Welcome to part 3 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It.
Reason No. 2 You’re Losing Business: You don’t really see your clients.
Sure, you see your clients. You have meetings with them, you talk with them by telephone or videoconference. But do you really see your clients? Too many firms and lawyers view their clients as one-dimensional objects of practice. Client numbers are assigned, and the client comes to assume that number as an identity.
You don’t ever intend that to happen, but the press of business can make it hard for you to keep up with clients individually … And that’s why you must have a system in place for making sure that you recognize what’s happening with and for your clients.
This is a problem that’s endemic to rainmakers who are seeking to grow a book of business above all else. You court a potential client. You’re interested, highly responsive, you make an effort to learn about your potential client’s interests, to engage that person in business and personal conversation, to be your most appealing self. And then as soon as you get the matter, that deeply personalized attention drops off because you’re in service mode (which often equates to maintenance mode) while you’re off chasing another client.
I once spoke with a disillusioned spouse who complained about the shift in the relationship after marriage. No more cards, no more gifts just because, conversation dwindled to the day-to-day focus on the kids and getting the car serviced and making the mortgage payment. The relationship wasn’t bad, but it certainly was dry. And then someone new came on the horizon, someone who did the things that the spouse used to do, who always brought on deep and interesting conversation, who seemed to promise a richer relationship. Suddenly, an alternative to the relationship with the present-but-not spouse appeared. This story has a happy ending because of the marriage vows both took, but no client will take a vow to stay with a lawyer for better or for worse.
That’s how marriages end, and that’s how clients get poached by other lawyers. Not necessarily because the courting stops (though, really, who doesn’t like to feel important, especially when paying a hefty fee?) but because the attention makes a difference. Understanding what’s happening with a client can significantly affect the way you approach the client or the representation itself.
Do you know what your clients are concerned about? Are you aware of their successes and failures, and do you respond appropriately? When’s the last time you sent a baby gift, a card or flowers to acknowledge a death, a note signed by your staff to acknowledge a business success?
Create a system that ensures that you get information about your clients (like Google Alerts) and that you check in with your clients regularly, to:
- take their temperature on their experience with you
- discover any significant business or personal changes that may affect the matter you’re handling
- discuss what’s going on with them in the bigger picture
Don’t bag a client and then move on: build the relationship as you deliver the service you promised. If you fail to do this, you will lose business.