For the second straight year pro sports in North America had a work stoppage. For many lawyers this is a catastrophe as they have no idea how to entertain clients without a game to attend.
What is interesting about business development is that we regularly go back to the tried and true without ever asking our clients if that is what they like to do. If every year for the past decade you have taken a client out for dinner for a steak dinner followed by a hockey or basketball game and every year billings go up slightly it must be working. And why change something that is working!
But what if your client changed diets and became vegetarian, has always hated professional sports and the only reason your billings have gone up is because your rates have gone up each year for the past 10 years? And what if that same client is not comfortable sharing this information as they do not wish to damage the relationship?
Now the question becomes am I really connecting with the client?
Although you should regularly ask clients their opinion, this year’s work stoppage provides you a perfect opportunity to get to know your clients better.
A perfect example happened to a colleague of mine several years ago. He and his client would go to a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game once a year with their spouses. Over the years everyone had become very friendly and they really looked forward to the night out. During the last NHL work stoppage they missed out on the game they usually attend. The lawyer did not know what to do as sports was his only method of business development. While working on a file, the two were discussing a new musical that was coming to town. It turned out that as much as the client and the lawyer (including the spouses) enjoyed each others company, they actually hated gong to the hockey game. And, although it had never come up in conversation, all four loved musicals! They now get together several times a year to go to musicals rather than hockey, his billings have gone up exponentially – not just because of a higher hourly rate – and the client relationship is more solid than ever.
So rather than think about what you cannot do, why not use the opportunity to find out what your client really likes. In the end, it doesn’t hurt to ask.