Networking Groups And Young Lawyers: A Perfect Match

I think that a lot of times younger lawyers feel either (or both) that (i) networking groups are inappropriate to join at an early stage in their career, or (ii) they are too junior to start their own networking group.

However, I think that the best time to start one’s marketing efforts is at the beginning of your career — this, so that you get into the habit of marketing as part of everyday life. Indeed, I always wish that I had done exactly this myself, instead of waiting until I was 39 years old to try to bring in clients. Sigh….

And networking groups are no exception. There is no reason to wait.

One of my marketing threebies is to “Get Out And About,” and networking groups are a great way to do this. So how do you get started?

Below I have outlined a few ideas on how to create your own networking groups. Here goes:

First, think of the industry you practice in. Is it fashion?  Is it real estate?  Is it liquor and related goods?  Your networking group should be in your industry.

Second, think of a purpose for the group that is other than pure networking. This could be a hobby — you are a triathlete, you are someone who likes ballet, you like MMA, you like to race cars, you like movies, you like paintball, you like knitting, basket-weaving, or skiing — or just going out on the town and staying out all night.

Third, see if you know someone who is, well, it’s hard to say this subtly, cooler than you. Someone who will draw in others. Reach out to her first. See if she will join your group. If yes, this is a great beginning.

Fourth, once it is you and this other person, you have a team. That will make it easier to get others in the group.

Fifth, once you get a base group — probably five is about the minimum — set the ground rules, as to who is paying (usually costs are split equally), what you generally will be doing, how often you will get together, how additional people can get in the group, etc. Also — hard to be subtle here either — you probably don’t want other competitor lawyers in the group and you should make that known.

Sixth, make clear that there are two purposes for the group. One is to have a good time in the hobby or other interest you all have. The other is to network and support each other. There is no reason to be subtle here either.

Seventh, make sure the first event is a success.

Finally, here is a story from one of my junior associates who has set up his own networking group, which he did on his own in his first year here:

I formed the group after talking to a couple of friends working in the real estate industry about the value of building relationships early on in our careers. We all noticed that the successes of many of those senior to us could usually be traced back to relationships that started well before anyone was in a decision-making position, and we decided to all put the effort in (easier said than done as time goes on) to stick together as we grow in our careers. Since the purpose of the group is to build valuable relationships, we have two goals: (i) to keep the group small (only adding a member when someone thinks they’ve found someone who will actively contribute to the group) and (ii) to make sure that anyone who joins the group is a good “fit” so we’ll all actually hang out.

How To NOT Write Your ‘Bio’ — The One Mistake You Can’t Afford To Make

Biographies are an important part of marketing and very vital. They are quick snapshots into what your business is and how much experience you have in your field. More often than not, they are the first impression of what potential clients and contacts have of you and it is very hard, and often impossible, to rework a first impression. Indeed, when you get right down to it, the one thing that almost “everyone” will do when they hear your name or are going to work with is to look at your bio.

So it would make sense that your biography needs to be top notch.

When I see most biographies they tend to read as such (for a real estate lawyer):

“Ms. Smith has experience in all aspects of commercial real estate and has handled complex mezzanine financings, construction financings, bridge loans, joint ventures, platform investments, hospitality transactions, [and every doggone thing she has ever done in a long and extraordinarily comprehensive list]…”

The list goes on and on and on and by the time anyone reads it they have forgotten everything you listed. To be even more blunt, no one will actually read it as it sounds like this to the reader …. “real estate lawyer blah blah blah….”

Service providers typically feel that they need to list “every single” piece of expertise that they have because if they leave out that one thing then they will lose all of that “huge” business they “would have gotten” since that specific client will not realize that she can do this work.

Bottom line — this is the exact wrong way to do a bio.

I have learned over years of marketing that potential clients and contacts will take away “one” message that you give them – and only “one” message. Not two or three or more. If you give them one message – strongly – they will remember it. If you give them two or more they will remember nothing and hardly remember you at all.

This needs to be reflected in your bio. How about this for Ms. Smith

“Ms. Smith is known as one of the top lawyers nationwide in the area of real estate joint ventures. Although she routinely handles all aspects of her real estate law practice, clients consistently turn to her for their most complicated and intricate joint venture transactions. Her strong focus in this area gives her a major competitive advantage over those less skilled in this area, which consistently inures to the benefit of her clients.”

Dare I say that this is Ms. Smith’s Power Niche?

To make the same point I make again and again in my writings:  Once you determine your Power Niche you should be drilling that message into your biography and every other place that mentions your name.

So, it might make sense for you to take a quick look at your bio….

Note – My Marketing Book If You Want to Get Rich Build a Power Niche now has a target publication date of late third quarter this year. This book will contain “all” of my marketing secrets, which I have developed over ten years of relentless focus. I hope I am not being too much of a humbug in saying I wish I had this book when I was starting my career. Where would I be now?  Sigh….

Power Niche Marketing: The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing

I don’t know if I should share this information so broadly — but here goes — I have a publisher agreeing to publish my upcoming book “If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche.”  I am sure the excitement of my readership is off the charts right now.  Anyway, hopefully later this year….

In the interim — in hopes of teaching you what I know about marketing in real time — I will mention that I recently read an exceptional book called The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout (affiliate link).

It is super short — I read it on a plane flight — and it is chock full of excellent advice.  For example:

  • The Law of Leadership — “It’s better to be first than it is to be better.”
  • The Law of Perception — “Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perception.”
  • The Law of the Mind — “It’s better to be first in the mind than first in the market.”

It is an old book — written in 1994 — and it struck me that 24 years ago these fellows figured out things that are just being learned today.

For example, their Law of Category is as follows:

The Law of Category: “If you can’t be first in a category then you should create your own category that you can be first in.”

This is pretty much the same as my Power Niche concept, isn’t it?

So, 24 years ago, Ries and Troutman point out how important it is to own a niche.  Twenty-four years later, people like me — and others I have read — are still writing about it.  However — what boggles my mind — is how rarely people actually put this critical “law of marketing” into practice.

So let’s stop for a moment here.  This is a major revelation about marketing.  All of the smart people — I mean all of them — Porter, Thiel, Godin, Drucker, Ries & Troutman, etc. — are all saying that it is absolutely critical to differentiate yourself in marketing, yet so few parties receiving this advice actually take it.

Why is that?

I guess I don’t know the answer for sure; however, I suspect it is that being different means you have to STAND OUT, and when you stand out it might cause people to make fun of you, which terrifies most human beings.

But, whatever the reason, the good news is that if you are one of the (relatively few) parties who can receive this important message and not be afraid to implement it, the way to success in rainmaking is very achievable.  The absolute most important thing is to be “different” and STAND OUT — typically within a niche (Power Niche) that you own and can easily stand out in.  If you aren’t doing some version of the foregoing, you have already lost the battle.

I will keep this article very short and ask you to read it a couple of times as this is a very important message.

Creating Good Karma With Your Marketing

When you meet people, network with them, talk to them, and connect with them. It is a great thing if you aren’t always thinking about yourself and how you can benefit.

Think about the other guy. Try to do nice things. Do your best to be helpful.  Spread good karma and just see what happens.

Most of the time, good things will come back to you in unexpected ways because people will think you are a good person and they will want to reciprocate or help you. Marketing is all about statistics and you cannot predict outcomes.  All you can therefore logically do is set things up so that outcomes are likely to occur and be positive for you. What could be better than just doing a ton of really nice and helpful things for people in your core industry?

Along these lines, don’t be a jerk!

If you have power over an adversary in a business dealing, or in representing a client, don’t rub it in their faces. Be respectful and as friendly as the situation permits.

In particular, when people are in trouble, don’t let them wither on the vine, but rather choose to help them out in any way you can. Indeed, times of trouble are when we all figure out who our friends are.

Along these lines, some obvious admonitions are the following:

  • Don’t screw over your partners or colleagues.
  • Don’t blow people off — perhaps by saying that you will do something, but then not getting around to doing it.
  • Don’t mistreat those below you. The junior associate lawyer you treated like crap because you thought he was a moron and likely can’t cut it at a law firm may someday be the same person you will run into as a very senior (and maybe very powerful) in-house counsel at a major client or prospect. Gulp! Boy will you wish you could turn back the clock and undo all the meanness you gave him when you had that power. When you have power over someone else, overdo not misusing that power. What comes around goes around sometimes… in both a good way and a bad way.

If you really do your best to just be a good person, good stuff will happen to you — and the converse.

One thing that is somewhat metaphysical is that if you act like a jerk to people, you will never know how many referrals and opportunities you didn’t get because you acted that way. Think about it for a moment: all sorts of good things that could have happened just don’t happen and you don’t know what could have been… sigh.

In this vein, a short story is as follows:  One thing I do, is I make a ton of referrals for my clients. In other words, if two clients might do good business as a team, I refer them to one another. Both clients typically greatly appreciate that I do this.

Well, I had a client who was so gosh-darned awful that I finally fired him as client. He was just not a nice person. I couldn’t in good conscience connect him with any of my other clients as it just wasn’t right to do it. What was I going to say?  “Toby, I would like to introduce you to my other client, Tobias. He is a major jerk and you will love working with him.”

Ironically, this client’s business was very suited to that of my other clients. He has lost out on at least 20 introductions (no exaggeration) that I would have made to him. He doesn’t know how much business he lost by acting so negatively though, and he never will. Too bad, so sad….

Befriending Your Competition — A Good Idea?

Our instinct is to view our competition as the enemy — a force to be vanquished.

And of course there is a logic to this view. After all, you could assume there is a finite amount of legal work in your slice of industry and whatever your competition gets doesn’t go to you. But there are a bunch of holes in maintaining that view. Here are some holes and I bet you could think of others:

First, as a law firm, what is your competition?  It’s a bunch of lawyers — just like your firm. Your best way of beating the competition might be to hire them into your firm!  Or — dare I say — joining the competition’s firm!  This certainly blurs the lines, doesn’t it?

Second, it is not always a zero-sum game for legal work. You may find that by working together with a competitor lawyer you might create win/win ideas for your mutual clients and create upside for all parties involved.

Third, by having a heart-to-heart talk with your competitor, you may learn that there are things that she does super well that your firm doesn’t, and vice versa. You might start referring these non-competitive matters to each other.

Fourth, what happens to lawyers as their careers unfold?  Well, they can continue being lawyers. Or they could retire or die, I guess. Or they could go in-house. If and when this happens they — immediately — morph from competitor lawyers to potential clients, don’t they?  It would be kind of nice if you already had a relationship going wouldn’t it?

Fifth, sometimes you are conflicted out of a matter. Having your client pick your worst “enemy” as counsel is hardly what you want to happen. Wouldn’t it be “nice” to have a friendly competitor to refer your client to?  Especially a competitor would take good care of your client when you can’t do it due to the conflict.

Sixth, you can exchange great and useful data about your industry and what you are doing, career advice, best practices, and things like that, just to help each other. Even if you are uncomfortable referring things to each other and need to keep a bit at arms’ length, you can find all sorts of ways to be helpful to each other. I have done this many times and learned a great deal of useful intellectual capital.

Seventh, you are playing in the same sandbox. You have a common interest and are doing largely the same business. The odds are high — indeed a lot higher than you probably think — that to your surprise, you will make a friend. And no one can ever have too many friends.

Eighth, I suspect everyone who reads my column knows I have built my firm around the theme of “helping my clients build their businesses.”  This often involves connecting my clients with useful counterparties, and what better place to find these counterparties than from other lawyers. This creates a benefit for both my client and my competitor’s client. Everyone benefits and wins.

Ninth, and finally — of course I don’t hope this happens to you — but the odds are that at least once or twice your career will take a downturn and you may just need a job. It certainly has happened to me a couple of times. These erstwhile competitors could, and probably will, help you when you are down.

Lastly, here is a final note on this issue: if you follow my suggestion herein and reach out to your competitor — even your sworn enemy — you may be surprised, and even shocked, about how eager your competitor is to enjoy some détente and take you up on your lunch offer.

Are People Like Fish? And, What Does That Have To Do With Lawyer Marketing?

Have you ever watched a school of fish swim?  They always turn in the same direction at the same time. There was recently a study about this and it was determined that the fish are persuaded to move in one direction by certain “influencing” fish.  However, counterintuitively, the “influencing” fish was not one that was (friendly?) with a large, disparate bunch of other fish, and thereby itself influenced.  Instead, it turned out that if one fish (i.e., the “influencing” fish) was (friendly?) with a small group of other fish, then that small group would follow the “influencing” fish and once that happened, the whole school would follow along as well.

Anyway, assuming a group of people are like a school of fish — which is tongue in cheek, of course — all of this got me thinking about how the behavior of these fish might apply to marketing.  How would “influencing fish” create desired results?

If a large group of people were like fish, then the answer would be that instead of marketing to a wide group, your strategy should be to market to a very small group of people, and try to get that group in favor of whatever it is that you are trying to market or sell.  If you can achieve that, then you will likely achieve a larger dispersion in the end, i.e., once the small group accepts your marketing thesis, then the bigger group should as well.

Taking this to its logical conclusion, if you are trying to market something new, it seems like it is “very” hard to get anywhere if you have zero clients; however, if you have even a few influential and respected clients, it is dramatically easier to get more.

But are people like fish?

Without insulting my species, I think we are to some extent.  The reason is not that we are dumb like fish.  It is that we just don’t have time to evaluate every decision.  For example, there are probably 100 brands of toothpaste on the market, and from time to time I see them all there at CVS covering an entire aisle.  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t buy one of each and test them all out to find the “optimal toothpaste.”  Instead, I saw [insert favorite movie star] on TV brushing and smiling with white teeth and making clear he/she would get the girl/guy if that toothpaste were used.  That was probably enough for me 30 years ago and I haven’t switched brands or even thought about it since.

As another example, when an attorney retains local counsel for a first matter in a new jurisdiction or in a new industry, the first instinct is to look at what kinds of clients the proposed counsel has, and then to assume that these clients made a good choice in selecting counsel.  If the law firm in question has multiple “cool” clients that are similar to the clients the attorney already represents, that likely pushes the attorney — a lot — towards the decision in favor of that law firm.  Attorneys can hardly go visit each possible law firm — interview the lawyers, read the papers they have written, analyze their skill sets — and make a deep-dive determination, can they?

In both of these metaphors — toothpaste or counsel retention — the most critical issue is that the most effective result would be reliance on “multiple” sources, i.e., two or more movie stars pushing the toothpaste — or two or more “cool” clients that are similar to the clients an attorney already represents.  That would cement it most likely for the buyer as the optimal decision.

Having said all of this, if my life depended on the decision of which counsel to retain or which toothpaste to use, I probably would go through at least part of the deep dive described a couple of paragraphs above.

So, to conclude, of course we aren’t really like fish when we have a real decision of importance to make, but I suspect we aren’t that different when we don’t have time to really think things through and analyze the subtleties.  This means that if one is trying to achieve marketing success in a particular initiative, it is best to start with several “influencing fish” and work forward from that beginning place.

By the way, giving credit where credit is due, my daughter, who works for DeepMind (owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.) in London, and who studies artificial intelligence, wrote to me about this and gave me the idea for this story.

5 Easy Ways To Market From Your Desk

I often get told that marketing is too difficult and time consuming for attorneys. An array of reasons is offered, spanning from an attorney’s seniority level to legal work overload, and I reluctantly have to admit this is often very true.  It is really “hard” to both do legal work, which is typically time-sensitive, and also do marketing, which is never as imminent a rush but we all know is critical to building a successful career. Often the hardest part is forcing yourself to do one of the three key things one must do for marketing success; namely, Getting Out and About. See my prior article on The Threebies, which details the three most important things you must do for marketing success.

I am a little nervous about suggesting this article — it was someone else’s idea — since I don’t want to give in to the cop-out that lawyers can never leave their desks, but there are times when you really only have time to market from your office chair.

So here are some ways to market from the comfort of your desk:

  1. Gain Industry Knowledge — Ideally in Your Power Niche. It is no secret that in order to market successfully you need to have something to talk about. Indeed another one of the Threebies is that knowledge is power. The essence of a Power Niche is picking a segment of the industry that you are in and learning everything possible about it. This can be done at your desk with books, articles, publications, and other reading materialAnd it is surprising just how easy it is to become an expert in a Power Niche, since a Power Niche is in an area you create so there is, by definition, no other expert in that Niche.
  2. Mine Your Network. Take the time to learn about the people you already know. Get to work early one day and go through your contact list and learn about where these people work and what they and their organizations are trying to accomplish. Once you have done that, think about how you can help them with building their businesses and building their careers. Reach out to family and friends with similar goals. Send “catch up” emails to find out what people in your network are doing. Maybe there are big changes in their organizations — maybe they have left for a new job.  Send out articles you have been reading that people in your network may find of interest. One way or another, make sure you stay on the radar of the people in your network because you never know where they could end up in the business world. And perhaps it goes without saying that all of the foregoing is enhanced if it centers on your Power Niche.
  3. Speak Up About Your Power Niche. Even if you read every industry article and mine your contacts, it won’t go that far unless you tell people about your Power Niche. Tell your coworkers, your family, your friends, and the rest of your network (and anyone who will listen) about your Power Niche. You simply cannot overdo this, no matter how hard you try. Yes, you could even buy a T-shirt that mentions your Power Niche in bold letters. This way, when your friends and contacts overlap with your Power Niche, they will have no choice but to think of you.
  4. Form a Networking Group. Consider reaching out to form a networking group where everyone in the group has an implied overlap. Perhaps everyone went to the same school, has the same hobby or interest, supports the same non-profit, reads the same books, has the same goals, etc. Try making the group one that honestly and openly combines enjoying common interests and, at the same time, networking and supporting each other. Notably, you could do this within a single industry, which has obvious benefits. Less obviously, you could network with people in different industries, thereby making, and receiving, contacts and introductions that you never would have otherwise. I note how far-ranging these groups could be. In the real estate industry, where I practice, it could range from as sophisticated as Japanese Women in New York Real Estate or as simple as Real Estate People Who Like to Knit.
  5. Referrals. Using your industry knowledge, your contact list, and your network, ask for — and give — referrals. This always goes better if it is specific, i.e., “Hey Toby, I see that you know this person at ABC & Co., would you mind making an introduction for me?” I haven’t personally done this but I am told that LinkedIn can be a great place to look for these types of potential referrals. By the way, I advocate making more referrals than you ask for. And, of course, I can’t resist mentioning how important it is to weave your Power Niche into these referrals.

So, these are five things you can do from your desk.  Good luck!

How To Improve Your Horrendous Law Firm Marketing Efforts

“Get out there and do some marketing!!!!” shouts the managing partner at you.

“Don’t just sit there — get out and do it — bring in some clients dammit!!!”

“Yes, M’Lady,” you respond with alacrity. “I will get right on it.”

And so you go out and:

  • Duly write a long article touting your expertise in Montana Utility Regulation. You have citations, research, and a ton of time and effort. A great job!
  • Go to a conference and duly, well, duly, do what is it you are doing there? Perhaps seeking out that guy you already know and saying hello to him. Then after clinking glasses you wander around the room three times with a look on your face that you hope doesn’t seem empty and fearful. Finally, you slink out.
  • Agree to speak on a panel and pay — money — for the privilege of doing that. Wow, no one could object to that could they? Your managing partner will be so proud.
  • Have a marketing meeting with your colleagues. And you talk about all sorts of ideas you “will” do right away.
  • Ping people on the internet with spam or semi-spam or anything, just to show activity.
  • Spend a lot of time with someone from the media and get quoted in an article. Wow! You are quoted in the newspaper. You can’t wait to tell your managing partner and show her the article too. Woohoo. That PR is really paying off.

There is so much more of this. I could go on and on and on….

Bottom line is that you are showing a flurry of activity but completely wasting your time and, worse yet, wasting your firm’s money too. None of this will do anything for you, except perhaps if your managing partner isn’t that perceptive, it will give her the illusion of progress.

There are a few things that actually work. One of them is this. It is really easy to do:

  • You call up an existing client — yes, one you already have — and you suggest having breakfast to talk about your client’s business — not “your” business, but your client’s business.
  • You have that breakfast and you learn as much as you can about your client and the industry your client is in. You find out what your client’s organization is trying to accomplish and what your client — personally — is trying to accomplish.
  • And then — armed with this extraordinarily valuable information — you try to help your client achieve their business goals.

Trust me here, please. Skip all the other stuff and just do what I just said. You will be amazed at the results.

What Books To Read To Become A Rainmaker

I have been quite successful in making “rain” at my law firm. However, I didn’t just sit down one day and “figure it all out.”  I learned from others.

This started with me reading innumerable books on sales, marketing, and business strategies. Some of these books were fantastic, and some were a complete waste of time and I found myself wondering how or why they were published.

Luckily for you, you don’t have to do what I did. This is because I am making a list of the “best” books I read on marketing, sales, and business development. If you read these books, you will get some great knowledge that you can put to use:

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie – Dale Carnegie talks about a key phrase in selling. He says that you have to “arouse an eager want” in whomever you are speaking to and whom you want to do business with you. If you can do that, the world is your oyster. If you cannot, you are back to begging people to do business with you.
  • Purple Cow, by Seth Godin – Seth Godin discusses how virtually everyone instinctively assumes, quite logically, that it is critical that one’s marketing plan should “not offend anyone”… “not be too different from other marketing plans except in ways that seem to be very safe and non-threatening” … and “not” But that is absolutely WRONG. Your marketing plan has to STAND OUT, just like a purple cow would stand out from brown cows, or you will get nowhere at all, and you will just be irrelevant and forgotten.
  • The Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne – This book is about removing yourself from competition and creating your own space to do business. It points out that competition is bad and leads to “red oceans” (red with the blood of competitors fighting and clawing for market share). Instead of staying in that “red ocean,” you should swim away to find your own “blue ocean” with untapped potential where you don’t have to compete.
  • Start with Why, by Simon Sinek – Sinek writes that there are three possible themes for a business: what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. And the most powerful of the three is the third, and this is because “why” is inspirational. It is because if someone tells you “why” he is doing something, it might get you eager to do it too. I urge you to listen to Sinek’s Ted Talk as he says it a lot better than I am saying it here.
  • Tilt, by Niraj Dawar – In this book, the author discusses a shift in competitive advantages. How for decades, businesses sought competitive advantage almost exclusively in “upstream” activities related to product-focused advantages and how today, these advantages are rapidly eroding. This does not mean that competitive advantage is a thing of the past. Rather, its center has shifted. As marketing professor Niraj Dawar compellingly argues, advantage is now found “downstream,” where companies interact with customers in the marketplace. Another way to say this is — alas — marketing is of a lot more importance than substance — kind of a bummer?
  • The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo – Steve Jobs was the ultimate master at presentations, and this book gives you some ideas about how to make fantastic presentations, including his idea of a “passion statement.”
  • The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dickson and Brent Adamson – This book talks about how the most successful salesmen are not the buddy-buddy types. Instead, to the surprise of many, the most successful are the ones who learn everything about the client’s industry and then they “challenge” the client’s thinking — even to the point of arguing with them at a pitch and being a moderate-level pain in the neck. Clients come away from the meeting thinking that they learned something useful.
  • How to Master the Art of Selling, by Tom Hopkins – This book is kind of old but timeless. You will learn an incredible amount about selling in his book. He is a true master of this game. Despite my thousands — yes, thousands — of pitches, and my studious studying of marketing and sales, I read his book relatively recently, and learned a ton.
  • Influence, by Robert B. Cialdini – This is a book about persuasion. It explains the psychology of why people say “yes” — and how to apply these understandings.

Finally, there is one over-the-top incredible book for me to recommend to you. It is by far the best book ever written on marketing. It is called:

If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche

Yes, it is my book written by me, and I am joking above (sort of) about it being the greatest marketing book ever. However, it is a compendium of everything I have learned about marketing over the past 10 years, including my takeaways from the above-referenced books. One small problem is that it is not published yet. I hope to have it out later this year. Stay tuned!

In the end, I hope these books help you on your way to becoming a solid rainmaker.

Power Niche Marketing: Why Should I Hire You?

Pitching for legal work — or any kind of work — has a lot of subtleties of course. This includes establishing trust and rapport and much more — but ultimately you have to be able to answer a simple question that the prospective client is asking you overtly or impliedly:

WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?

If you don’t have a strong, powerful, unreserved, confident answer to this question, you have completely blown it. And I mean completely blown it.

That is what the prospect wants to know. That is what the prospect wants to take away from the meeting and if you don’t have an answer to that question you have missed your chance.

So now I ask you a question: When you prepare yourself for a pitch, do you sit down with a colleague and have the colleague ask you flat out:

WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?

And then – play-acting — do you answer it? I don’t mean saying to your colleague, “what you would say,” but actually answering it exactly the way you would say this to the prospect when the prospect asks you this question at the pitch.

If you don’t do that, why on Earth not?

I guarantee that if you do the foregoing play-act, you will be disappointed in how awkward you sound at first. But if you play-act a few times, or a bunch of times, or even a lot of times, you will be impressed with yourself and how incredibly good you sound.

And of even more importance, you might be puzzled at first and wonder why the prospect would in fact hire you. Maybe at first you can’t think of a reason and you will have to really think about it until you do come up with a reason.

In any case, without belaboring this point too much, one way or another you need an answer to this question that is — as I said — strong, powerful, unreserved, and confident.

You may be thinking at this point, I have been to a bunch of pitches and no one has ever actually asked me this specific question, so, Bruce, what are you talking about here?

That is a good question and there are two answers:

The first answer is that the prospect is thinking about this question even if she isn’t actually asking.

The second answer is that the process of figuring out how to answer this question is going to underlie and overlay your pitch meeting anyway. And if you have a strong answer it will come out one way or another during the pitch and resonate strongly to your benefit.

So, to conclude, never — ever — go to a pitch without a great answer to the question:

WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?