I met with a lawyer last week who has a wealth of experience in his field, yet is struggling to build a practice.
It’s an issue many professionals face.
He explained that he’s been for coffees/lunch with everyone in his network and assumed the work would follow.
Fair assumption, right? I mean these are people who already know him.
For starters, I bet they’re propositioned on a fairly regular basis by lawyers who want their work.
Secondly, they may have every intention of giving him work, but they just don’t have any currently.
Whatever the case, this lawyer was feeling despondent and unsure about what to do next.
Have you ever had a similar experience?
If you’re in a similar situation here are some practical steps you can take:
It makes total sense to start with your existing network. However, it’s important to get your approach right. Think about it from your contact’s perspective – which of the following would you prefer?
“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would love to work with you. Do you have any work for me?”
“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would really like to find out from you what I need to do to position myself within your industry. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
It could be that I’m British, but the first approach would make me feel uncomfortable, whereas the second wouldn’t – plus I’d be happy to provide some insights and to help the other person.
So, the first step is to plan.
What’s the outcome you want from the meeting? Getting new work is probably a tad optimistic for a first meeting but gathering information in order to develop an offering for the person you’re meeting, or to get an introduction to the person’s colleague isn’t. A good outcome will involve a next step – an opportunity to progress things. It will help to avoid pleasant, but ultimately pointless, meetings.
Once you know your goal, write down between 3-5 questions you want to ask the other person.
The second step is to set up the meeting. Let your contact know why you want to meet e.g. “I’m looking to put together an offering for the construction industry and would really value your input. Do you have half an hour in the next few weeks for a coffee?”
When you get to the meeting, restate the purpose and then ask the questions you’ve planned to get the other person talking. You should be doing most of the listening. At the end, get their buy-in to the next step e.g.” I’m going to put together the offering over the next week. Would you mind if I run it by you once I’ve done so?”
Always ask who else you should be meeting with/speaking to. If they mention people you don’t know, ask if they’d be prepared to introduce you and what you can do to make that process easy for them.
The follow up
After the meeting, follow up with a good summary of your discussion and possibly send the person something related to your conversation if appropriate.
The key thing now is to work on the next step. However, you’ll also want to ensure you’re top of mind with the other person both in the interim and over the long term. This is where social networks and traditional marketing come into play.
- Connect/follow the person on social networks on which they’re active.
- Develop a content plan (if you haven’t already done so) and then create and curate content relevant to them. Share this directly with them (if appropriate) as well as via relevant social networks, your website, newsletter etc.
- Invite them to any events/functions you’re hosting that might interest them.
- Introduce them to others in your network who they would benefit from meeting.
- Engage with, and share, content they share.
Look to get as many positive touch points with them as possible. This will help keep you top of mind so that, should they have a need, or be asked to recommend someone to a contact, they’re likely to think of you.
There is no silver-bullet, but by adopting a carefully considered and integrated approach, you can really stand out from your competitors. Which is exactly what you need to do if you want to win more of your ideal work.
Your thoughts? How do you make the most of your coffee meetings with old contacts?