Building Strong Relationships in Legal Business Development: Remembering a Few Acronyms May be Half the Battle

By Steve Fretzin

In writing multiple books and articles over the past 20 years, it’s become a fun hobby of mine to create interesting and memorable acronyms for the systems I want lawyers to use and remember. We all use acronyms when we text or to shorten something to make it easy to use. A few of my favorites include ASAP, BTW and ETA. In the legal business development space, there’s also CRM (client relationship management), ROI (return on investment) and an old school sales reference, ABC (always be closing).

When working with attorneys, I’ve developed a few of my own acronyms, specifically around networking, that might help you in your pursuits. Here are three that I know you’ll enjoy.

FRETZIN Acronym #1: LFG!

When playing my favorite sport, Platform Tennis (paddle to some), I regularly hear my partner shout out “Let’s F#<k!ng Go!” In some instances, this is shortened to LFG again, primarily for texting purposes. But, in thinking more about this, a new meaning for LFG popped into my head. To be a successful networker and get REAL business from it, I want you to think LFG!

  • Listen
  • Find
  • Give

When you’re meeting someone new or even someone from your past, ask questions and really LISTEN to them. Stop thinking about what you want to say or any “one-upmanship.” Being an active listener is key to understanding what someone’s needs really are.

Then, FIND out what they need or who they want to meet. Identifying strong connections or opportunities for others is one of the most important tenets of effective networking.

Finally, GIVE solid connections to others that advance THEIR interests. This doesn’t have to be in the form of business today (like a lead or a prospect) but rather should focus on strategic introductions to other professionals who may be tactical to their obtaining business. You can also invite them to other groups, associations, etc. where you belong and introduce them around.

This is just an easier way to think about and execute when networking. Trust me, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

FRETZIN Acronym #2: BILL

Let’s say that you’re attending a business networking event or a conference. What do you talk about with all these strangers? Well, not to worry. For this issue we always pay the BILL. I came up with this years ago and it really works. You ask questions around these four categories.

  • Business
  • Interests
  • Loved Ones
  • Life Purpose

For business questions, simply ask, “What do you do (name)?” Or “Tell me about how you got started in (their business)?”

For questions around interests, just ask, “What do you enjoy doing when you’re not attending these stuffy events (name)?” Or “What part of town are you from (name)?”

Questions around loved ones have a caveat attached to them. Only ask these questions after you know someone has family in their life. For example, if someone shared that she lives in the city with her husband and two daughters, it’s open season for me to ask, “That’s terrific, what ages are they?” Or “What are they into these days?”

The last category of questioning that I want you to remember is around someone’s life purpose. While this might seem a little intense, the point is to find what makes someone tick or what they are truly passionate about. Is it a charity? Is it a sport they love? Their kids? When you tap into this, you can build a very strong relationship with anyone.

FRETZIN Acronym #3: TALENT

One of the most missed elements of networking is to properly QUALIFY the people with whom you meet. This can happen before a scheduled one-on-one or during it, to ensure you don’t invest too much time with the wrong people. The qualities that you should be looking for in a strong strategic partner for your business is all in the TALENT.

  • Trust
  • Authority
  • Likability
  • Empathy
  • Network
  • Top Player

 In networking, trust is at the forefront of importance. Can you count on or even refer someone who is untrustworthy? A resounding NO!

When evaluating professionals, it’s of critical importance to find authorities in various areas of the law and other strategic categories. Professionals with experience, education and a solid bedside manner are easily referable. Be careful of people who talk a big game, but really fall short when introduced. There’s no easier way to blow up a relationship than to refer someone who stinks at their craft.

How about likability? Can you really refer someone that you can’t stand the sight of? Use your gut and evaluate if this would be someone you’d likely be friends with. If not, it’s probably good to take a pass.

If you’re an empathetic person, it’s likely that you want to mix it up with people who care about others. Try to find caring people to network with. These are typically not “takers” but rather the “givers” you meet.

This one is more along the margins, so use your own discretion. Does this individual have a solid network to draw so they can refer you? Do they own their client list? Starting from scratch with a new networker or someone who is behind the scenes may be a time suck, so be careful when advancing.

The last one is similar to the one above, as it relates to networking with individuals who are the top players in their space. Again, would you rather network with an owner, CEO, VP or someone behind the scenes? It shouldn’t be a surprise that executives who have built something of their own have greater access to those relationships.

As you can see, I’ve put a lot of time and thought into these concepts to make my clients’ time count (and my own). I’d suggest writing down these acronyms and using them until they become ingrained. I know you will get the same benefits my lawyer clients get every day. For more information on FRETZIN and what we do to help lawyers become highly effective rainmakers, go to www.fretzin.com or email me at [email protected] to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

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