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Client Loyalty Post #7: How well do you really know and understand your clients?

03.03.21 | Susan Duncan

This is the seventh in our weekly series of posts that provide excerpts and tips from our book Building Enduring Client Loyalty: A Guide for Lawyers and Their Firms, just published in February.  Click here to save 10%. Enter code ‘BEC10’ at the checkout

What do you need to understand about the client as a business?

Clients want their lawyers to understand their businesses, industries and how legal issues and strategies fit into the business context.  Clients also want their lawyers to do more than read their financial statements. They want their legal advisers to know about their business’s strategy and business plan, to understand the company’s business lines, distribution channels, competitors and profit model, and to counsel them proactively on risk triggers and solutions, as well as peer benchmarks.

Ask yourself how much you know about the following areas of each of your client’s business: how the recent year concluded, the company’s financial position and growth strategy, challenges and opportunities the company anticipates, the client’s industry and its position relative to peers and competitors, the organization structure of the business, the client’s customers, competitors, distribution channels, the client’s technology and data environment, privacy and security risks, the client’s labor and employment culture, policies, climate, and the client’s current and projected legal needs, annual budget and service providers.

What do you need to know about the client as a person?

Clients are not a single entity – they are comprised of individuals who have different perspectives, backgrounds and preferences.  Building rapport and relationship trust requires that the lawyer get to know their clients as people. On the professional side, this includes what drives and motivates them, what their career aspirations are, what they like and don’t like about their role or their company, what the political climate is for them inside the company and what their personal stumbling blocks are.

On the personal side, your goal should be to get to know clients and to try to find areas of commonality that you or someone else in your firm has with the client.  Rapport-building questions and discussions can focus on hometown, college, graduate school, their career path and prior work experience, families, hobbies, favorite vacation spots and interests like traveling, biking, hiking, golf, skiing, sports, cooking, gardening, wine and civic or charitable activities or passions.  In addition to getting to know clients at an individual, personal level, it is critical that lawyers really understand the pressures many of them face.

What is your client’s communication style and personality?

In order to build stronger relationships with clients, lawyers must have a clear self-awareness and an understanding of what motivates their clients as well as the looking glass through which their clients hear and respond to things.  To deepen client relationships, it is important for lawyers to understand their own style, preferences and tendencies to see how others may perceive and react to them, and to help coach team members on how to more effectively interact with them. It is equally important for lawyers to understand what their clients’ styles and preferences are so they can adapt their approaches and communication style to each client.  As we profile in the book, even without the benefit of knowing for certain a client’s psychometric profile, it is relatively easy to make some assumptions about them and then tailor your approaches accordingly.

RainMaking Oasis provides consulting and coaching services to law firms and lawyers in the areas of client loyalty and development, business development and growth strategy, collaboration and innovation and succession planning. Please contact Susan Duncan at [email protected].