Once you have initiated an active legal business development initiative by identifying your saleable services from within your practice areas, then contacted and secured meetings with new prospective clients based on opportunities or dangers specific to them which you have identified and seek to assist them with – one-on-one meetings or conference calls is the next step in the process.
Preparing for a prospective client pitch meeting
In order to be fully prepared for a prospective client pitch meeting, one should fully research one’s potential client and have a report prepared for your (and any participating colleagues) use before and during the meeting that includes the biographies of the prospective client meeting participants and other key executives of the company, the scope of business activities and product and service offers of the prospective client, including operations of relevant subsidiaries throughout the world, any recent or highly relevant older news about the company, top line revenue and profit (if available), a description of the opportunities you contacted the prospective client about – and what other opportunities your research uncovers from the time you secured the meeting until when the meeting occurs. Importantly: It is not necessary to prepare a comprehensive marketing brochure for the meeting. I would suggest a custom one pager which outlines the information about your practice most relevant to the prospective client, including the biographies of members of your firm attending the meeting, contact information and your website address.
Save costs, even when doing client pitches overseas
Use a meeting room in your law firm or a law firm you have a domestic or international referral relationship with, or in the office or meeting room of your prospective client. I do not recommend doing client pitches over lunch or drinks, unless the circumstances absolutely require one in that setting. I believe as much focus as possible should be made on the nature of the discussion: Scope of representation and terms of remuneration. Ordering in restaurants and background noise can and will take the focus and precious time off of and away from the important, commercial purpose of a meeting, one which you and your firm as well as your prospective client – have already expended time and resources to arrange. Importantly, remember to turn your phone off.
Conducting the meeting
Be on time, be courteous, and establish a professional and pleasant rapport with the prospective client equal to the occasion. When beginning a sales meeting, I recommend the potential client provide an overview of his or her business, followed by a brief overview by the lawyer or law firm of his or her practice. When providing an overview, focus some attention on the practice areas you believe may be important to the potential client. Then directly move into a discussion of the purpose of the meeting: the opportunity or opportunities you initially contacted the potential client with.
It is imperative to take notes strategically during this meeting. Do not transcribe the meeting, but rather make note of the unique information the potential client mentions: specific goals, budget, timeline, thoughts on how they prefer to structure a representative relationships with a law firm, what if any efforts they’ve made so far to achieve goals in your marketplace.
Once you’ve begun to outline what you can do for a client, be brief, be open to questions, and be willing to steer the conversation toward other needs the client may mention he or she needs, but keep the meeting organized, on time and focused on the issue of representation and remuneration.
Ideally, the focus on representation and remuneration will allow for a more in-depth discussion between the client and law firm which gets to the heart of all the potential needs you may be able to assist the prospective client with. By the end of the meeting, should it proceed favorably, the client may ask the cost of the representation suggested. Be prepared to quote a price, whether an hourly rate or flat fee, the proposed duration of the representation, the objective analysis of results from the representation, and an outline of the general obligations of both parties. This can be done briefly.
Again, it is important to note the scope of proposed representation and remuneration, including the unique requests and needs of the prospective client, in the event you are asked to provide a written proposal. Importantly, should you be asked to provide a written proposal, you will then have, within your meeting notes, an outline of the proposal already in hand.
Concluding the meeting
It’s important to conclude the client pitch within the time frame you’ve allotted for the meeting (it’s important to keep to the time frame in case you have additional prospective clients to meet shortly thereafter, and to take into consideration other obligations the client make have).
Importantly, and I cannot underestimate this. At the conclusion of the meeting ask for the business. The focus of the meeting has been about representation and remuneration, you know that the opportunity you have contacted the client about is something that will help the client achieve a goal or series of goals (and invariably, you will have uncovered additional opportunities for representation during the meeting) – so this is not a time for any lack of clarity. Ask for the business, politely and clearly.
Proactive and thorough follow-up after a client pitch is essential. Deliver exactly what you promised to the prospective client, in the time frame agreed.
If you follow the general outline I have provided here and apply these principles to your client pitches, I believe you will find it an effective method for conducting highly productive, focused client pitches which either secure new clients immediately or significantly advance the ball toward securing new clients. It is a time efficient, focused method which requires discipline — and — in the end, meets the commercial objectives of both potential clients as well those of you and your law practice.