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To ask or not to ask for the business

Your successful career as a lawyer will have a huge dependency on your ability to find, mind, and grow a valuable client portfolio. You can be the best at creating your personal business plan, networking, writing, and everything else . . . but if you can’t “close the engagement,” you lose.

A few friends and I were in a posh bar/restaurant having dinner and happy hour commiserating about the fact that our significant others don’t shower us with gifts and favours when others seem to be constantly delighting in tangibles and intangibles.

How come? Why are we always givers and never receivers? Is it because our parents taught us to selflessly to give and never expect to receive? Are we unworthy, or do we simply just not ask for it? The consensus was that we haven’t clearly articulated our wishes.

So we promptly decided to take a trial run at just asking for what we want — tactfully and appropriately of course — but just asking it for it.

A few minutes later, a loud, unruly, crowd stumbled into the table next to ours and asked if they could have our free chairs and part of our table. Our response was, “sure, if you buy us a nice bottle of red wine.” Sure enough, one was ordered and we made friends with a retired NHL player and his business associates trading business co-ordinates and enjoying the evening. They also picked up our entire tab for the evening.

To get business, you have to eventually ask for the business

Facilitating a Business Development 101 lunch-and-learn for my firm the other day, I was struck by how our panel of successful lawyers all mentioned they had overcome the fear of asking for the business, and had found many ways to ask for business depending on the situation.

They advised our associates that they have to each figure out how to do that in a relevant, non-threatening, client-needs-based, appropriate, and law society-compliant fashion.

How can you learn to ask for the business?

If you Google “top ways to ask for the business” you will find almost a billion links on the subject, so feel comforted you aren’t the only one wrestling with this issue. Here’s my advice to you:

1.    It’s about their needs and your solution. I spent many years on the frontline of selling professional services to both individuals and organizations and I can tell you from experience that the most success I had was in not having a “sales conversation” but by understanding my prospects’ needs and finding solutions for them. Engaging me and my organization was a natural next step. Do some research on your prospect and try to figure out what you can do to help them achieve more success.

2.    Figure out the right words to say to ask for the business. Go searching the Internet and find the words others suggest that resonate with your style. Grab 10 to 20 different ways to ask for the business from overt asking for the engagement, to more subtle ways. You will need different versions to use for different prospects and different situations. Edit them so that they feel more natural to you.

3.    Practise. Go to your mentor or a senior partner and practise on them. Practise on your marketer. Practise on your significant other. Practise to the mirror. Feel comfortable asking for the business. Make if feel great, because it actually is. When you find a win-win-win solution (win for the client, win for your client’s client, and win for you) you will all feel fantastic that you have collaborated to make everyone successful. Get your passion on.

If you do no other business development or marketing activities this week . . . find, edit, and practise asking for business!