Dawn and I went shopping last year. Not for shoes or purses, but for lawyers. We met with 14 business attorneys at quite a few good law firms. Something really surprised me: every single person we met who “wowed” us was under age 35 (says me) or at least under age 40 (says Dawn). Most of the mature, respected late forty- or fifty-somethings (all older than either of us) we met with nearly bored us to death.
I had assumed that since the older attorneys had been developing their practices for quite a while, they would be really good in prospect meetings. Not so. They talked about themselves. They asked few questions about us, our business, or what we wanted to accomplish. They seemed to think that because they worked at a “good” firm, we would want to work with them.
The younger attorneys, on the other hand, did their homework. They looked at our website and from it asked us questions about our business. They thought ahead and brought colleagues who might have expertise we needed. They asked important questions about our company and market. They offered to help us meet their friends and associates. One even offered us the use of their conference rooms while we were in town.
This experience directly contradicts what I hear from the Baby Boomer leaders I work with in law and CPA firms who claim that the upcoming generation is not committed to developing new business.
So this is what I learned for myself: As I meet more and more prospects younger than me, I had better not slip into the comfortable mode of believing that just because I am older, I know more than they do. Condescension and knowing everything is an easy place to slip into: like pale pink stretch pants, it is a fashion that looks bad on pretty much everyone.
What did I learn to help the leadership groups I work with? There really is a generational divide in what looks like business development. To my generation it meant join the Chamber of Commerce and meet a bunch of people at evening socials while your family keeps your dinner warm. Talk about the credibility and history of your firm to prove you are the cream of the crop.
To your generation it means do your homework on the Internet, focus on prospect needs, and offer more than just the services of the firm. Add value through the services of your connections and network.
Question: How would you prepare for a prospect meeting?