Being a law-firm rainmaker takes lots more than "making a better first impression." Actually, real rainmakers are so long-term oriented that they rarely fret about that first impression.
So, yes, I disagree with the image coach Sara Canuso. In THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Jane Porter reports that Canuso's gospel is, "within seven seconds, someone is going to decide whether or not they want to do business with you." Hogwash. The decision to do business is a continuum. Every interaction, every solution proposed, and every bill submitted is part of that continuum. Some of the most effective law-firm marketers make lackluster or even poor first impressions. Choosing a legal representative is not a form of speed-dating.
I have had many confidential conversations with legal rainmakers. I have provided them with recommendations on how they can accelerate new-business development in a down market. I have coached those referred to me whose careers they are trying to save.
From this I have become convinced that there are six attitudes and behaviors that are essential to developing new business, cross-selling and retaining existing accounts. Others who mimic them can become adept in attracting clients and interacting effectively with a caseload. They may or may not become stars. But they will hold onto to their jobs or have the option of a lateral move. Remember, we human beings learn through imitation. That's exactly why what we learn from our parents requires such extensive emotional and behavioral re-engineering to change.
Here them six attitudes and behaviors of rainamkers which you are to imitate:
- Focus completely on the client and the client's business or organization. In periods of low demand firms which grew PPP struggled to help not only the client per se but the entire business or organization. The latter might be the family. Analyze how rainmakers do this through body language, facial expression, phrases, response time, marshaling of resources, preparation of documents, and investment of personal energy in the project. Mimic that. Eventually that will become habit. The phrase "GE-trained" was code for an effective imitation of Jack Welch.
- Identify and nurture those with the influence and power to get things done faster, more smoothly and with better outcomes for the client. Rainmakers are people with the right contacts. Developing them is almost a full-time job, particularly given the volatility in the current professional and political world. Analyze how rainmakers cultivate their networks, including how they exert a pull force, establish distance with those not useful, and prune those no longer useful. Practice this and your reach will grow and grow.
- Maintain a persona of self-assurance. The old guard called it "grace under pressure." Confidence is one of the most contagious emotions. It is also one of those intangibles which bring in clients, keep clients, win cases, and prevent disputes from worsening. In her book by that title, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter asserts that attribute "helps people take control of circumstances rather than be dragged along by them." There's more. Kanter insists confidence is the how winning streaks and losing streaks begin and end. Monitor how rainmakers communicate self-assurance, no matter what's occurring externally. You can acquire the same composure.
- Do immediate course correction. It's irrelevant what caused the problem. And apology is not as important as executive coaches are claiming. All that counts is the fix, ranging from its quality to the speed with which it's put in place. Understand what strategies and tactics rainmakers use to resolve difficulties. Imitating them probably will entail investing more into building a body of knowledge/skills and being able to marshall resources within and outside the firm.
- Know that trust can be re-built. Rainmakers in the form of chief executive officers, ambassadors, and political campaign managers do that all the time. The essential requirement is keen negotiation skills, that is, what has to be provided in the way of admission, repentance, and new terms and conditions. Some of this is intuitive. Most of it comes with experience, effective and inept. Rainmakers learn fast or, as they say in Silicon Valley, fail fast. Imitation requires getting out there and be willing to try to win back accounts, respect, access to resources, even a whole professional reputation.
- Maintain as low a profile as possible. Rainmakers are usually behind-the-scenes players. They will only enter the limelight when a client's agenda demands it. The client understands this. For example, a rainmaker might deliver the keynote speech at Organization X to communicate influence and power - which helps the client's negotiating ability. This can be imitated easily if you increase your own sense of self. Paradoxically secure self-esteem lessens any temptation at grandstanding for its own sake.
One more thing: Rainmakers are more often self-made than born. Former folk hero Lee Iacocca, who I wrote for at Chrysler, once had difficulty with presenting himself in public. He took a Dale Carnegie public speaking course. Then he made it his business to fly out to where he was to deliver the speech for his then-employer Ford a day before it was scheduled. He practiced in his hotel room, at the actual location of the speech, and in front of anyone who would listen. He wound up revolutionizing corporate rhetoric, in addition to selling a record number of cars and minivans.