One of the biggest time wasters in legal business development is emailing. You might have asked yourself one of the following questions:
- Is my email too short or too long?
- What do I say in the email to get a response?
- How do I avoid the back and forth which saps my time away?
- What is the appropriate follow up steps when there’s no response?
Whatever the scenario, it’s important to consider that emailing has the ability to make or break new opportunities, your time and level of frustration when you’re already busy! So, here are five tips to help you get on the right path of using email more effectively when doing business development.
Email Tip #1. Don’t have the entire conversation over an email
One of the worst things I’ve seen as a biz-dev coach for attorneys are the jaw-droppingly long essays that are produced by attorneys who say and give-away too much, which fails to leave the door open for an actual call or meeting. A good rule of thumb is to limit your emails to two or three paragraphs tops. If you think you’re busy, do you really think someone wants to sit and read an email where they have to scroll down the page to finish it?
Try to keep the email to three core elements. For example, if you received a referral to a new potential strategic partner, open it up with a “thank you” to the introducer. Then, mention briefly why it would be good to get together (list a reason or two). Lastly, share some specific dates/times that work for you and ask your new friend which might work for her. It’s okay to save your questions or pitch for later when you’re meeting for lunch.
Email Tip #2. Consider the goal of the email before writing it
When I make or respond to an email, I always take a moment to consider what the end goal is before sending. Is it to get this person on the phone or schedule a face to face in the next two weeks? Email should be used as a tool to get that end result accomplished, not to actually have the conversation. Don’t make the mistake of selling or dragging emails out to demonstrate expertise. Focus on the “less is more” philosophy here.
Email Tip #3. Use email to set up a “game-plan” for the meeting
It’s possible that you’ve had networking meetings that went absolutely nowhere. One of the main reasons this happens is because no one stepped up with an agenda. A great solution for this is to share a proposed game-plan by email to set the table for a successful visit. Some elements to include would be:
Time-Try to keep the meeting to 45-60 minutes, versus a two-hour marathon.
Purpose- Why are you meeting? If it’s to discuss a possible new strategic partnership, you may want to share that idea.
Expectation- Is this to learn about one another? You might imply splitting up the talk time to ensure both parties get to learn about one another.
Outcome- What are you hoping to have happen here? Share the mutual intent with your new friend.
Email Tip #4. Use specific dates to remove the back and forth
As I mentioned earlier, it can be very time consuming to go back and forth with a new networking partner or prospective client to solidify a dates/time to meet or speak. The best solution for this is to always include 3-5 specific dates/times that work for you in the next week or two. This is much better than emailing someone and saying, “let me know when you’re free?”
Providing dates that work for you allow the other person to quickly check their calendar and get back to you in ONE EMAIL with the date that works. Then, I recommend sending a meeting invite to get this meeting entered into both parties’ calendars right away.
Email Tip #5. A few email scripts to improve your follow up
One of the things I help clients with regularly are scripting out follow up emails to re-engage people who need a little push. Here are three that you might:
Initial email to a prospective client:
It was great chatting with you today. As we discussed, it would make a lot of sense to get together and take a deeper dive into your legal issues. We can meet in my office for 45-minutes and hash out your needs. Here are some dates/times that I have available. Please let me know asap on one of these as my calendar is evolving daily. Thanks!
(then list 3-5 dates and times)
If she doesn’t respond in 3-5 business days, you might send her this:
I hope the day finds you well. Just checking in on a follow up email I sent you last week. You might have missed it, which is no issues at all. I know how busy you are. That being said, my schedule has changed and I need to provide you some alternative dates/times to get together in the next few weeks. I know these legal issues are pressing, so please get back to me asap. Thanks! (then share new dates)
If she doesn’t respond to the 2nd email, then send this one. It allows you to take control back from Karen who’s been unresponsive:
Just checking in to see if everything is okay. When we spoke a few weeks ago, it seemed clear that we should get together and discuss your pressing legal needs. Has anything changed? Like you, I am extremely busy and don’t want to be a pest to you if you’ve changed direction or have decided this wasn’t urgent after all. Unless I hear from you today, I’ll go ahead and close your file. I hope the issues don’t get worse and happy to help you when you’re ready. Thanks (no dates given here, just looking for a response).
These emails escalate to generate a response to re-engage the prospective client. The last email actually works to move the prospect to a “no,” which might seem counterintuitive. In reality, it’s better than chasing after someone who is not being honest with you or has moved in another direction. For many of my clients, they love the closure and time savings from moving someone to a “no.”
As you can see, this isn’t brain surgery or rocket science, however, it is really important to have a little process, structure and specific language when using email for business development. I hope you can use a few of these ideas for better time management and overall results when using email. Also, if you’re interested in learning more tips like this, please visit Amazon to grab one of my many books on legal business development or check out my new podcast at https://live-fretzin.pantheonsite.io/podcast/.