can that is of public knowledge about this person, the company, and the industry.
· Use Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, the Company/s Website, the websites of industry organizations.
Your Approach Will Be By Asking Key Questions
What do you learn when you are speaking? Nothing! What do you learn when you are listening? Everything!
At lunch ask a lot of Key questions. Who, What, When Where and save Why for last. In fact, we have our 80/20 rule. This means that you should be speaking only 20% of the time and listening 80% of the time, and your 20% should be mostly questions.
Clients want their lawyers to know who they are. You achieve this in the person’s mind by asking intelligent and insightful questions based on the research you did about the industry and their company - this will truly impress your potential client.
Get the prospect talking – because the more they talk, the more they will tell you, and the better you will position yourself and your law firm as the ideal team to help them deal with the legal issues facing them.
Your Approach is Asking Questions
Your Conversation on the Business Side:
o Do not force the conversation in the direction of business – let it flow
o Your objective is to show your extensive knowledge about their company
and their industry in as subtle a way as possible.
o Ask probing business questions in a search for a possible opening for your
o Build rapport and credibility through solid business questions.
o Do not have a sales pitch prepared. Make no effort to sell your services – as
mentioned above, present yourself as a friendly and knowledgeable person instead.
o You can ask other business questions, such as: I see that your company is in joint venture talks with Jones Pharmaceuticals. Do you think that is a positive development? What do you see as the benefit for your company?
Finding Your Opening
Instead of a sales pitch, which is like shooting arrows into the air without knowing where the target is, the potential client will tell you where their target is – and you can shoot a bullseye every time. That is the point of getting the potential client to do as much of the talking as possible.
As mentioned above, the reason for asking so many questions is because potential clients always tell you how to sell to them if you ask the right questions. By getting them talking, they will eventually reveal something that you can seize upon. It is more than likely that you will hear something where you can be of service to this company because of your specific experience and expertise (or that of your law firm and some of your colleagues).
“Mariana, that’s interesting because that’s an area where my firm and I can help you because….. “
The prospects will see you as the ideal lawyer and your law firm for them. How much better is this approach than using a tired generic sales pitch, that even you are bored with?
And you can bring this issue home to the potential client by asking: “Mariana, will this problem have an impact on you, personally, if it doesn’t get resolved?”
Find Ways to Be Helpful – This Builds Trust
Be prepared to give before you get anything in return. For example:
o If you are a tax lawyer, you can offer to do a free review of the company’s tax picture on the condition that they will hire you if can find them some savings or refunds.
o Similarly, if you are an IP lawyer, you could offer to do a review of their IP situation with the understanding they will hire you if you find shortcomings in their IP situation.
A business lunch may appear to be a pleasant social contact with a potential client. This is true, but only to a limited extent. That lunch is work for you and should not be seen as only a relaxing social event You need to do your homework and know everything you possibly can about the person you are meeting with, their company and their industry so that you can ask insightful, intelligent questions which will impress this potential client.
And at the same time, it is extremely important that the potential client sees you as a friendly and engaging person. This is the only way to defeat the technical advantages your competitors might have.
Good luck and enjoy your lunch.
Coaching and Support in 2024 and Beyond
What we have discussed in this article is only a small fraction of what we teach our lawyer-clients in our coaching program on how to attract more new clients and bring more important new matters to your firm. We can help grow your practice as your business coaches. And we can train you and your firm’s lawyers to become more effective marketers and stronger rainmakers. For specific questions about this article or about the Coaching Programs we have for you and/or your law firm, please email us at:
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