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You positioned the whole thing in your favor. You prepped like it was a bet-the-company matter. You followed up. And followed up again, and again with meaningful insights and questions. And, you educated your prospect. You taught them something important to them. Doing all this—making the chemistry right—your potential client will look at you and say:

How can we work together on this?

How do we get started?

Can you do a conflict check on this?

What is your availability?

These are the best closing lines ever—and they come from your client. Not you.

If you don’t hear these magic words, you can still tilt things in your favor. Your ability to close is not based on a single line. Successful business development comes from ongoing, frequent, and informal dialogue with your prospect. You want to turn the dialogue into a continuing conversation. Ask questions to cast a wide net to uncover the driving issues behind the legal problems, business issues, hiring decisions, and a bit about themselves. Here are a few tips to make this happen:

Use the term “we” when referring to you and your client as a team

This approach creates a bond and shows you anticipate working together as an extension of your client’s team. Referring to your firm creates a separation.

Act as if you have the work—start the working relationship immediately

Ask the questions you would ask to get a matter or relationship started. Stop selling and start working together. You can add value immediately and help your client move forward.

Learn exactly why your potential client is hiring at this point in time

This insight lets you into the tent to see how you can be more specific about offering an opinion or advice.

Offer your thoughts and ideas instead of sending emails asking where they are in the process

While few law firms ever follow up from a business development call—the ones who do often send an email saying “checking in.” Use the opportunity to embellish an idea, ask a meaningful question, or offer something useful.

Ask clients about their working style

This may be more important than having the right legal skills. Every client has their own working style and they expect you to adapt to them.

Serious follow up

I am talking serious follow up—not checking in. Try this kind of outreach:

“After our discussion, I think the best team would include (place team member name here).”

“You have an interesting working style.” Comment how this works for the firm, the team, or you.

Answer a rhetorical question

Clients may ask a seemingly rhetorical question like:

“How did that deal get done?”

“How did a company win?”

“How does my competitor make acquisitions when they have no cash to speak of?”

“Why did one of the two co-defendants get a dismissal and the other settle for so much?”

You can find an article on working styles, industry-specific business risk, or something they talked about and send it along with a comment in the context of your conversation.

The Irony of It All

It’s ironic how you can only close a sale by opening a dialogue and creating conversation. Your goal is to open not close. The biggest rainmakers don’t close. They put themselves in a position where clients always want to buy. These rainmakers get clients to open up and keep sharing, which is just what clients want.


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