I have been the recipient of a few practices that I think border on professional stalking, and you probably have, too. The last thing that I want for you is to be perceived as though you are overstepping or professionally stalking your potential clients, so I want you to learn from my experience.
I recently attended a wonderful webinar hosted by my friends David Ackert and John Corey. If you don’t know them, I recommend you get to know them because they’re very smart people.
They were talking about business development, which got me thinking because they were talking about “top of funnel” activities.
Stick with me here. I started my career in sales, or what we might call business development in the legal profession today. My job was completely dependent on listening, research, relationships, customization, and follow-up, so this topic is near and dear to me.
A Basic Explanation Of The Sales Funnel For You
You may or may not have heard of the sales funnel. Let me shorten it to suggest that you picture a funnel with the top of it being the biggest and the bottom being the smallest, obviously.
Your general marketing activities and content are what bring curious people into the top of your sales funnel. Something you have said, done, or posted has made someone curious enough to consume a little bit of you.
This top part of your funnel can bring a lot of people in, but all of those people will not end up making their way to the bottom of your funnel with others who have decided they are very interested in doing business with you. You haven’t gone through a process of feeding these top of funnel people more targeted information that has to do with their specific issue, and they haven’t gone through the process of self-selecting their way deeper into your funnel to get to know you better.
I kept that description of the sales funnel short for the purposes of this discussion. If you’d like, you and I can go a lot deeper into that conversation another time.
Accelerating A Relationship That Hasn’t Even Started
What I don’t want to see happen to you and your potential clients is what I have seen happen too often, which is that you try to accelerate a relationship that hasn’t even started.
It helps to remember that most of your potential clients choose to go through a bit of research before they decide they want to talk to you or any other lawyer about their matter.
That research can include asking for a referral from someone else. It can also mean going to your website to check you out. It can mean they have gone to your LinkedIn profile to review your qualifications and background. (By the way, if you have not polished your LinkedIn presence, this resource might be helpful to you. It is important for the reasons I am describing today.)
Your Potential Clients Want To Learn
It could be they have downloaded a resource much like this LinkedIn checklist from me, for example. It could also be that they attended a webinar like I did with David Ackert and John Corey. It could be so many things that people are just interested in because they are curious.
They are checking you out and they want some more information. They could be mildly curious, or they could be very curious about a specific topic, but chances are they have not yet progressed to the point where they are thinking “Oh, my gosh, I really need to get to know this lawyer because I’ve just started to research him or her.”
Give Them Room To Breathe
I want you to be careful about contacting them too soon. I want you to give them room to breathe before you move in on them.
What does that mean?
Well, some of you are starting to use tools such as HubSpot and some other tools that do some lead scoring so that you can tell when someone has been on your website. You can tell when they have visited certain pages. You can even put a Facebook or a LinkedIn pixel on your website so that you can see who has visited certain pages, and then you can contact them accordingly with a message that acknowledges that.
Well, the following is what I do not want to see happen with that kind of intelligence.
This Practice Turns People Off
One of the largest sales companies in the world is, in my opinion, one of the most aggressive actors in this respect. Occasionally, I will read a resource of theirs. I will consume a piece of content on this company’s website. Keep in mind that I could be a referral source for this company because I could talk to you about this company. But when I read a lone piece of content every once in a great while, and I mean once a year at the most, that should be a message to them that I am in the research phase when I am reading that content.
On more than one occasion over the years, immediately after I left that page on this company’s website, I received a phone call or an email.
When this immediate follow-up occurs after one piece of content has been consumed, that feels way too pushy because my behavior at the top of their sales funnel should not have been an indication to them that I was ready for contact that is that personal.
I need to move just a bit further into their funnel. I need to have more experience with them before they call or email. I need to build those know, like, and trust factors a little bit more before they engage in a middle or a bottom of the funnel activity, which allows for more intimate contact with me, such as sending me an email or calling me. I am not there yet.
Your Potential Clients Are No Different
Just because they have read something of yours, consumed a piece of content, clicked a reaction on LinkedIn, or any number of subtle gestures, don’t assume people are ready for their phones to ring. Be very careful and take this on a case-by-case basis. Be careful when you are using marketing technology such as HubSpot or other lead scoring tools, or even your own intuition so you don’t misunderstand and assume this potential client is ready to have more personal contact from you.
Those Who Haven’t Entered Your Funnel
Let’s also talk about cold contacts. Those who have not yet entered your world or your funnel are considered cold contacts. These are people you have no contact with; no conversation, and no commenting back and forth via social media or any other medium. They haven’t even consumed any of your content, at least not that you know of. This person can be considered a cold contact because they might not know who you are yet.
What I don’t want you to do is what I have experienced many times, which is something that really turns me off as a potential purchaser of services. At this stage, you do not want to ask that person for an appointment. It is not a best practice to send this person a private message or an email to say you would like to schedule a time to talk about what you do for a living because you know you can help them.
Don’t Assume You Are The Right Solution
Don’t assume you can help them because you don’t know that yet. You haven’t had enough contact with that person. During the business development process, you need to respect peoples’ boundaries. There will come a time when you have spent more time getting to know that person, interacting with them in different spaces, or by helping them get to know you by creating content that demonstrates your expertise. You will make that content easy to find by sharing it broadly in the spaces you know they occupy. Make you and your knowledge easy for them to find. Offer a registration form near your content so they can choose to move to the next stage of your funnel and get to know you even better.
There Are Always Exceptions
Of course, there are exceptions to all of these situations.
You may have a feeling in your gut when the best time is to contact someone you have connected with along the way. If you aren’t sure, I can be your sounding board to guide you and to give you feedback on those kinds of business development activities.
Again, be very careful. Don’t rush your contact with your potential clients. Give them some space to research and get to know you. Let them breathe. Let them feel like your relationship is completely natural because they have progressed through your relationship funnel and are ready for you.
Thanks again to David Ackert and John Corey for inspiring this post and this episode of the Legal Marketing Minutes podcast, and for bringing these additional thoughts out of my brain today. I appreciate both of them because they are longtime friends and good people.