Thursday, June 02, 2005

Plan an Intelligent Pursuit

Lawyer Don arrives at the partner meeting and announces that he’s heard CBA Widgets company is looking to expand through multiple acquisitions over the next several months, and, Don’s referral source informed him that CBA Widgets was also looking for a good M&A attorney. After a brief conversation with the CFO at CBA to secure an meeting the following week Don hunkers down to create the perfect proposal and presentation. Along the way he uses time from other partners, admin’s, and marketing support, and finally the day before, has support people working overtime to get the presentation printed and bound.

When Don arrives at CBA’s offices he observes the company does not appear to be nearly as large as he’d assumed. The cars parked in the executive slots are all older than a few years, the office space is smaller than expected, the reception area is right out of the 1960’s, and the staff has an unmistakable “home-grown” feel. At the meeting, attended only by the CFO and his secretary, he presents his perfectly planned pitch offering up several great benefits for using his firm. The CFO’s first comment after his pitch was complete is, “How much do you charge?”

Certainly there is often more to any story than meets the eye, but if this was an opportunity you were chasing; how does it feel so far? Are you getting that feeling in your gut telling you to cut your losses and get out fast?

This scenario, in it’s many variations, happens all the time and all too often. Some partners will say that it’s just how things are. “You have to take your chances to find the good clients.” I believe the above should NEVER happen… EVER! Here is how you can be certain.

  • Never start the proposal process until after you’ve met with the company face-to-face and asked them specifically what they are looking for. Your first meeting with them should always be about getting information; not giving it.
  • Always research the company and it’s people before you talk with them or prepare anything for them.
  • Always research any information offered to you by the prospect about their markets and opportunities. Their passion for what they state does not always translate into reality.
  • Always measure the potential client and business opportunity against your current client base. Is this company a good match for your practice or firm?
  • Use the appropriate resources for the size of the opportunity. If your research reveals the opportunity as fairly small, then firm resources you consume should be smaller.
  • Only include information in the proposal you’ve discussed with the prospect. Your firm may be able to offer a lot of different expertise, but the prospect should only hear about the expertise they’ve expressed an interest in. Maybe all you need is a short letter outlining what you propose to do and another meeting to seal the relationship. Save the rest for another time.

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