What makes a great rainmaker? The ability to establish – and maintain – great relationships, says Michael Rynowecer, the founder of BTI Consulting who’s asked more than 14,000 C-level executives how they feel about their professional service providers. Competency and client service might get you additional work from a client, but a superior relationship is going to allow you to become your client’s confidante, problem-solver, and sounding board on all business-critical decisions. Turns out the cliché is true: people do like to do business with people they like, and the more they like you, the more they’ll go out of their way to create opportunities for you.
Accordingly, you need to invest time in relationships, but not with the objective of getting a new assignment or treating your favorite clients to ball games and golf outings or even turning every client contact into a close personal friend. Rather, because strong relationships are such an essential element of success in this profession, you must devote time and energy to the relationships themselves. Here are three things you can do today:
1. Protect your best relationship
Take a look at your current client list. Of all the people you know at all the companies on the list, identify your single best relationship. Now ask yourself: what are you doing to keep it that way? If you’re not actively building on and improving that relationship, you might be passively letting it slip away.
2. Fix your worst relationship
Using that same list of clients, identify the weakest relationship you’ve got. Just like there will always be a best relationship, there will always be a worst one. But if that “worst one” is at a company in a position to give out legal work in the near future, you need to move it up the list. What can you do to make that relationship better, now and in the near future?
3. Move somebody up the list
The final person to identify is one that you’d like to have a better relationship with. Maybe it’s a junior lawyer who will one day be the general counsel. Maybe it’s a fellow marathon runner you hit it off with at the last client meeting. Or maybe you met an in-house attorney with whom you enjoy talking about non-work related things and would like to continue the conversation. The reason isn’t important. Picking a contact and figuring out how you’re going to improve your relationship with her – in the near term – is.
The bottom line? Invest in your relationships and the work will follow. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll be on better terms with the people who decide which firms get their legal assignments, right? That sounds like a win all around.
[Lance Godard is a business development manager at Fisher Phillips. Connect with him on LinkedIn.]
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