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I’ll Tell You What I Want (What I Really, Really Want)

ImageOne of the business development tips that pops into my mind most often is “Give them what they want so you can give them what they need.”  Since I heard it during an LMA event several years ago, I’ve put the phrase into practice on numerous occasions in different ways. As legal marketers, sometimes we’re lucky and have an attorney who follows the Spice Girls mantra of “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want” and it matches up with what our training and backgrounds tell us they really, really need.  And sometimes…want and need are as different as Posh Spice and Sporty Spice.

I first put the mantra into practice when helping an attorney with a pitch to a major client facing a potentially costly lawsuit.  The attorney wanted to send the client our most generic materials – despite the fact that we had experience and capabilities in the venue and with the opposing party involved in the case.  Despite the fact that he told me what he wanted, I sent several drafts that included the information I thought he needed.  Why wouldn’t we include information demonstrating that we understood the case and the client’s needs – and that we had the experience to match?    

Frustrated, I went to my boss and told her that the attorney was “taking the teeth out of the pitch.”  She responded that I had done the best I could to give the attorney what he needed, and now I should focus on giving him what he wanted.  With every control freak nerve in my body tingling, I sent the “toothless” pitch to the attorney.  He was thrilled and complimentary.  I was defeated and annoyed.

But then I realized that there was still an opportunity to convey our specific experience and capabilities with the client:  the post-pitch call.  Knowing that my attorney would be sitting down with the client’s in-house legal team, I created a list of talking points and notes for him to help prepare for the meeting.  Where did those talking points come from?  They were the “teeth” of my initial pitch…just in bullet form.   The very language that he had rejected two days before was suddenly “a lifesaver” and was used to guide the meeting.  And (at least I like to think) to secure the work.

What is YOUR experience with giving attorneys what they want so that you can give them what they need?  What tips do you have for fellow marketers on how to put this into practice?

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