Easy steps to organize your contacts for maximum results
“Lawyers who are successful at business development get results because they are diligent, thoughtful and organized,” says Sally Schmidt, president of Schmidt Marketing, Inc. As she explains in her article in Law Practice Magazine, “Creating a Game Plan for Your Contacts,” keeping clients, referral sources, and other contacts ordered and controlled is a laborious task, but it’s not impossible. For lawyers to not only keep their contacts organized, but to also deepen their relationships with persons of priority, she provides six steps.
Compile a list of existing contacts. Schmidt emphasizes that a good place to start is to establish a firm base with the contacts you currently have. “Time and inattention have a way of eroding your base of contacts,” she says. You may want to start your list with current or former clients, law school friends, other professionals and so on.
Categorize the contacts. After compiling a list of the contacts you have, it is best to come up with several categories in which to place them all. “This will make it easier to establish priorities in your game plan, or to send out targeted messages,” writes Schmidt. She explains that you can start with broad categories—such as law school classmate or client—but you may want to create more specialized categories for certain kinds of law, such as having a brokers’ or building managers’ section if you practice real estate law.
Prioritize the contacts. You may find it difficult to develop deeper relationships with each contact — simply because you have so many of them. Schmidt suggests that you prioritize your “relationships that should be nurtured …or those with the greatest development opportunity.” She uses the example of some lawyers assigning letters of the alphabet to each person and assigning an earlier letter, like A, for more frequent personal contact.
Establish objectives. “A lunch for lunch’s sake is not as effective as a lunch for which you establish—and accomplish—a specific objective,” Schmidt points out. You want to have a reason behind reaching out to a contact. For example, you could treat one of your best clients by taking them a sports event or special restaurant.
Plan your approach. Each of your contacts is different, and so the way you treat each contact needs to be customized. Schmidt explains that “there is no one-size-fits-all way to build relationships.” Some of the ways to build a closer relationship with contacts include visiting their offices, inviting them to relevant firm functions, or meeting them for a meal or after-work drinks.
Execute. Once the plan is in motion, it is important to find a way to continue to implement it. Schmidt suggests that you “develop a written action plan.” She also says that lawyers who have a personal assistant may benefit from bringing them into the plan.
Schmidt presses the importance of not only maintaining an organized contact list, but making sure that the close relationship you are attempting to achieve is mutually beneficial. She says “the more interactions you have with someone, the more likely you are to be top of mind when that person…has a legal issue to address.”
Law Practice Magazine is a publication of the Law Practice Management Section.
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