I’ve been touting the idea that, when all things being equal, clients hire attorneys that they know, like and trust, for quite a while now.

Numerous surveys and studies tell us that clients hire lawyers (not law firms) and they hire lawyers they know, like and trust. Well, there it is! Marketing legal services is all about being known, liked and trusted by people in the position to hire or refer you. But relationships don’t happen by accident. They must be grown and cultivated over time.

John Remsen, The Remsen Group

And while I am certain that this idea is not new to John,  he’s the first one I saw use it where lawyers and business development intersect. Hmmm. Turns out that the idea of building a rapport with your client isn’t just good for the legal industry. Jeffrey Gitomer has a great post Rapport is elusive business currency. Find it, build it, and bank it.

Jeffrey, In your presentation you said if you can’t build rapport, don’t start. I deal with attorneys. What is your recommendation if a prospect just won’t build rapport? Kevin Kevin, If an attorney prospect “just won’t build rapport,” it’s because you haven’t asked them the right rapport building questions. Ask about the toughest case they’ve ever had, or the reason they chose to get into law, or the most rewarding part about their career. Ask something significant about them. I’ve never met anyone that won’t spend a minute or two talking about themselves. Many salespeople make fatal mistakes trying to establish rapport around “things” – the weather, the ball game, the economy, or the news. That’s not rapport; that’s idle chatter. Real rapport has an emotional base to it. And it comes from the prospect’s personal experience, personal opinion, and personal wisdom. The key to earning rapport is keeping it light, and keeping it positive. There’s a secret of rapport, and the secret is “the link” – finding things in common that you both know about and like. The easiest example is children who are the same age, or having gone to the same college. These are both things you can talk about with a smile, and then move on to business. Professional people tend to be self-indulgent people. When you walk into their offices, their statues, trophies, and educational achievements are always in plain view. As are pictures of their family. Whenever I go into an office, I take a moment to walk around, not just look around. I look at educational achievements, other awards, and family photos. Sometimes the first question I ask is, “How old are your children?” because oftentimes the photograph will be several years old. Whatever it is that I’m looking at, I try to ask a question that will elicit personal information, personal history, or some type of positive emotional response.

It’s all about the PERSONAL CONNECTIONS people. It’s about uncovering those little nuggets of COMMONALITY where we can BOND at a different level. I cannot tell you how many people begin conversations with me around Girl Scouts and cookie sales (they just ended by the way … my troop rocked it!!). So many conversations with elementary school parents in Los Angeles begin with “what are you thinking about doing for middle school?” Coolerites, my greatest suggestion is to marry your personal and professional lives. Of course, social networking lends itself so well to this. Take Facebook. Think of your Facebook page as a party at your home. You’ve invited friends from different elements of your life into one room. Don’t offend anyone by overly discussing politics or religion (or the national health care bill). Introduce people who should meet. Don’t be afraid to discuss business, and don’t be afraid to discuss what’s happening in your personal life. Share links to the blog post you just wrote for the firm, the conference you’re about to attend, the vacation you’re about to take, the movie you just saw. As I mentioned last week, one of my highlights from the LMA conference was sitting at dinner when everyone pulled out their smart phones and started friending one another on Facebook. And, as Gina Rubel is right to point out, we’re still carrying on the conversations. Let people get to know you. Get to like you. Get to trust you. Who knows? You might end up building a rapport with your clients that <gasp> leads to new business.