Finding your inner Stormtrooper

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Just read an article in the ABA Journal about an Arizona lawyer who loves Star Wars and “dressing up or ‘cosplaying’ as a Stormtrooper.”

She attends conventions, marches in parades, and belongs to an international organization of thousands of fans who have fun and raise money for charities. She also does some legal work for her local chapter of the organization.

Some lawyers would say that dressing up is unprofessional. Some would say it’s a waste of time.

I would say, nicely done.

C’mon, she gets to get out of the office and spend time with people who share her passion. She gets to raise money for hospitals. And, instead of building her network at boring Chamber of Commerce meetings, she’s building her network doing something she loves.

Not to mention getting an article in the ABA Journal about her.

I did a coaching call yesterday with a lawyer whose practice needs a shot in the arm. One thing we talked about is getting out of the office, doing something different, and meeting some new people.

I don’t know if he’s a Star Wars fan but I hear the Rebel Forces are recruiting.

Marketing your practice starts with The Formula

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Three’s Company

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Last night I watched a “Where are they Now?” video about the old TV show, “Three’s Company”. It was good to see some familiar faces and how they looked today, and sad remembering how young John Ritter was when he left us.

In the comments, someone asked, “What was the name of the bar they always hung out at?”

Do you remember?

Jack and Janet and Chrissy went there a lot. They met up with Jack’s friend, Larry. Sometimes, Mr. and Mrs. Roper showed up. And Mr. Furley. (I loved Mr. Furley. I loved everything Don Knotts did.) 

I haven’t seen the show in decades but of course, I remembered the name of “The Regal Beagle”.

Anyway, it was good remembering a show that provided so many laughs and a simpler time. The beautiful women didn’t hurt.

Oh, do you remember the time Jack fell over the sofa. . .

Anyway, my point isn’t to confess that I spent too much time watching TV back then. It’s that if you have some of the same fond memories of Three’s Company, you and I have something in common and if we were having this conversation in person, we would bond over those memories.

When you meet someone for the first time, sharing a memory or a common interest can do wonders for getting everyone to relax and feel good about each other.

If I walk into your office for the first time and see you have a chess board on your credenza, you and I are going to have something to talk about. I like you already. Unfortunately, we may not get any work done.

Popular culture–TV, movies, books, sports, games, the news (be careful that one, however), are all fodder for finding common ground with people we meet.

They’re also good subjects to put in your blog or newsletter.

What’s on your blog?

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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Suppose your first name is David. And suppose you’re in a semi-public setting and someone you’ve met before comes up to you and says, “Hi David.”

Do you think, “Nice. He remembered my name.”

We like hearing our name, don’t we? Dale Carnegie told us “A person’s name is the sweetest sound.” The late Herb Kelleher made a point of remembering and using the first names of his employees, and they loved him for it.

Research tells us that hearing your first name activates different parts of your brain than hearing the names of other people. “Adults never tire of hearing their name,” the researchers said.

But hold on.

What if it’s a young person addressing you and you’re old enough to be their father? Or they’re a client and you’re their attorney? Or you’ve just spoken on stage and someone in the crowd comes to ask you a question?

Wait, one more. You have a new secretary and, day one, she calls you by your first name. 

I’ve had all of the above happen to me. When they do, I’m thinking, “How about a little respect? How about asking if it’s okay to use my first name?”

But then I’m old-fashioned. Or a stuck-up pain-in-the-ass, take your pick. 

I was taught to respect my elders, say please and thank you,  smile when you meet someone and pay attention when someone else is talking.  

You know, manners. 

Be nice if more people minded their manners and showed people a little respect.

But then I’m old-fashioned. Or a stuck-up pain-in-the-ass, take your pick. 

Want more referrals? Of course you do

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If you hate networking, this might be why

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You might say that networking hasn’t been a fruitful use of your time but you can’t say it’s difficult. It’s easy to meet people, start a conversation, exchange pleasantries, and chat about what you do. It’s easy to exchange cards (or digits).

Where many professionals drop the ball is with follow-up.

You come home with new contacts (or renewed contacts). Now what? What happens next?

Do you call or email? When? What do you say?

That’s simple. No really, it is. You immediately send your new contact an email (or better, a handwritten note), tell them you enjoyed meeting them and note something from your conversation.

Okay, I can do that. I always do that. Then what?

Then you call. You talk to them and ask them to tell you more about what they do. Or you invite them to coffee or lunch so you can have that conversation.

You ask questions and let them do most of the talking. You find out what they need or want (clients, information, ideas, introductions, etc.) and think about how you (or your other contacts) can help them.

At some point, they ask you to tell them more about what you do (and what you need or want). You tell them and explore how the two of you might work together, e.g., referrals, introductions, interviews, guest posts, webinars, etc.

Or not.

Yeah, they might turn out to be a dud.

They may not have anything they can do for you or anything they’re willing to do. There may be no future for the two of you. Or it may take additional meetings and conversations before the two of you are able to dance.

That’s life. That’s why you don’t stop after you meet one new contact. That’s why follow-up isn’t a one-time thing.

The fact is, you might strike out with the next ten people you meet. You might think, “I hate networking” and be ready to give up.

Or, the very next person you meet might lead to a steady stream of new business for you and you’ll say “networking rocks”.

How to get better results when networking with professionals

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How to start a conversation without sounding creepy

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I just read an article based on an interview with Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s “Fresh Air”. Over the last 40 years, she’s conducted thousands of interviews and offered her advice on the best way to start a conversation.

The only icebreaker you need, she said, is to say: “Tell me about yourself.”

She says “this is much more effective than the dreaded, “So what do you do?” because you don’t make any assumptions about the other person.”

She prefers her way because it, “. . . allows you to start a conversation without the fear that you’re going to inadvertently make someone uncomfortable or self-conscious. Posing a broad question lets people lead you to who they are.”

Naturally, I have a few thoughts about this.

First, if you know your audience and you’ve done your homework on the person you’re interviewing, you should be the one in the lead. If you leave it up to the interviewee, they’ll take you places you and your audience don’t necessarily want to go.

Second, making people a bit uncomfortable can lead to a more interesting interview.

Okay, this is coming from a lawyer, not the host of a cultural events show, so take it for what you will. But you know I’m right, don’t you?

Anyway, I picked up the article because I thought I’d learn a new way to start a conversation with a stranger, while networking for example. Something better than, “What do you do?”

Nope.

If a stranger comes up to me and says, “Tell me about yourself,” I’m pretty sure I’d be creeped out and say something like, “Why do you ask?” or “Who the hell are you?”

I have issues.

Seriously, if you want to start a conversation with a stranger, stick with what other people expect to hear and are prepared to respond to.

You can pick up on something you see or you heard them say. You can pay them a compliment, e.g., “I like your tie”. Or you can ask a simple question, e.g., “Have you heard this speaker before?”

Easy. Everyone’s comfortable.

Once you’ve broken the ice and you’re having a conversation, ask them “What do you do?” Because you want them to ask you what you do.

And, if you’re conducting an interview, for a podcast or video or because you’re writing a book, get my book, The Easy Way to Write a Book. You’ll learn some non-creepy ways to start the conversation and get to the good stuff.

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4 simple steps to building your contact list

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Want to meet some new people (prospective clients, professionals, influencers. . .) without leaving your home or office? Want to do it by investing just a few minutes a day?

Okay, listen up. Here’s what to do:

Step one: Choose a category

What type of contacts would you like to add to your list? If you want to “meet” other lawyers, which practice areas? If you want to meet business owners, executives, or prospective clients, which type of business or industry?

Step two: Make a list

Find a directory, list, or some websites comprised of the kinds of people in your chosen categories. Note their contact information.

Step three: Create an “excuse” to contact them

It could be to invite them to an event you’re hosting or promoting (e.g., a meetup, golf tourney, charitable event, membership drive, restaurant opening for one of your clients or friends, etc.)

It could be to invite them to speak at your event, post an article on your blog, let you interview them for your video channel, or fill out a survey you’ve posted.

It could be to meet you for coffee because you have something in common (target market, client, neighborhood, practice area) and you want to see how you might work together.

It could be because a mutual client, business contact, or friend said something nice about them and you wanted to “meet” them.

Step four: Call

Yes, call. It’s much more effective than email or a letter for a first contact. You want them to see you as a real person, not a faceless collection of electrons spamming their inbox. You want them to hear your voice and you want to hear theirs.

And hey, if a conversation ensues, that’s a good thing.

Introduce yourself, tell them where you got their name, say something nice about them (e.g., you like their website, you heard nice things about them), and invite them to speak, meet, write, etc.

If they’re not in, leave a message. Circle back to them at another time.

Told you it was simple.

How to get more referrals from lawyers and other professionals

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Maybe you should stop networking

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Some folks don’t listen. They know they shouldn’t discuss politics and religion but they can’t help themselves. They’ve lost friends, relatives no longer speak to them, and who knows how many clients will never come back.

The problem is, in today’s political climate, when we meet new people–at parties, at formal networking events, or going out for coffee with a prospective client or professional contact–politics inevitably comes up.

You can (and should) change the subject. But that’s often easier said than done.

Therefore, I propose that you give up networking, at least for now, at least until the craziness dies down. Build your practice without it.

I’m serious. There is just too much at stake. If you go to an event and word gets out that you support someone or something that a preponderance of the group or someone with emotional problems does not, you risk being ostracized, shamed, even physically harmed.

Better to keep people guessing.

Unless most of your clients come from one side of the spectrum and you’ve made a decision to forgo business from the other side, what do you have to gain by flapping your gums in public?

I know, we shouldn’t have to keep our mouths shut. So what? That’s the way it is.

The last time I brought up this subject, I heard from a lawyer who told me he says whatever he wants, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and anyone who disagrees with him “can go f*** themselves.”

I didn’t like his attitude so I removed him from my list.

Here’s how to network without leaving your office

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No friends, no problem

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Yesterday, I said the best way to network is to have your friends introduce you to some of their friends. But what if you don’t have many friends? Or the friends you have don’t know anyone in your target market?

You go to plan b. You do everything you can to meet some people (without an introduction or endorsement) and do your best to turn them into friends.

Yeah, it’s work. It’s not easy. It takes time. But you do what you’ve gotta do.

Yesterday, I heard from someone who has started a professional networking group in Manhattan. He’s looking for a few lawyers to come to their upcoming event and check out the group. He asked me to let him know if I knew anyone.

I assume he’s already invited all of his professional contacts and asked them to extend the invitation to their professional contacts. (If he hasn’t, he should.)

But that’s not all he can do.

He can get on the phone and call lawyers in his market, introduce himself, and invite them to the event. If they can’t/don’t want to come, ask them to pass along the invite to their lawyer friends.

If they say yes, they’ll come, offer to allow them to invite their contacts to come with them.

Spend an hour or two, call enough people, make the event sound sexy, offer free food, and you’ll get some folks showing up. Oh yeah, start your calls by reaching out to the contact persons at professional networking groups out of your immediate area. They may know people who are looking for a networking group that’s closer to their home or office.

What else?

He can post the event on his social media channels. He can post the event in appropriate Facebook and Linked In groups. He can do a mailer or advertise in professional journals. He can email his clients or customers (because everyone has a lawyer in the family). He can knock on doors in office buildings near the event and invite the occupants or pass out some flyers.

He doesn’t have to do this every week. Just long enough to get the group going and make some new friends.

Thing is, everyone he invites to his event who doesn’t come is someone he might be able to network with anyway. Call them again, remind them who you are, and get to know them. Who knows, they might become a friend even if they never come to your event.

The attorney marketing formula

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Friends first

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Networking isn’t just about meeting new people. It’s about how you meet them and what happens after you do.

The best way to meet new people is to be introduced to them by a mutual friend. The operative word is friend. Not an acquaintance or a casual business contact, a friend. Someone who knows, likes and trusts you.

When a friend introduces you to another friend, magic can happen. The number one rule of networking, then, is to make friends first.

Friends enjoy each other’s company. They do things for each other and are willing to ask each other for help.

Look at the list of people you know. How many are friends? It might be only a few but you only need a few to start.

Your friends can introduce you to their friends. You can gain access to their groups and meet influential people in them. When you do, look for ways to make new friends by finding out what they need or want and looking for ways to help them get it.

Networking isn’t just a tally of transactions. It’s about friends helping each other because they want to, not because they are obligated to.

If you want to grow your practice or build your career, go make some new friends.

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Find out what people want and show them how to get it

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Legendary investor Bernard Baruch said the secret to getting rich is to “Find out what people want and show them how to get it”.

Ah, you thought you were supposed to “help them” get it. No, you’re busy. You can’t help everyone do everything (unless they hire you). You have a practice to run.

Show them what to do. Showing is easier than helping and nearly as valuable.

Give them direction and feedback. Point to resources. Refer them to experts. Show them what to do. When push comes to shove, they don’t really expect you to drive them to their destination. They will appreciate you for giving them a map.

On the other hand, don’t just “tell them what to do”. Anyone can do that. Anyone can post a list of recommended resources on their website. No, show them.

Talk to them and make sure you understand exactly what they want and why. Then, provide suggestions and recommendations specific to their needs so they can get what they want as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Explain why you recommend A instead of B. Give examples so they understand your rationale. Make sure they are ready to move forward before you turn them loose but let them know they can come back to you if they run into a snag.

Showing is less than helping but more than telling. Find out what people want and show them how to get it.

This is me, showing you how to get more referrals

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