Discovering the “ideal client”

My business coach Tom Chapple recommended The Sandler Rules by David Mattson. This book is an easy read and is suited for business owners and employees who are looking for techniques to discover the “ideal client” using David Sandler’s Sandler Selling System. The goal of my assignment was to learn some techniques for taking control and authority during a client consultation so that I could quickly determine if the potential client was a good fit for our firm environment. The idea was to work smarter, not harder, and invest my time in clients rather than people who will not hire me or who do not share the same values in a long-term business relationship. The strategy is great for anyone in any industry who wants to streamline his client engagement technique by identifying valuable potential clients.

I learned that a meeting will more likely result in an engagement if the consultant can help the potential client relate to what he does to the satisfaction of the client’s wants or needs and, even more so, if he can help the potential client discover a need of which he was previously unaware. Thus, the initial meeting should focus on identifying the client’s perceived needs. This by itself can demonstrate your value.

While many consultants like to educate clients, the consultant should not consider an initial consult as the opportunity to educate the client about the benefits and advantages of working with his firm or about issues that were not on the client’s mind when he first came in the door. The consultant’s job is to determine if the client is a good fit, not to give a presentation. The author calls this “spilling your candy in the lobby.” The goal is to limit the conversation to the topics, issues and concerns identified by the potential client – what they came to see the consultant about. The consultant must do fact gathering, not focus on displaying expertise or establishing credibility. The author stresses that people make decisions about professional or consulting services emotionally and they justify them intellectually. The client must feel a need to solve a particular problem before he even considers paying a professional consultant for advice to help him solve the problem. He must want to know that the consultant knows and feels there is value in that information that he can exploit to his advantage (offensively or defensively).

However, there is a danger in TMI (too much information). Too much technical information is overwhelming and gives the potential client a reason to re-evaluate whether he should proceed. It often introduces confusion and doubt rather than enables the potential client to make a decision about whether the solution offered will fit his needs. Detailed information should be given after the consultant is engaged and the client is ready for such education and advice. At the initial consult, the consultant needs to determine the potential client’s interests, concerns and expectations, not educate the client on the subject. The consultant needs to understand the criteria by which the client will judge the consultant services and determine if he can meet that criteria. The consultant needs to help the potential client then discover what it might mean for him if he hires the expertise.

Any entrepreneur can learn something from this book and its techniques. It is straight to the point and gives examples to demonstrate and reinforce the techniques. A small investment of time will certainly leave the reader with some new ways to sell his goods or services.

The Litigators by John Grisham

Have you ever woken up one morning and realized how much you want to quit your job? In John Grisham ‘s latest novel, The Litigators, David Zinc walked away from a $300,000-a-year job at the prestigious firm Big Law to join the ranks of a Chicago ambulance-chasing street law firm with little promise. David’s struggle to learn lawyering in the trenches with so-called mentoring from an alcoholic, womanizing, middle-aged attorney with questionable ethics is rewarded as he discovers how he can use his skills to truly help those in need. The flawed partners teach David more in a year than he learned in three years of law school and five years as a young attorney. He learns as much about what he wants out of life – the kind of husband, father and lawyer he wants to be – and what he does not what to become.

The story portrays some of the realities of the business of law and the legal system with compassion and the inspiring message that there is karma and justice in the world. Zinc discovers the joy of being a lawyer as he finds a work-life balance that brings success and happiness in a career where these tend to be mutually exclusive. Grisham’s characters reveal the extremes in the business world (the greedy and the world citizen) and give us hope that there is still compassion and good in the world.

One message in the plot—that shortcuts never bring prosperity—is loud and clear as we learn that persistence, hard work and compassion are the tools of a true legal artisan. We observe how we all must be accountable to our actions and choices, and how we can change our own personal journey with one brave or unexpected decision. The story reminds us how giving a chance to a stranger in an unlikely situation can be rewarded with great integrity and loyalty. You won’t be disappointed with a story that reminds us about the best and worst parts of the legal profession with the great plot and characters we’ve come to expect from Grisham.

Fifty shades of a business relationship

Curiosity got the better of me and I had to see what everyone was talking about: who was Christian Grey? What draws everyone to Fifty Shades?

Rich, powerful and traumatized by his early years, Christian once led a fairly reclusive life until he finds a soul connection with Anna. Irreverent Anna makes me silently applaud as she stands up to Christian’s overbearing demand for control and gains his love and respect along the way. Exposing the raw emotions of the characters brought me through an introspective of my own passions and relationships. I admired how each character was willing to go outside his/her comfort zone for the other but neither tried to really change the other. They accepted one another’s flaws and tried to bring out the best in the other. This is what we all are taught is key to a lasting relationship.

While the issues in the Fifty Shades series are dealt with primarily on a personal level, I contend that these same lessons can be learned in the business world. Issues of trust and control, communication and clearly outlining expectation and boundaries are critical elements of the employer –employee relationship. As a business owner or manager, acknowledging your flaws and taking strides to overcome them, as well as surrounding yourself with people who will help you succeed are all keys to excellent leadership. I’m all for learning these lessons in a book that captures your attention, is easy to read and inspire some rather interesting table conversation.

Shopping local: supporting your neighborhood authors

On a recent trip to Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park, my family went on a “dive-in theatre cruise” with Diver Eddie. They sold a book called “The Song of the Seal” written by local author Francesca Robinson about Diver Eddie and we purchased a copy for my 5-year-old as a souvenir. The book was absolutely delightful, incorporating history, geography and science in an adventure described in animated detail and told in rhyme.

A current trend is locavorism, and this book reminds me that purchasing local products is not limited to food and beverage. Buying local often leads to discovering all kinds of treasures by lesser known residents of your community. Now when I’m out and about, I make a habit of looking for these contributions by my neighbors and make an effort to acknowledge and support the impact they are making on my community.

The Political Primer

The Political Primer by Mark Glogowski will open your eyes to the world of personal politics. If you are like me, you too often find yourself supporting some Democratic and some Republican positions. Sometimes you take what seems to a conservative view point and the next moment a seemingly liberal viewpoint. It can be hard to truly define your own political position. With a series of simple questions, you can identify your optimum party and where you stand on the conservative-liberal spectrum. You’ll enjoy the exploration of your own ideology and better understand that of those around you.

‘Good Counsel’ for not-for-profits

Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits by Leslie Rosenthal is a practical resource on the legal issues faced by not-for-profit corporations. It also has a companion website that contains checklists, work plans and sample documents that help you hit the ground running as a director. You will feel adequately prepared for guiding the organization as a public entity, employer, fundraiser and advocate for its cause and mission. More than a crash course and handy reference, it is your co-counsel! Visit  www.wiley.com/go/goodcounsel for more information.