I mentioned in my last post about civility that I have worked with lawyers nearly three decades. I’ve worked with a lot of brilliant, thought-leading and profession-defining lawyers. It’s a pleasure to have called them clients and friends.
Not all of these remarkable attorneys could be called rainmakers. Some are, but many are not. And for years, the reason for this eluded me.
There are hundreds of blog posts and dozens of training courses taught by fine consultants about the ins and outs of selling professional services. This post isn’t about telling you how to sell. It’s about me finally articulating the one attribute that stands out among all others – the one attribute that enables lawyers, regardless of practice area, industry strength, personality type, communication style, law firm or law school credentials, to consistently and effectively develop client relationships that pay off.
Here it is: Stop thinking about yourself.
Like any skill, it requires practice, self intervention and enormous discipline. Think back to a “business development” lunch meeting with a prospect that didn’t result in new business. Did you self-analyze to determine why there wasn’t a fit? Most lawyers have dozens of such lunches, yet they keep inviting away, hoping their luck will change. In most cases, it won’t. And it’s not about luck anyway.
For many lawyers, this rejection takes its toll. Many stop asking, hoping to find another, more successful path to client relationship development. But, of course, lunch has nothing to do with the poor result.
The elements that must be in place for that relationship magic to occur are built on top of this fundamental premise – if you are consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously thinking about how you’re doing, how you’re coming across, what you’re buying your spouse for Valentine’s Day, the matter that’s back in the office, the squash game at 5:30 or that you have to get your shoes shined – you will not be a successful rainmaker.
Stop thinking about yourself. Focus 100% on the person with whom you’re meeting. The hours leading up to any meeting should be filled with thought about that person, his or her company, industry and issues that are their greatest stressors. Don’t focus on why you (or your firm) are the best solution for the problem, even if you fully believe that you are. From the innermost core of your being, understand that it’s about them. Not you. Not your firm. There is no equation here that includes you unless you’ve been hired.
I met Mark Shank, partner at the terrific Texas litigation boutique Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail, for a drink last week. Mark and I have worked together at three different law firms over the last ten-plus years. Part of our energetic discussion ended up on the back of a napkin, which is now resulting in this blog post. You just never know when a notion or truth will finally crystallize. It took a fine Pinot Noir and a good chat with Mark for this secret to surface.
I hope it’s something that resonates with you.