When Clients Ask, Clearly and Compellingly Articulate Your Services: Lessons from Katrina Philanthropists

Imagine that a client wants to hire you–and will likely pay you a lot of money for your work.  Can you articulate a clear and compelling response if the client asks, “What can you do for my business if I hire you?”

Simple, right?  Wrong.

Last week I moderated a panel discussion for The Philanthropy Roundtable in New Orleans.  Various New Orleans-based non-profits, volunteers, businessmen and the like described the incredible devastation and rebuilding challenges that still plague the city. Funders from charitable foundations across the country listened in rapt attention.

However, on several occasions during the two-day event, funders actually had to ask, “What can we do for you specificaly?  How much money do you need, and for which specific programs?”

And, with one exception, the funders received no clear answers–just general comments about the devastation being pervasive and the need being great.  In other words, a golden opportunity to get big contributions from big donors was lost.

One speaker stood out.  She responded that she needed $40 million for a four phase study on sewage treatment and related cypress grove development; that $10 million had been pledged; and that her project still needed $30 million more.  She’s likely to get some funding because she was able to articulate clearly what the funders would get for their money.

Similarly, law firm clients want to understand what they will get for their money.  At today’s rates, clients know that they will be paying a lot for legal services.  But, what can you as their lawyer specifically provide them for their money?  Further, what can you provide that another lawyer can’t?

There are many critical client development skills, but one is this: being able to clearly and compellingly explain the benefit that your client will receive by hiring you.A lawyer’s explanation should not be general, like “excellent customer service” or “top quality legal work.”  Those qualities go without saying.  Rather, explain what distinguishes your service from others’.  Which client needs can you satisfy better than your competition and why? 

For example, you might say something like, “If we work together, your company will benefit from my specific expertise with registering Argentine company ADRs on the NYSE.  I recently represented Company X during their listing process.  Your company’s transaction sounds like it would be similar/different because…”

Answering those kinds of client concerns–and explaining the benefit to the client of working with you–will set you apart from the pack, and help rope in business.

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