Edge International


Build Conversational Momentum to Set the Table for the Pitch

Build Conversational Momentum to Set the Table for the Pitch

To their credit, lawyers are results-oriented professionals. When we practice our craft, we think in terms of objectives, and the activities necessary along the way to achieve those goals. Clients pay for results and lawyers want to deliver on those expected results. Generally speaking, this is a great bias to have as a professional services provider – and as a lawyer. However, such a bias can muck up the business-development process.

I often find that many of my clients think very “digitally” about relationship-cultivating conversations: the discussion toggles between personal-rapport building (“So, how are the spouse and kids?”) and the ultimate “ask” (“So, how about giving me a shot at working on one of your matters; try me out . . . you’ll like it!”).

Relationship cultivation is not a process that operates at two ends of a continuum but rather is iterative, cumulative, and permission-based. It requires one to manage toward a series of tactical conversational and (often information-gathering) goals that fall well short of the ultimate goal of getting retained to do work; it is a process that – if done right – sets the table for the culminating “retention ask” without making that “ask” while you are setting that table.

In developing relationships, it takes time to get to a point where you can pitch prospects on why they should hire you. When you do get to that point, the message is pretty simple: Articulate your value proposition – i.e., answer these questions: “Why are you good? ” “Why are you different? ” “What problem will you help me solve?”  “Why will we get unique business value from working with you?” However, setting the table for that discussion during the relationship-building and information-gathering phase requires you to use a different form of conversational currency; the “value proposition” isn’t relevant yet.

There are lots of reasons why persons of consequence might want to spend time in meeting with you while you’re gathering your intelligence, building a history and establishing a relationship. Below is a list of some reasons you can use to secure the next meeting:

Use the above concepts to link together your interactions over time and generate conversational momentum. This momentum sets the table for your pivot to “the pitch.”

Here is an example of multi-discussion sequence with a new prospect. Notice how every conversation builds from the other, thereby creating the desired momentum:

Conversation #1 – Rapport build; establish connection; gain general industry or functional knowledge

Conversation #2 – Anecdotal survey about industry or function; benchmarking and best practices discussion

Conversation #3 – Areas of responsibility – matter types, etc.; professional pain points and areas of movement; learn about relationship-brokerage opportunities

Conversation #4 – Propose introductions; deliver value add; pre-close proposition

Conversation #5 – Pre-close and share expectations

Mike White

Edge Principal was a practicing attorney for seven years prior to founding and operating two enterprise software companies — Sirius Systems (sold 1997) and MarketingCentral (sold 2007). He owned and managed ClientQuest Consulting, LLC for 10 years serving law firms. He holds an AB in History from Duke University and a JD from Emory University School of Law.