In my last column, I talked about “working the room”. Attending events is an important part of for business development for lawyers. I focused on how to open conversations, rather like delivering your opening line in a play. But opening the conversation is only half of the skill needed for working a room; the other half is closing a conversation gracefully so that you can move on.
Let’s revisit the reason why you’re attending such an event. Working a room is work: you’re there to develop business. But business development is a process; don’t expect to walk away with a piece of new business that very evening. Your goal is simply to meet people and find a reason to follow up with them. The people you meet are probably there for the same reason, so don’t feel bad about bringing the conversation to an end and moving on. You’re helping them meet their goals too—especially if you move on by introducing them to someone else.
Easier said than done? For some people, closing the conversation is harder than opening it in the first place. There are many reasons for this. You may be enjoying talking the conversation; moving on and starting all over again seems like such hard work. Or you may not be enjoying the conversation, but can’t get a word in edgeways to make your exit! Or the person you’ve been talking to starts looking around the room. Whatever the reason, focus on the outcome, which is what will you do next?
As you wrap up a conversation, you need three things:
- A reason to follow up
- The contact information of the person with whom you need to follow up
- An exit line
When taking your leave, recap your conversation and state how you will follow up. Note on the person’s business card what your follow-up will be (“Send newsletter”, “Introduce to employment lawyer”, etc.)
If appropriate, take your leave by introducing the person to someone else at the event, which might get you into your next conversation, too.
What’s the right moment to bring the conversation to a close? When you’ve achieved what you came for. Supposing the person you’ve been talking to isn’t the person with whom you’re going to follow up? Or maybe you don’t see how that person can help you? Leave on a positive note anyhow, A. because it’s good manners (and good manners are the best business development technique of all, but more about that in another column) and B. because you never know. If the person you’ve been talking to is the best contact you’ve ever made, it will be even harder to move on, but easier to leave on a positive note because you’re genuinely looking forward to following up.
When you follow up, continue with the “it’s about them, not me” theme. People respond well to offers of help, so you can follow up with:
- Ideas for how they can get better results
- An introduction
- Resources or information
- An appointment to meet
Above all, focus on what they need, not on what you want to sell.
And the best way to bring this article to a close? With a few good exit lines, of course.
Ten Good Exit Lines
- “I’ll let you have a chance to talk to some other people here, but I really enjoyed our conversation and I’d like to continue it, so is it OK if I give you a call?”
- “I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening (meeting, conference, etc.) I’ll send you our newsletter on…..”
- “I have to go and speak with…..I’ll see that you get an invitation to….”
- “I have to make a phone call. I’ll get that information for you and send it along next week.”
- “I see ………..has just arrived. Would you like me to introduce you?”
- “I’d like you to meet our specialist in ………She isn’t here this evening, so are you available for lunch next week?”
- “I see someone I need to talk to. I’ll pass on your request to…….and have him call you.”
- “I enjoyed meeting you. I’ll be in court all next week, but could I give you a call the week after to discuss this further?”
- “I have to help with the program now, but I’ll set up a meeting for us next week with…”
- “It’s been great talking to you. I’ll look for you at [next event].”