How to break the ice with 'cold calling'

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Published on 7/7/08

The "next big thing" may be firms adding licensed attorneys whose job it is to perform sales. But many lawyers lack either the professional insight or the plan necessary for success with the toughest job in sales: cold calling. Willy Loman may have needed only "a shoeshine and a smile" to do cold calls, but lawyers must be much more focused.

Professional conduct codes vary widely on cold calling. A number of states follow American Bar Association Rule 7.3, which prohibits "in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact [to] solicit professional employment from a prospective client" when the solicitation involves "coercion, duress or harassment," or when "a significant motive ... is the lawyer's pecuniary gain" - in other words, greedy ambulance chasers beware.

Some states go much further: Indiana, for example, forbids any contact that recommends the employment of "the lawyer, the lawyer's partner, associate or the lawyer's firm."

Massachusetts, by contrast, is comparatively relaxed, as its Rule 7.3 simply states that "in soliciting professional employment, a lawyer shall not coerce or harass a prospective client and shall not make a false or misleading communication."

If you know the ethics involved, you need a cold-calling strategy. Create a profile of your ideal client and develop a marketing strategy to reach this target. You can increase your cold-calling effectiveness dramatically by focusing on clients who fit the demographic, geographic, financial and occupational profile to give you the business you want. Internet research, visits to trade association meetings and conversation with current clients can guide you.

Whether your cold calling will be in person or through your profile on a social networking website, you need visibility. That doesn't always mean a catchy or unusual brand image. The self-brand you use to be memorable should not undermine prospects' confidence to hire you.

There must be something substantive behind the tag line to make your target market believe you can handle their large issue matters. Check this out by asking your current clients to react to the brand identity tag you've created and to suggest other tag lines that they believe would be effective for you now that they've actually experienced your services. Be able to articulate a message on what you do and convey it with clarity, brevity and power.

Once you know who you're talking to and how you want to present yourself, you are positioned to decide what you want to provide. A business card and brochure are not enough. You also need to create a bond with your prospect and show them you can provide value.

When you make the first interaction, present research on key stakeholders and pressing industry issues. Offer opportunities for training or a business needs assessment. Do something that will be seen as value received by the recipient. That means an investment in time and expense - but it also means your cold-calling effort is more likely to bear fruit.

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