Strong from the Start

Your guide to winning over clients at pitch

As part of our Sharplegal research, we asked general counsel about the best law firm pitches they could recall and what stood out about them.

Client focus and knowledge were crucial to impressing prospective clients – a lack of them spelled failure.

“The best pitches are when they’ve taken the time to understand our business and put into context their recommendation in terms of what we actually do, as opposed to some generic presentation of their offices and attorneys…when they learn the specifics of our company and industry and take the time to tailor their pitch to our business.”
US | Construction

Here we’ve distilled the views of our Sharplegal respondents to provide you with a quick guide to getting close to clients from the start of the relationship:

Get to the heart of the matter

Ask in-depth questions about the needs of the in-house team as well as their business requirements. Finding the gaps in their capabilities will not only help you to tailor your services effectively but also highlight new opportunities.

Being able to put your feet in your client’s shoes and look at situations from their perspective will help you to develop realistic solutions that will work within the client’s constraints. This kind of forethought is highly prized by clients and will help ensure that it is your firm that stands out.

Conduct a thorough investigation

On top of what you have learned directly from the prospective client, it is critical to draw on as many sources of wider research as you can. These will range from formalized legal market data and reports to more personal information from LinkedIn profiles, Twitter accounts and your own in-house teams.

However, it’s equally important to take care how you go on to use this research. Weaving it through your recommendations can be extremely powerful. Presenting it back in raw form can be insulting, as one of our Sharplegal respondents point out:

“They treat me like a moron. They think that I’m a dummy and they talk down to me and they think [they] know my business better than I do.”
Australia | Business Services

Raise your interest rate

Thoroughly researching your prospective client’s needs communicates the fact that you genuinely want to work with the prospect, that you are interested in a long-term relationship and that you are willing to ‘go the extra mile’.  

In addition, it is a subtle, yet effective, way of providing a taste of the service the in-house team will get, should they instruct you.

Flexible fees pay

Showing that you appreciate the budgetary pressure that in-house counsel are under and exploring ways in which you can help them to control costs are other important ways in which firms can show they are ‘on the client’s side’ and have their interests foremost.

Being open about pricing, providing accurate spend forecasts and flexible billing options can go a long way towards winning clients’ favor and demonstrating a collaborative style of working.

Team tactics

Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. Nevertheless, law firms still frequently damage their chances of getting a new association off the ground by presenting a stellar team at pitch only to swap this line-up for less experienced lawyers day-to-day.

Given that lack of honesty is one of the most damaging faux-pas at start of a relationship, misleading prospective clients about who will be working with them is a risky strategy.

Play to your strengths

Out of eagerness to win/please, firms can easily fall into the trap of over-promising. This tactic may impress initially but it is rare that the firm’s learning curve can keep pace with the expectations of a client who has been ‘oversold’. The result is a bitter taste in the client’s mouth and either an end to the relationship or, at best, a long, slow climb towards regaining trust.

Being realistic about your firm’s strengths and weaknesses instils confidence in clients, especially when you offer workable solutions that make up for any shortcomings. This approach is a very powerful way of demonstrating your honesty and confidence and lays firm foundations for the future.

First Impressions Count

Five powerful ways to get close to clients at the start of a relationship

Invest time in getting to know your client
Ask in-depth questions about the needs of the in-house team as well as their business requirements

Use research to widen your perspective
Weave intelligence through your pitch rather than spouting back facts that the client may find obvious

Demonstrate your interest
Actively find out about clients’ longer term plans to show that you are thinking ahead and plan to build a lasting relationship

Think commercially
Wherever possible, offer solutions that alleviate the budgetary pressures that general counsel are under

Be honest
From fees and expertise to the team who will work for the client – being truthful wins client satisfaction and loyalty. Fudging facts erodes trust

For further information, or to order a copy of “What Makes a Winning Pitch? The Client View”, please contact Jo Aitken +44 (0)808 178 3020

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