I am frequently asked for a strategy on what to do when meeting with a potential client for the first time. In a nutshell your success in these first meetings very likely depends on three simple ratios:
- The ratio of the amount of time you are talking compared to time your potential client is talking.
- The ratio of the number of questions you ask to statements you make.
- The ratio of the times you say “you” and “your” to “me” “my” and “my firm.”
You want the potential client to talk at least twice as much as you, you want to ask questions at least twice and much as you make statements and you want to use words “you” and “your” at least twice as much as “me” “my” and “my firm.”
Most lawyers I know are not very good at asking questions and instead rely on talking too much about themselves and their firm. If you want to get more business, work on your listening skills. Learn about the client and its business. Ask questions rather than making statements and actually listen to the answers. Don’t ask for business. Instead earn the business.
If you want to get better at asking questions, I have several books I recommend. One of my favorites is SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. SPIN stands for:
- Situation (questions)
- Problem (questions)
- Implication (questions)
- Need-payoff (questions)
I suggest that you prepare your own version of these questions. I also suggest you ask as many situation questions as possible before you have the in-person meeting. There is an appropriate time to tell the potential client about you and your law firm and how you can help the potential client. It is usually late in the meeting and after you have answers to the SPIN questions and it usually is in response to a question by the potential client.