“I’m a great networker,” Elaine, a junior partner in her labor law firm, proclaimed during a workshop I was conducting for her firm, “but I can’t seem to connect with any clients that have real potential.”
“Who do you want to connect with?” I asked her.
“Well…anybody that might need our services,” she responded, with a touch of indignation.
“So, what do you tell people when they ask you what you do?” I asked.
“I tell them I’m a partner in a labor and employment law firm and that our firm works mostly for employers,” Elaine responded.
“That’s one of your problems,” I suggested. “You’re a white crayon.”
“Picture a box of crayons labeled ‘Labor and Employment Attorneys’ in which fifteen of the sixteen crayons are white,” I told the group. If you needed a labor attorney, which crayon will you pick?”
“It wouldn’t matter,” James, one of the new firm members, called out, “They’re all the same.”
“That’s right,” I responded, “But if just one of the crayons in the box was red, which crayon would you pick?”
This was an intelligent group, so no one had to actually answer the question. I continued with a decree: “You need to be the red crayon!”
Then I turned back to Elaine. “Is there a particular area of labor and employment law where you have some expertise, and is there a particular type of employer who might need that expertise you’d like to work with?”
“Well, I have a lot of experience in diversity issues,” she started, “and I know that several of the banks are having issues in their branch offices.”
“Why then, are you not telling people that when you are asked—not just that you are a partner in a labor law firm, but that you concentrate on banks with diversity issues?”
“But, Sandy,” James called out again, “If Elaine is talking with someone whose company isn’t a bank and doesn’t have diversity issues, wouldn’t that turn him right off?”
“No,” I told him emphatically.
“Once you’re seen as a red crayon, people will be curious about how you and your firm might be able to help them—even if you have to make an exception to work with them. Identifying yourself as a red crayon gets the conversation started where it might not have started otherwise. How you move the conversation along is something we’ll discuss later.”
Another benefit of being specific, I told the group, is that you can focus where you network and who you network with better. If Elaine really wants to work on diversity issues in the banking industry, she can look for situations where her probability of meeting the type of clients and problems she has targeted is higher.
Be crystal clear about who you want to work with, what they need, and why you’re their best choice, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a Client Magnet.
In the meantime, keep REACHING…