Confession: I often forget how much I can learn if I simply shut up, and observe (intentional listening). The marketing acumen of George is an example. A group was huddled in front of the LexBlog booth at the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference. Two or three friends were stumbling over each other, enthusiastically spreading the word of a local taxi driver’s service. I asked one of those evangelists — Cynthia Voth, Marketing Director at the law firm of Graham & Dunn PC in Seattle, Washington to share the story. Here, in this Guest Post, are her observations.
Traveling to Orlando for the 2014 LMA conference, I shared a cab with three fellow legal marketers, and the experience turned out to be a surprising 7-point lesson on exceptional business development.
1. Developing a relationship begins with (preparation and) the first Hello.
Our driver’s name was George and he began establishing his relationship with us as soon as he arrived. Because we were a group of four, we had waited extra time for a taxi-van. Despite the fact that we were four Seattleites thankful to be in the sun, the muggy weather had us sweating and George knew that we had been waiting. His hello, responsiveness, and disposition were an expert blend of friendliness, humor, and get-it-done efficiency.
2. Be attentive, get to know your prospect, and find ways to help.
When you help others and show that you care, remarkable things will happen. In this case, it began with a basket of chocolates. George passed it back, and with enthusiastic (but not too much) encouragement, offered each of us a chocolate bar or two. One of us quipped that what he really wanted was water. He had noticed a partial case on the floor, picked up a bottle, and asked how much for one. George brilliantly waited a few seconds and then replied that my friend could not have that bottle. As we sat there wondering whether our initial impression of our driver’s client service sensibilities was incorrect, George removed a towel from what appeared to be an arm rest next to his seat. He opened the lid to a cooler filled with ice-cold water bottles. “You should have one of these instead,” was George’s well-timed reply—and there was no charge. He passed back bottles until each of us had one.
3. After you have offered your help once, don’t stop there.
George’s hospitality continued. He offered us gum and Sunny D in the minutes that followed. While none of us took him up on these, he had our appreciation and we knew that George was a master at taking care of his clients.
4. Articulate the ask, without the feel of a “sale.”
George knew that each of us would be flying out after the conference, and asked how and when we planned to return to the airport. There were four potential future fares. George pointed out that the cabs at the hotel would add a resort charge, but he wouldn’t. All of us agreed to give him a shot. He had all but ensured that our answer would be yes with his practical and appropriate helpfulness, and his reasonable proposal.
5. Confirm the deal after the answer is “Yes” and continue to demonstrate your expertise.
When the first of us had agreed to book a return, George (not missing a beat and, more importantly, being prepared to respond to an opportunity) had a notebook and pen at the ready to write down our information. He let us know that he would text a confirmation before he picked us up. George demonstrated his expertise by offering a recommendation of a pick-up time to ensure timely arrival at the airport, based on the time of day. Most importantly, he was careful to ensure that we agreed with his suggested timing.
6. Follow through on all promises made, and communicate well, and often.
I shared George’s biz dev example at a presentation I made the following day and included this slide, along with George’s phone number:
My lead-in bullet was, “Know how to articulate the ask.”
At least three people from my session told me they were planning to call George. If you are keeping track, one ride from the airport had generated seven potential additional fares — the result of a combination of service savvy, an effective ask, and the power of referrals.
At 9:22 p.m. the night before my scheduled pick up, George texted to confirm, and provide an opportunity for me to adjust my timing. Within seconds of my reply, he sent a thank you to confirm that my confirmation had been received. Excellent communication makes all the difference in establishing trust.
7. Just because the deal is done, don’t stop communicating. And be sure to express gratitude.
George was ten minutes early, texted that he had arrived, and encouraged me to take my time. His demeanor was as pleasant and positive as it had been three days earlier. The chocolates and water were offered again, and I had plenty of time to get checked in. While in the security line, I received a final text from George to thank me and wish me a good trip. Spelling notwithstanding, it was very nicely (and expertly) executed from start to finish.
I am not sure when I’ll visit Orlando next, but I would call George again, and would recommend him without hesitation. Solidifying relationships with new clients and building trust and loyalty is an art that George has mastered. While each professional should put their own individual stamp on how they develop business, there are fundamental steps that will help ensure more effective relationship and business development. Legal professionals can draw their own parallels to the lessons above. We can find great success by adapting a page from George’s playbook.
And, if you are travelling to Orlando, give George a call at 407-361-7606.
Cynthia has nineteen years of marketing experience that spans working with law firms, large financial institutions, small businesses, and non-profits. She serves as 2014 president of the Legal Marketing Association Northwest Chapter.