Your Voice

Top tips to have more effective follow-up with potential clients

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Marla S. Grant

Marla S. Grant.

Have you ever sent an email to a prospective client and not received a reply? Perhaps, you followed up by sending another email or two, and after still not hearing anything in response, you gave up. All too often, lawyers drop the ball when it comes to effectively following up with prospects for fear of being judged as pushy or pests.

Three key obstacles can keep lawyers from being effective with follow-up.

Obstacle #1: They make false assumptions

When lawyers don’t hear back from a prospect, they often make up all kinds of assumptions—often based in fear—as to why the other person hasn’t responded, such as:

• “They must not be interested.”

• “They will get annoyed if I keep following up, and I don’t want to seem like a pest.”

• “They will think I’m desperate.”

• “If they’re serious, they’ll respond or reach out to me.”

Obstacle #2: They fear rejection

We fear rejection and usually don’t like having to put ourselves out there because that means being vulnerable. Rejection is no fun. This is why so many lawyers avoid being persistent with their follow-up efforts. This obstacle can be the hardest to overcome.

Obstacle #3: They do not know the right approach

Lawyers often mistakenly assume that follow-up means continuing to reach back out to the prospect with the same ask over and over again. It’s no wonder they’d fear looking like a pest. Either they go about it the wrong way or they get stuck when not knowing the right approach, so they don’t do much of anything.

There is a better way

By challenging assumptions, adopting a new mindset and using strategic approaches to follow-up, you can be much more effective and achieve better outcomes.

Case in point: One of our clients—a BigLaw female partner—was ready to give up on following up with a prospect after he failed to reply to her last two emails; she assumed that he was not interested. But after we helped her develop a different mindset and approach for her follow-up, she took additional actions that led to the prospective client responding and ultimately sending her new work. If she had given up when she first wanted to, she would not be serving this Fortune100 technology client now.

The following tips will help you be more effective in following up.

Tip #1: Adopt a new rule that you will follow up until you get an answer

We can be extremely creative “storytellers,” so notice the assumptions you make when you don’t hear back from a prospect. Let them go, because assumptions will get you nowhere.

Keep in mind that people’s inboxes get inundated. People are on email overload, so just because someone doesn’t get back to you, it doesn’t mean the individual is not interested or will get annoyed or think you’re desperate if you continue to reach out. Remember that people do get busy or distracted or forget to respond even when they want to do so. The truth is that you do not know for certain that they are not interested just because they haven’t responded.

Instead, adopt a new rule that you will commit to following up until you get a clear “yes” or “no.” Anything less will require additional outreach.

Persistence is key when it comes to effective follow-up. Let them tell you they are not interested. If you fail to follow up, you take away their decision, and you could be robbing them of the opportunity to benefit from the value and services you provide. If you don’t follow-up with a prospect whom you know you could help, then that prospect will ultimately find the help they need from a lawyer who may be less qualified, won’t do as good a job as you, who will charge the prospect more or who won’t generate the kind of results you would. And so it becomes a lose-lose.

Even if your worst fear were true—that a prospect felt that you were a pest—then let that go, too. Realize that it’s their own issue or discomfort with business development, not yours, and follow-up is a necessary part of business development.

Tip #2: Change your attitude around rejection

Business development requires an entirely different attitude about rejection. You want to welcome rejection because the more “no’s” you get and learn from, you are that much closer to a “yes.”

The first step is as simple as just accepting that you may get rejected and that it may (or more likely will) feel uncomfortable. By accepting that rejection will happen in business development, you lessen some of the fear, and don’t resist it.

Moreover, it’s important to realize that any “no’s” you may get for your legal services take nothing away from who you are as a human being. It’s never a “no” to you as a person. In fact, most of the time, it’s not even about you. Most of the time, it is about the other person and what’s going on in his or her own life or business. Your worth as a human being is not dependent upon whether you have success with a deal or opportunity. Instead of viewing follow-up as putting yourself at risk of rejection, focus on the business and opportunities that you will eventually get from it. It makes it all worth it!

Tip #3: Follow up by adding value

Think of follow-up as an opportunity to develop a relationship instead of trying to close a business transaction. In order to develop a relationship, you want to find ways to consistently provide value. We call these “relationship strengthening actions.”

Here are a few examples:

• Send them an email with information or ideas about a topic you both discussed.

• Make an introduction to someone who could be beneficial to them.

• Seek their opinion on something. This is a great technique because people feel valued when you run something by them.

• Invite them to an event or find out if they’ll be attending a relevant event, and offer to introduce them to someone you know is of interest to them.

• Congratulate them on a recent accomplishment.

Here’s an example of what it might look like after the first couple of follow-ups when you reach out to purely add value as a relationship strengthening action:

“Hi, Cindy,

Hope all is well. I recently returned from a conference where they discussed the use of AI in legal departments. Since you mentioned that is something you’re exploring in your legal department, I’ve attached my notes for you, as you may find what they shared of interest. Let me know what you think.

Best, [Your Name]”

Persistence and providing value pay off. As many times as you get rejected, keep following up, coming up with new strategies. Most lawyers quit when they don’t get fast results. Don’t give up. Here’s to your success!


Marla S. Grant is an experienced attorney and certified strategic coach who helps lawyers transform into exceptional leaders and business developers. She is a co-founder of the 20/20 Leadership Group, an award-winning women-owned legal talent development firm. Grant can be reached at [email protected].


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