Last week I learned that one of my senior business clients – who is a Microsoft Corporate Vice President – took on a new leadership position within Microsoft. While I was initially disappointed since she’s an outstanding leader and I worked hard to build a trusted advisor relationship with her, I also know that this is simply part of the ever-changing business environments that we work in. As in-house lawyers we need to constantly adapt to best serve our clients.
Building a new relationship with a senior business client presents a real opportunity that in-house counsel need to take advantage of – especially if it’s someone that you have never partnered with in the past. Also, we only have one opportunity to make a positive first impression.
Here’s some tips on how to commence a trusted advisor relationship with a new business client:
Say Congrats: Be sure to extend congratulations to both your outgoing client and incoming client. Tell your outgoing client that you wish her/him the best of luck in the new role and that you hope to partner with them again in the future – which is a distinct possibility so you want to continue to maintain a positive relationship with her/him.
For your incoming client reach out to that person via email/call, introduce yourself, extend congratulations and let them know that you are excited to partner with them. If you send an email perhaps also consider adding a link to your LinkedIn profile so that she/he can learn more about you in case you have not worked with that person in the past. Also be sure to connect with your new client via LinkedIn if you aren’t already connected.
Do Some Reconnaissance: Try to learn some information about your new client. If your in-house legal teammates and other clients have worked with your new client in the past be sure to reach out to them for their thoughts about her/him and ask them for their opinion on how best to serve your new client in your role as corporate counsel. Also, spend the time to get to know that person by checking out her/his LinkedIn/Twitter profiles, background, posts, etc…..Perhaps you can identify the areas that you have in common with your new client which can serve as a foundation for building a new business relationship.
Schedule an Introductory Meeting: Be proactive to schedule an initial meeting with your new client for no longer than 15-30 minutes. During that meeting try to cover these areas:
- Offer a brief perspective about your background, role and your legal team. Consider also developing a one page “get to know me” slide like the one which I have created about myself immediately below and which I share with my new business clients so they can learn something very quickly about my background.
- Describe the various ways in which you and your team can provide high value and impact to your new client and his/her team moving forward that is aligned to their key business objectives.
- Ask your new client about her/his previous experiences in working with legal teams and whether she/he can provide you with any feedback on how you and the legal team can best serve her/him moving forward.
- Let your client know the best way to reach you moving forward and always be sure to share your cell phone number so she/he can quickly contact you as needed.
- Try to find out about your new client’s preferred mode of communicating so that you can tailor your mode of communication to fit the needs of your new client. Also, ask if your new business client would be willing to convene monthly 1:1s so the two of you can stay well connected.
- If your new client is new to your company also offer to help her/him as part of their official onboarding process.
Befriend Your New Client’s Admin/Chief of Staff: Always be sure to be super nice and friendly to the Admin/Chief of Staff of your new client. These folks are often the “gateway” to your new client and your new client will rely upon them immensely. Don’t be shy in asking the Admin/Chief of Staff to be included in your new client’s leadership team meetings, key email distribution lists/aliases, Microsoft Teams channels, etc….so that you can gain a better understanding of what is top of mind for your new client and are well positioned to deliver high value and impact.
Listen & Learn: In my experience with clients it’s always important to take the necessary time to actively listen and learn from them. Each senior executive will have her/his own leadership style and it’s very important early on in your relationship to thoughtfully absorb your new client’s way of thinking and to try to understand what is most important to her/him. Listen more and speak less – especially with new clients.
Get “Quick Wins” to Earn Trust: Whenever you have a new client it is so incredibly important to provide him/her with “white glove” legal support so that you can get off to a fast start in the relationship, begin to earn your client’s trust, demonstrate high value and make a highly positive first impression. When your new client reaches out to you be sure to respond immediately and provide your new client with clear, easily digestible and practical legal advice and counsel. Finally, always embrace a customer obsession mindset with your new client.
As we all know change is not easy – especially when you need to build a relationship with new clients. However, having the privilege to serve new clients and earning their trust provides in-house lawyers with a great opportunity for you and your legal department to demonstrate positive impact and move your organization forward. Be sure to capitalize on these opportunities!