If you’re a lawyer who wants to be a great business developer, you might take a lesson from Mark, the contractor who renovated my house last summer.
We selected Mark for our renovation even though he came in with the highest bid.We picked him, in part, because he placed a huge blue construction-waste Dumpster in our driveway before we’d even decided which contractor to use.He didn’t ask our permission. We just came home one day, and there it was beside the garage. We were stunned.”I know that you want to move quickly and have everything done by the end of the summer,” he told us when we called him. “The winning contractor will need to be ready to go the minute you pick us. If you pick someone else, we’ll take away the Dumpster at our expense.”That’s a great business development tactic that good lawyers can adopt. Mark committed resources to solving a client’s problem, even before he had the client. Like many good business developers, Mark was betting that his commitment would impress the prospect.The Dumpster tactic plays right into the reason why most businesses hire lawyers. Ask GCs what they’re looking for in a lawyer, and they’ll tell you they hire lawyers who understand their businesses and can add value. To my mind, “Dumpsters” do just that: show that you understand the client’s business and add value.APPLYING THE ‘DUMPSTER’ APPROACHSay you’re a patent lawyer who has met with a large technology company about taking on intellectual property work. The company’s internal consultant has prepared a 50-page memorandum detailing the company’s issues.How can this patent lawyer place a “Dumpster” in the prospect’s driveway?She could commit resources to solving the company’s problems, even before she’s selected. She could spend a couple days outlining a memo addressing the issues raised in the 50-page memo.”Here are some ideas we have on how to solve your intellectual property challenges,” she could write in a cover letter accompanying the memo. “We offer this at no charge. But we’d love to hear your response to our work.”Such actions can’t help but increase your chances of winning the client.Heck, you’ve already begun solving their problem, showing you understand the client’s business and adding value. The client can’t help but be impressed.And don’t make the mistake of thinking, “We shouldn’t offer free legal advice.” Why not? Ice cream shops sell a lot of ice cream cones by offering free tastes. I don’t see how lawyers are different.Law firms have plenty of opportunities to impress their clients with “Dumpsters.” Let’s say that you’re doing a client’s corporate work and want to win the labor and employment litigation work.Here’s what you do. Go to the business’s general counsel and offer to conduct a free audit of some aspect of the business’s hiring practices. Provide an analysis, complete with proposed solutions, at no charge. Assuming that your legal advice is sound and valuable, they’ll love you for it, and there’s a good chance they’ll give you a shot at the work.SOLVING A PROSPECT’S PROBLEMSAnything that shows you’re trying to solve the prospect’s business problems qualifies as a “Dumpster.”� Offer a prospect a free seminar on a pressing legal issue.� Prepare a customized free analysis of a new law affecting the prospect’s industry.� Introduce a prospective client to her prospects.� Connect prospects to key players in their industries. For example, you might introduce a drug company executive with someone from the FDA.One of the clich�s of business development is that “it’s all about relationships.” Indeed, relationships are important. But knowing people alone won’t get you the business. You have to know the prospect and show her that you understand her business. Nothing does that better than placing a Dumpster in the client’s driveway.Joey Asher is an attorney and president of Speechworks, www.speechworks.net, a selling and communication skills coaching firm that has been helping lawyers grow their practices for 20 years. His book “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” was published this fall by ALM Publishing and is available at www.lawcatalog.com. He can be reached at [email protected].