The Mentorist

From the Client’s Chair: Why Your Firm’s Marketing Pitch Didn’t Work — Reason #3

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‘From the Client’s Chair’ is a blog post series that explores some of the ways law firms ‘misfire’ when trying to win (and keep) business. The observations are based on my experiences as a General Counsel ‘client’ who has selected and worked with hundreds of law firms over the years. So, let’s turn to…

 Reason #3 for Not Winning My Business: ‘It’s All About Me’

Every General Counsel has been there: The conference room door shuts, the law firm starts its marketing pitch and, for the next hour or so, a quartet of ‘suits’ spews forth about the firm’s competencies, talent pool and achievements.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? Not one person in the group has tried to figure out what my company’s (and, hence, my) problems are and how we’ve been approaching them.

Rather, the firm has interpreted the phrase ‘dog and pony show’ literally, trotting out one expert after another, with the intent of ‘wowing’ me into a business relationship.

This ‘show and tell’ approach is dead wrong: You can’t help me solve my problems unless you know what they are. And, in order to know what they are, you have to ask me questions that will tease them out, then engage me in meaningful dialog.

That doesn’t mean you can ask me just anything. If your questions show you haven’t done due diligence on my company (and, while you’re at it, on me), I’m going to be annoyed. Basic cluelessness (‘so what sort of technology are you in…?’) immediately tells me you don’t care — and that you just see me as more grist for your generic marketing mill.

So, before meeting me to pitch your firm, read my company’s website and most everything else you can find by Googling the company. If you can access it, listen to my company’s latest earnings call — paying special attention to the analysts’ questions at the end. (They are guaranteed to relate to some of my problems.) [For tips on doing client research, see ]

Armed with this background, you’re ready to hear from me. Plan to ask me open-ended questions: What issues are looming large for your company? For your legal team? What opportunities do you see on the horizon? What threats? How might we help?….

This shift in focus toward me doesn’t mean you should stay silent about your firm’s capabilities. However, it does mean you should tout them in the context of a dialog with me. And — rather than assuming the chest-thumping, yell-it-from-the-rooftops style common to firm marketing presentations, be subtle: After listening to me describe my problem-du-jour, you might ask me if I’ve considered [fill-in-the-blank], noting that this approach has worked well with some of your other clients. Or you might ask me a ‘go-deeper’ question that conveys your thorough understanding of the subject matter. [Note the verb in those last two sentences: It’s ‘ask.’]

But, above all, make sure you are listening to me ‘in the moment’ — really understanding what I have to say. Don’t ‘fake’ paying attention, while mentally plotting out your next move.

Turning the focus onto me — your potential client — has an additional benefit: It can help you overcome a fear of public speaking. Because you’re thinking about me, you’ll stop being self-conscious. Face it: Most of us possess a healthy (or un-) streak of narcissism. Good ‘pitch’ artists play into that, by asking, ‘How can I make you look better?’

Perhaps the best way to keep the focus on your potential client is to walk into your meeting with one mission: to find out what’s keeping her up at night. With that knowledge, you can you begin a dialog that convinces her you’re the one to help.

Can’t tell if your firm is stuck in the land of ‘show and tell’? Find out by counting the number of first-person pronouns in your marketing pitch: How often do you say ‘I,’ ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘our,’ ‘mine’ and ‘me’? If you’re not invoking my company’s name more often than you’re referring to yourself, you’ve got your love-lights pointed in the wrong direction.



Author: Jane E. Owens

Jane E. Owens, The Mentorist’s chief blogger, has spent her career immersed in the business and culture of corporations and law firms. A former general counsel and corporate lawyer, Jane is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the professional world – and, through her mentoring practice, hopes to increase the ranks of the former. To learn more about Jane or suggest topics you'd like The Mentorist to discuss, go to:

One thought on “From the Client’s Chair: Why Your Firm’s Marketing Pitch Didn’t Work — Reason #3

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