Legal services clients will define value during a conversation, but what they value is often not what you think it is.
Unless you’re clairvoyant, you won’t know what a client values. Neither will you know what that value is worth, both to a client and yourself.
Value equals worth in terms of return on investment. Return on investment can pertain to outcome, cost, time, or trust; be a combination of some or all four factors; and, support professional and/or personal advancement.
Every client has a unique definition and weighting system of what value means to them. But to learn how a client defines and measures value means that they need to be asked every single time you work together.
This means asking questions to which you may not know the answer.
Asking Questions is How We Learn
Don’t assume that you think you know the answer. You risk being wrong because even if you’ve known a client, their company, and their team for a long time, what they value can and will change depending on various internal and external circumstances.
As a former broadcast journalist who media trains lawyers occasionally, I recommend using this four-step, fact-finding interview technique:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Listen attentively — we have two ears and one mouth for a reason — and be prepared to provide silent time to encourage further thought and input
- Probe for nuance
- Confirm for clarity
These steps will ensure that you learn what someone truly values. And they will know that they have been thoroughly heard and clearly understood, which is valuable in itself.
Practise this strategic value discovery process with every current client, potential prospect, and contact. Once these conversations become habitual, the results of what you discuss will convert to value for all participants.
The value conversation, which needs to happen throughout the span of every client relationship — not just during an active matter — is a game-changer for continued engagement, whether it results in follow-on work, becoming a trusted advisor, or referrals.
The results are always win-win.
That’s because these conversations reveal how value is determined and measured at a particular time, as well as over time on both a professional and personal level for all involved.
As for return on investment, continuous value conversations enable trust to compound, relationships to be grown and nurtured, and client retention and healthy legal service to be better secured long-term.
Heather Suttie is an internationally recognized legal market strategy and management consultant to leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide.
For 25 years, she has accelerated performance within law firms and legal service businesses — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — by providing consultative direction on legal business strategy, market strategy, management strategy, and client strategy. The result is a distinctive one-of-one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage culminating in greater market share, revenue and profits.