By Liza Vasquez ICF CMC and Jeffrey F. Silber CPA MBA CMC
Certified Master Business and Life Coaches
The Science of Lunch with a Prospect
During the pandemic when in-person meetings were impossible, one of our clients invented the virtual lunch with prospective clients. She would invite the prospect to have lunch with her but to circumvent the sanitary restrictions, she had food delivered to the prospect at the address he indicated, and then they would have lunch together while chatting over Zoom. Clever, right?
Now that we have the great pleasure of meeting our 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 a 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.”
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:
o 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 you? Why is that so important?
o Do your homework before you go to lunch. You cannot go expecting that it will be just a pleasant chat between two people because have too much riding on this lunch.
o You MUST do your homework. Do NOT attend the lunch unless you have this knowledge:
o 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
o Know as much as is reasonably possible about their company and industry.
Your Key Approach is Asking 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. 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 the company - this will truly impress potential clients.
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 Key Approach is Asking Questions
· Your Conversation on the Business Side:
o Do not force the conversation in the direction of business – let it flow naturally
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 search of a possible opening for your services
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.
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. You will more than likely hear something where you can be of service to this company because of your specific experience and expertise (or that of your law firm).
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 law firm for them. How much better is this approach than using a tired generic sales pitch, that even you are bored with?
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:
· 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.
· 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 company and the 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 2022 and Beyond
What we have discussed in this article is only a small fraction of what we teach our lawyer-clients in how to attract more new clients and bring more important new matters to your firm, in our coaching course. 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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