Once you’ve determined that a new contact is a potential business partner, it makes sense to set up a follow-up one-on-one meeting as the next step in networking to build your law firm. This step is one that many attorneys find difficult. Call my office today at 312-981-0119 for a free consultation to see how we can help develop your networking skills.
As with any other professional meeting, creating and following an agenda is a basis for reaching a professional connection beyond a short conversation at a crowded event. This also helps you not only take control of the meeting but retain the ability to cut it short if the direction becomes unfruitful. I’ve worked with hundreds of attorneys in learning to set an agenda for the follow-up networking meeting.
Just before you launch into your meeting agenda, it is the opportune time to “pay the B-I-L-L” as discussed in my recent blog article. After exchanging pleasantries, suggest to your contact that you work through the following game plan:
Step 1: Ask permission to set an agenda or game plan for the meeting.
Make sure you communicate that you’re not forcing your agenda on the other person. To do this, ask that person’s permission to establish a framework for the meeting that works for both parties. You can use the following statement: “I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me today. In order to make the most of our time together, I thought it would make sense to set up a little game plan for our meeting this morning. Is that okay with you?” This approach is a foolproof way to gain buy-in from your contact.
Step 2: Establish or reconfirm the time limit for your meeting.
The last thing you or your contact wants is to be stuck in a directionless meeting with no purpose. By establishing a time limit, you’re protecting your valuable time. If you’re uncomfortable, you can use this simple phrasing: “We’d agreed on the phone to meet for an hour. We have 50 minutes left; are you still good with that?” If the meeting is creeping past the time limit and you’ve determined that it’s not going well, feel free to tell your contact that you have another meeting scheduled and have to run.
Step 3: Ask for the contact’s agreement that the purpose is to see if there’s a “fit.”
Isn’t that what this is all about, anyway? You’re here to use networking to build your law firm business. We’re looking for a win-win relationship and need to establish a “fit” as the goal for our meeting. This part is simple; you just say, “From my perspective, the purpose of us meeting today is for us to determine if there’s a ‘fit’ to work together. Does that sound good to you?” On the other hand, if the meeting isn’t going well and you realize that there’s not a fit, don’t hesitate to speak up and gain the contact’s agreement to move on and not work together. Remember, not everyone will be a fit for you, and that’s okay.
Step 4: Establish clear expectations for both parties.
Vocalizing the expectations each of you has for the meeting is important to ensure balance during the meeting between talking and listening. Both components are important for both parties to learn about each other’s business and potential needs. By addressing this issue directly, you’re equalizing the discussion and warding off the frustration that ensues when one person monopolizes the conversation, with the “talker” later wanting another meeting because he or she learned nothing about you or your practice.
Step 5: Articulate a positive outcome for both parties.
The final step in the agenda-setting process is the most important of all. This is the confirmation of a commitment to mutually help one another in some small way if there should be a fit. A good way to introduce this topic is to state, “At the end of our meeting, if we see that there’s a clear fit for us to help one another, I’d suggest we try to take a small step forward together, such as making an easy connection for one another or inviting one another to attend an upcoming event. How do you feel about that?”
Remember, your goal here is to use networking to build your law firm, and you don’t want to waste time with contacts with whom you share no mutual benefit potential. I’ve helped hundreds of lawyers refine their approach to this process, and I can help you. Call me at (312) 981-0119 or to set up a free consultation.