The American Bar Association 2017 Corporate Counsel Seminar recently concluded in Orlando, Florida and, as expected, the presentations produced practical, tangible tips for success. One such presentation included a panel of in-house counsel from four Fortune 500 companies who shared their insights on an effective pitch for business. While each in-house representative had personal, subjective preferences, they all agreed on the six stages of a pitch and tips for successfully completing each stage.
First, the pitch must build rapport. Potential clients expect that you will come to the table knowledgeable about their needs and prepared to demonstrate how you can satisfy the same. While in-house counsel may differ in their opinions on whether they want to personally connect with you, they all agree that they want to be confident you or your Firm has the ability to do their work. Second, the pitch must establish relevance. Potential clients do not want a blanket response stating that you have the ability to satisfy their needs; they want tangible, identifiable evidence that you, or your Firm, have the knowledge and expertise to satisfy their needs and your past experience in specific areas of the law. Those pitching for business should seize the advantage to highlight (or humbly brag!) about their Firm as a whole taking due care to highlight that this is a team effort and the Firm is prepared to devote the necessary resources to achieving a positive result. Third, the pitch must propose solutions. While it is great to hear that you, or your Firm, routinely deal in matters of this nature, providing potential clients with your initial thoughts on a solution to their problem shows that you have invested time in assessing their needs and analyzing how to effectively reach the finish line
Fourth, the person making the pitch must be prepared to field reactions and concerns from the potential client. The ability to think quickly on one’s feet and suggest reasonable, well thought out solutions showcases your ability to handle the unexpected twists and turns of litigation that will most assuredly develop during the representation. Fifth, as the meeting comes to a close, the person making the pitch should summarize the high points of what was discussed between you and the potential client and establish a method by which to follow up to (hopefully) secure their business. This summary should not necessarily be a rote regurgitation of all of the potential money-making opportunities discussed. Rather, the person making the pitch should pay careful attention to the business needs, as well as the extracurricular interests/concerns that may be expressed during the conversation. The ability to connect on more than just a needs/service level may pay dividends. For example, if the potential client asks about the Firm’s diversity efforts, this is an opportunity to invite them to a future Firm diversity related event whereby the potential client can gain firsthand experience of the Firm’s devotion to diversity. Finally, while it is great to establish a plan for following up, this plan is worthless if it is not executed. Thus, follow up and don’t be afraid to follow up more than once. If you follow these six steps, business will be yours for the taking!
Andre’ Caldwell is a director at Crowe & Dunlevy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is also the cochair of the Minority Trial Lawyer Committee in the ABA’s Section of Litigation.