Associate conundrums: How to work the room

Associate conundrums

Is it enough to simply be a good lawyer and to service clients properly and efficiently when it comes to business development?

Undoubtedly providing expert advice and delivering a first class service is critical but is this alone going to develop more business? On its own possibly, but only with an existing and loyal client. As far as attracting and developing new relationships is concerned the answer is no.

As an associate, you will be invited to numerous events some of which you will look forward to and others of which you will dread. Either way, these events offer the opportunity of meeting people and sowing the seeds of fruitful business relationships. If you don’t go to these events, you won’t meet people. If you don’t meet people, no one will know who you are and what you offer. If no one knows who you are and what you offer, your business will not develop.

Turning up at events and chatting to people you know from your firm is not an efficient use of your valuable time. You can do that elsewhere. You need to make new contacts. And that is all you need to do – there is no pressure or expectation on you to reel in a major new client from a business development event. If you do, then enjoy the ride, but it usually takes much more than a quick chat over a glass of something fruity and a cheese straw for someone to trust you with their million pound plus deal.

You need to be focused in your targeting – no scattergun approach here. Where you can, find out who is going to be at the event (and if you can’t it’s usually fairly easy to make an educated guess dependent on the type of event you are attending), put together a short list of people you would like to meet (two or three is perfect) and do a little research on them.

Go to the event, remembering that you have a lot to offer as a person as well as a professional and are the type of person who likes other human beings (this is important). Be confident in your approach, initiate a conversation, ask questions and listen to the answers. Ask more questions based on what you have just heard and before you know it you will have someone thinking you are actually interested in them rather than being the sort of person who has one preferred topic of conversation – themselves.

Don’t stress about small talk, just jump in and be open to the direction of travel – these events are not sales meetings. Most of us generally want to have a handful of good conversations with normal people and then go home.

Having made the connection, don’t attach yourself to that person like a leech latching on to a juicy and unsuspecting leg in a lake. Rather, politely thank people for their time; say how much you have enjoyed the conversation and promise to stay in touch. Normal rules of social interaction do not apply – it is perfectly acceptable, actually it is encouraged, to move on. Work the room. Find your next ‘target’ and make your mark. You need your contacts to remember your name, how you help people and where possible something of interest.

Above all, you need to inspire confidence. The words of Maya Angelou are pertinent here: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Then comes the long-term aspect of developing business relationships – a topic for another conundrum.

Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach.