What the New HBO Show “The Rehearsal” Can Teach Lawyers About Business Development

As I was stream-surfing this weekend, the way we all do, I bumped into something thoroughly intriguing and decided to watch the opening episode. The new HBO show entitled “The Rehearsal” sets up the host, Nathan Fielder, and his guest on a mission to solve a difficult life challenge in a truly unique way. Before giving away the twist here, let me ask you a few questions. 

  • What if you could know the outcome of a specific scenario before it happens? 
  • What if you knew and thoroughly reviewed every possible outcome to handle it perfectly?
  • How would this change your life for the better versus winging it? 

Think about it from a life choice perspective, for example, asking your spouse for a divorce. Or, in your world, asking a client for a quality introduction to another general counsel.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know the answer or outcome before you received it?  Wouldn’t this help to better prepare for any possible outcomes? This is the premise of “The Rehearsal” – to better prepare and handle any eventualities. 

If you think about it, some rehearsals already happen in the legal profession, such as hiring a jury consultant to run a mock trial, for example. The insights recognized allow you to make serious modifications to get the best outcome possible. Believe it or not, I work with attorneys in a similar way when engaging in building relationships, running networking meetings and dealing with potential new clients. The idea is to prepare for meetings, understand what may happen ahead of time and actively direct people to a positive outcome. Here are three ways you can improve your business development efforts, similar to the “The Rehearsal.”

Pre-call planning. While this may sound simple enough, most attorneys aren’t doing this simple yet primary step. When you meet or speak to someone for the first time, you should plan the relationship building piece of the meeting well ahead of it happening. Don’t talk about the news, weather, traffic or even make observations of their Zoom background. Bad, bad, bad! I’ve gotten wise to people talking about my autographed Michael Jordan jersey or commenting that I must be a big basketball fan because MJ in my background. They either really like MJ or they just don’t know what else to say. I suspect it’s mostly the latter.  Do your research! Look up the person on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and on their website to find one or two things to compliment them on or to inquire about. For me, just ask about my business, my BE THAT LAWYER podcast, or the latest fishing trip with my son. All of these will produce a better relationship and outcome than some observation made in my office. 

Have a few stock answers to questions you get on a regular basis. One of the biggest takeaways lawyers get from working with me is that we identify and remove many of the hurdles that exist when engaging in business development activities. For example, when meeting with a perspective client, she might ask, “What are your rates?” What do you say to that? Do you give the number on the spot? Do you try to explain away why your rates are high to support the number you gave?

Whatever the case, this is one situation, of many, that shouldn’t be handled on the fly or willy-nilly. Preparing for questions that routinely come up is critical to removing the roadblocks before they actually occur. One of my clients recently went through this exact situation with buyers who asked about rates in the first five minutes of their visit with him. He’d give them the number, and then wonder why he wasn’t signing many of them up. In debriefing this together, we agreed that when buyers had the number, without understanding the value first, they would get sticker shock and not proceed. The answer wasn’t avoiding the question, but rather providing it at the end of the meeting, after they were totally bought into him as their new lawyer. We also devised a “one-liner” that would effectively hold off answering that question until the end of the meeting when it’s more applicable to share. It would go something like this:

“Bob, what are your rates?”

“That’s a terrific question Jennifer. I get that question a lot these days. Unfortunately, it’s a lot like asking how much does a bag of groceries cost. It’s very hard to give numbers until I understand what’s in the bag and if you’re shopping at Whole Foods or Aldi. Would you be okay if we discussed the numbers closer to the end of our visit today?”  

I think you get the point here. It’s so important to have a strongly prepared answer to questions that comes up prematurely in a business meeting. We work on dozens of these, so my clients are prepared to direct the conversation, not to be directed. 

Role-playing will prepare you for success. When I tell my new clients that they will be role-playing different scenarios with other lawyers in my weekly class, they aren’t all thrilled about it; until they actually do it. Just like prepping for a trial, we are practicing and improving skills that are necessary to become a top rainmaker. Setting agendas for meetings, asking an established list of questions and objection handling techniques are commonplace in my program. Again, the theme of “wing it” is not acceptable.

Many attorneys meet with their old friends, past referral sources and existing clientele to network with the HOPE of getting something out of the meeting. And then it doesn’t happen. For my clients, we regularly go through specific scenarios to practice, learn and improve on business development skills to ensure ongoing success. Leaving little to chance is the name of the game in my book.

While the show “The Rehearsal” is not for everyone (it’s quirky), it did provide the inspiration for this article which I hope opens up your eyes to some realities when does biz-dev. First, that preparation is a key element to relationship building and gaining trust with people. Second, that preparing answers to regularly asked questions will help improve prospect-to-client conversations. And lastly, that role-playing, while sometimes uncomfortable, will allow you to screw up and obtain critical feedback in a safe environment. 

For more information about how FRETZIN helps attorneys to BE THAT LAWYER, check out my website at www.fretzin.com or email me directly to chat at steve@fretzin.com.

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