The Art of Building a Book of Business (pt. 1)
This past March, we (the RMN Agency) hosted an event called “The Art of Building a Book of Business.” Since then, we’ve had a lot of pleasant follow up discussions with attorneys, legal employers, and law students.
I summarized a lot of the great points from the discussion from that evening and subsequent discussions into two posts. Here are the first four tips to building a great book of business:
Get out there and form relationships.
It’s great if you have “some book” or starting point already—but many new lawyers don’t. The takeaway is that you have to start somewhere, which means you need to step out of your comfort zone to get out and meet people. There is no single way of doing this, but it is important to have a level of self-awareness that enables you to break down the barriers of formality and forge relationships with people outside of your immediate circles.
For new layers, you cannot rely only on the people you are meeting through work. Make an effort to meet people outside of work (events where attorneys are likely to be present AND events where you stand out because you are an attorney). This can be fun: food fairs, charity events, etc.
Getting involved in different social situations outside of work takes a lot of time, but this networking will give you the ability to meet new people and connect and will pay in spades later.
Everyone you meet is a potential client.
This is something I repeated over and over to the law students: realize that every single person you ever meet is someone who is in or will be in a position to be your client. Drop the habit of sizing people up and assessing whether they are people who could potentially be their client. Everyone, from the janitor you walk pass in the hall, the insurance salesman you spoke with over the phone, to your classmate who you have disagreements with—is a potential client.
What if the janitor’s son was a law school graduate and is sitting on the bench of a district court? The insurance salesman might be the son of the CEO and best friend of an up and coming startup. That classmate you have disagreements with may have plans to run for office. Never underestimate the people you meet. Every time you meet someone, they are a potential client.
Invest time in mastering your craft/industry.
Clients work with lawyers they believe care about their problems and issues. The more interested you in your work, the better you are likely to do at this work—the better you consistently deliver quality, the better your mastery and reputation for mastery. Certainly, you want to learn everything you can about your clients and potential clients to serve them better.
For law students, this means taking the time now to learn as much as you can about the different areas of law and industry. For new attorneys, it means seeking out mentors and experts to grow as a professional. Develop a mindset where you will do your best listen and understand what other peoples’ problems are, and then practice the ability to communicate how you can help solve their problems. Practice listening to others speak at length—as a bonus, this allows them to feel invested in you and develop the desire to work with you more closely.
Repeated studies have shown that the people we like the most and that we are most interested in also show the most interest in us. This is critical in your craft of being a good business generator.
Learn to tactfully talk about your work and achievements.
I have written about talking about your achievements before—and if you want to develop a great book of business, you need to be able to talk about your work. There is a lot of personal branding that I recommend you to do—but at the end of the day, someone thinking about hiring you needs to see you as an expert and believe you are very good at what you do, so that they can turn to you for advice about what they are doing.
What I am trying to get at here is that you need to dive deeper than just writing articles and speaking at events—it is developing a habit of conveying enthusiasm about your work in your interactions. There are times where it is important to practice listening (to your clients and potential clients, for example), and there are times where it is appropriate to practice talking.
People tend to remember those who are enthusiastic about their work. We naturally develop a preference for positive energy and enthusiasm—it’s the difference from being pleasantly greeted by an enthusiastic cashier at one fast food restaurant from just having your order taken. Same food, same restaurant—but one makes you willing to return and the other…not so much.