In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Steve Fretzin, president of Fretzin, Inc., discuss business development coaching:
- Client referrals are the easiest, most effective way to build your book.
- Start with a simple business development plan: goals, your perfect client, who are your strategic partners, how will you fit business development into your day.
- It’s OK to pursue a strategy, even if you don’t know how you’ll do it. You can learn.
- A good coach will help you with the three P’s for success in any endeavor, including biz dev: Planning, Process, Performance improvement. It’s often the little things that make a huge impact.
Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host Alay Yajnik, Law firm growth expert, author and founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart business guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1….
Alay Yajnik: It is my pleasure to welcome to the program today, Steve Fretzin, president of Fretzin Inc. He focuses on business development, training and coaching. Steve is a three-time author and he is the host of The Be That Lawyer podcast, which just passed four thousand downloads and probably is on its way past five. Steve, welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage today.
Steve Fretzin: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Alay Yajnik: Thank you for being on the program. Really excited to be chatting with you today. I know our guests are going to get a lot out of listening to you. So tell us a little bit about yourself just as we get started.
Steve Fretzin: Yeah, I mean, the easiest place to start is to share that I’m not an attorney. I came up in sales through hard knocks and hard work and learned a lot of valuable lessons, worked for some evil bosses. And eventually I learned enough through hiring coaches and getting trained myself that I started my business back in 2004, mainly focused on sales teams and entrepreneurs, and had no interest or idea or thought that lawyers would be a group that I would work with. And I did it for a number of years. And the concept that I had been working on and building up on is essentially that everyone hates sales, everyone hates being sold to. If you’re older than maybe 40, you may remember the old Saturn commercials “no one likes to be sold to.” So I have all my processes that I had developed and generated were around what I call sales-free selling, which is where you don’t have to pitch. You don’t have to convince, you don’t have to talk your way through things. It was a lot more consultative questioning, listening, qualifying and trying to put yourself on even ground with your perspective client. When the recession hit in 2008, that’s really when I started working with attorneys. They started calling me and what they loved was that sales free idea, the fact that they that they didn’t want to pitch either. They didn’t want to go on to have to sell business and bring in clients in kind of a sales way. So it really worked well and the synergies were there. And after working with attorneys for a few years, I basically pushed my chips in and just said, “Look, there’s a need, there’s a skill set that I have that works well with attorneys and we seem to get along pretty well.” So that’s how it all went down.
Alay Yajnik: I love that approach. And one of the things that I hear from a lot of attorneys is they’ll ask me, “Are you a lawyer?” And I’m not either and we go through that. What were some of the things you discovered as you started to take the sales processes you’ve created, which were not at the time attorney specific, and you started to use those processes for lawyers and law firms?
Steve Fretzin: It was essentially very similar to the way that someone produces a top level athlete or a quality chef. I call it the three P’s. It’s as simple as it gets anyone that wants to be successful at something, if they do the three P’s, the chance of failure is very low. The first is Plan. Right? So I’m helping attorneys plan for their year, plan for their month, plan for their week, their day. And how does business development fit into that day or that week or that month so that that doesn’t slip through? And what’s the low hanging fruit? So all of that planned out tracking accountability, all those things that are important that most lawyers never do, never write a plan, never think about tracking, never look at mistakes and improvement. OK, so number one, the first piece: Plan.
Steve Fretzin: The second is a Process. And again, there’s a process for how lawyers approach an estate plan or how they approach a courtroom. Right. Deposition that’s all planned out. And that’s there’s a process that they learn in law school and working in law. But when it comes to business development, where’s the process now? They’re just out winging it and hoping for the best. Well, that’s not a great way to approach anything.
Steve Fretzin: And then the last one is Performance improvement. And that’s really taking the process, using it on the field. And then what can you learn from those mistakes? What can you learn from what you just did that could be improved and improved and improved? So if you have a plan and then you have process and then you improve the process, think about it, whether you’re an athlete or musician or a chef or a business developer or a lawyer. Right. Practicing law, it’s all the same. And if you have the right coaching, the right training and the right help, right. All of that can come into play. And it’s so that’s essentially what the secret sauce is, which is common sense. It’s not brain surgery, but it actually works.
Alay Yajnik: Yeah, this stuff is not rocket science, but it’s amazing how few people actually approach it seriously and put it into practice. And when they do, as you said, the results follow. And so what led you into this role as a business development trainer and coach?
Steve Fretzin: You know, essentially the shortest version is I started to stop wanting to be a salesman and wanted to be a business person. And so my background in sales. But more importantly a background in franchising where I really not only learned how to sell a business, but I also had to maintain and and help about 50 franchisees around the country to be successful and grow their businesses. And so I hired coaches to help me learn sales at the next level so that I could then help my clients and and build more revenue for everybody. And I just fell in love with what my coaches were working on with me and what I was learning and that I could improve even though I made a great living. And I thought I knew everything I didn’t. And no one does. Everybody can improve. I mean, I’ve got a Michael Jordan jersey sitting behind me. And, look, he was a great player in college. But the fact is, he wouldn’t be who he became without having Phil Jackson in his corner. And so we all need to consider how much better we could be, even if we feel like we’re doing well. And the love of that and the passion of that and knowing that I wanted to run my own business all came together in formulating this business around Fretzin Inc.
Alay Yajnik: And I love the authenticity, the passion that you have there, and the fact that you were already an expert on this before you got started. This was not something that you were forced into. It’s something that you saw, you observed. You decided you loved it and you jumped into it. And now that you’re in it and you’ve been doing it at a very high level for over a decade now, how do you feel when you approach a coaching engagement and when you get some wins?
Steve Fretzin: So the first thing I’ll tell you is that I’m not a fit for everybody. There’s about a five percent sliver of the legal population that I’m a good fit for. And here’s why. Because as a coach, I’m only as good as my players. And if I have someone with a good attitude that’s willing to learn, that’s open minded, that wants to take it to the next level, I’m a great choice. But everyone else I’ve got books, I’ve got articles, I’ve got a podcast. Use what you can to make improvements. But the people that want to push their chips in and really take it to the next level, that’s really who I’m looking for and what I’m looking for. So my business revolves around working with those individuals, which, of course, then we get great results. We double and triple books, we get people to the next level. They make equity partner faster. And those are the kinds of things that get me going every day. And I’ll give you a quick story, Alay. A construction client of mine was an associate at a firm that was a construction firm, and he really understood that business development was the secret sauce to really controlling his destiny. And his firm was very negative. They weren’t really behind him, but they did decide to make an investment in him and make an investment in a couple other people to work with me. And he was the only one that took it seriously. The other two guys were terrible. And at the end of the day, he ended up leaving that firm and getting into another firm because he started building a book. He called me up about a month ago and he said, “Look, I’m doing a few million bucks a year now. Everything that we worked on together is paid out. And I’m now being invited to be an equity partner at this firm, which is a fantastic firm.” And we had that moment together of this is what it’s all about. This is where you wanted to be. You’re now there. Where I wanted to be as your coach is exactly where I want to be in that I was there for that ride along with you and the guy is just tremendous. But but I needed him. I can’t get there without him. I can’t get there without that type of motivation and ambition. So that’s what gets me up every day. And that’s what makes me move and shake.
Alay Yajnik: Yeah. It’s the goosebumps. I think a lot of coaches will will say this. It’s the goosebumps that you get. When you support a client to get the result, they’re doing the work. And like you said, you’ve got to start with someone who has a lot of potential and just being along for that ride and helping them realize that potential and see the success and see the rewards that it has in their personal life and their professional life, that’s what gives us the goose bumps. And so when you’re working with a lawyer and helping them build their book of business, what are a couple of concrete tips that you can share with them right now that would help them do that?
Steve Fretzin: Yeah, and I just did this, you know, with someone I met through a networking group that I’m a part of. And, you know, I just took 30 minutes and I sat down with them. I said, what’s your plan for 2021? He says, “I got to make more money and I got to do better.” And I said, and this is all around business development, I said, “Look, would you be willing to spend with no obligation. I’m not going to sell you to be my client. You’re not even ready for me anyway.” I said, “Why don’t we just work on your plan? Let’s just put a very simple two page plan together that you can follow.” I said, “Write it up and I’ll send you a sample and then then you email me what you have and I’ll look at it.” And this is something that that I do a ton of. But I would say without having a simple plan of who are your targets, who are your strategic partners, how are you going to go about putting business development into your day, into your week, in your month? You’re really just all over the place. So I would say that’s the most important thing, is putting together a simple plan of what the low hanging fruit looks like, client’s strategic partners, friends and family, people that can get you in where you need to get in.
Steve Fretzin: So starting with the basic three parts of it are starting with an objective. What do you want to accomplish in 2021? Is it getting to two hundred thousand in originations? Is it getting to two million in originations? Is it bringing in five new clients, something concrete. That’s one sentence. Then we break it into strategies. Right. What are the top two or three strategies that you want to focus on. Is it leveraging clients for introductions. And so a lawyer at that point would say, “Steve, that sounds great, but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t feel comfortable asking for those introductions. That’s not in my in my skill set or mindset.” OK, well, hang on. Hang onto that thought for a minute. Let’s just put it down, because that is the easiest way to get business. Right. You can go and network until you’re blue in the face. If you’ve got clients that adore you and you’ve done great work for, they’re the ones that have the keys to the kingdom. So let’s not ignore them. So let’s say an objective is to leverage past and existing clients to identify new business and quality introductions to new prospective clients. Again, one sentence, two sentences. Another one might be, you know, join two networking groups and begin to develop strategic relationships. All right. So those are the two strategies that that individual decides.
Steve Fretzin: Fine, now we have to break it into tactics. Tactics are the actionable things that need to happen within that strategy. And if you do the tactics, you accomplish the strategy. If you accomplish this strategy, then you get to the objectives. So it’s almost like in college when we went through economics, it was micro and macro. It starting with with the details and then moving it backwards to the big picture. And that’s what I’m working on with these lawyers to try to give them the tactics and think about it like a story. Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. This is the opportunity for someone to write what are some planning steps, what are some execution steps and what are some follow through steps? And if you have all three of those covered in the tactics, that’s going to help you accomplish that strategy. So I have more of this in my networking handbook or ambitious attorney books that I’ve written. But those are the simple concepts that need to happen in order to develop a simple plan. So that’s one example of what something I would work on with an attorney or teach an attorney.
Alay Yajnik: I love the simplicity of it. Most of the b.d. types of plans or strategic plans that I’ve seen that are successful follow a very similar format. So I love that you keep it simple. And the thing that you said that really resonated with me, there were actually a couple of things. The first is that the easiest way to get business is by asking the clients who adore you for more business and more referrals. That is fantastic. And if anyone is taking notes, make sure you take that home, because that is a fantastic takeaway.
Alay Yajnik: The other thing is that don’t get so caught up around “the how.” If you don’t know how to ask for referrals, if you don’t know what networking groups to go to, if you don’t know where to go speak…we can work on that. But that still can be part of your strategy, you don’t need to have all this stuff all figured out, right, that’s what they can work with you, Steve, on is “the how.” But having that high level strategy and still having the courage to put that down and to say, “Yep. I’m going to go attack that.” And to learn how to do it is a big part of the battle. And so that next step: how do you help lawyers advance their legal careers and build their book of business?
Steve Fretzin: Yeah, I think it’s all the pieces in the middle. So like I said, if you’re a lawyer, you go to law school and you you learn all these different things of how you’re going to, you know, research or how you’re going to address a courtroom or, you know, all the theory and concepts, things that you and I never went through. And so the biggest piece that’s missing for lawyers and where they have a lot of challenges is the process and the language to make business development comfortable. That’s what is missing. So there are people that you know and I know that are like a brick to the head. They can say anything to anybody and sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t. But the majority of the people out there are either introverted or uncomfortable or they’re not going to approach business development in a way that is soft and nurturing. It’s going to be more like, “Hey, let’s go make a pitch meeting and we’re going to go on a pitch.” And what they’re missing is all of the processes that need to happen to make the pitch. And when the pitch is going to happen, I’ll just give a quick example. So part of what I teach in sales-free selling and the mantra is “prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.” So if you think about that, if I’m going in to make a pitch, that’s the equivalent of me walking into a doctor’s office saying my arm hurts. The doctor saying, “That’s great. Well, let’s cut off your arm. And that’s going to end that.” Well, that’s a prescription that may not be the right prescription, but it’s a prescription. What would a better doctor do? Right? A better doctor would ask questions. A better doctor would have a bedside manner. A better doctor would take x-rays. There’s things that need to happen to ensure that the doctor makes the right prescription based off the diagnosis. Lawyers are taught how to question people in a deposition, for example, but they’re not taught how to run an actual sales meeting to get the best possible outcome. So things that I teach are steps like relationship step. How do we build the strongest possible relationship, getting into a new prospective meeting? How do we set an agenda? Do we want the prospective client take control and start asking us about our rates right up front? Or do we want to be able to ask them questions up front and do a proper diagnosis? If we’re not controlling the meeting than they are. And if we need to control it in order to get the proper outcome and then doing something like discovery where we actually do that diagnosis and how deep we go so that the person that we’re dealing with, the prospective client, thinks that we’re smart, even though we haven’t really told them anything about our pedigree or about how we would solve a problem. So these are steps that I teach, but lawyers never are going to learn this without – yeah, you can read a book about it. I’ve got a book about it. But that’s different than actually learning and internalizing and be able to then do it on the field. And that’s something that we need to continue to work on and help lawyers improve
Alay Yajnik: As coaches we’re not oftentimes communicating things that are new. Most of the time, given an infinite amount of time, an attorney can go to a library and find what they need. But the problem with books – and I’ve written one also, so this is no slam on anyone who’s an author – books are terrific, but the problem with them is that they’re not tuned to the reader. They can’t be, but a coach can. So, Steve, you have a suite of tools at your disposal. And I’m sure where you excel is you work with a client to figure out, “OK, how is this process going to look like for them? What’s going to really work for them and their practice and the kind of clients are going for?” And that application makes, in my mind all the difference, between growing your book by 10 percent or growing it by a hundred percent.
Steve Fretzin: Yeah, it really is amazing how how many things we can identify as coaches. That and again, back back when I was in sales, I thought I knew everything until I had someone start to say, “You know, the fact that you’re doing this…is that getting you this result?” I go, “Yeah.”
Steve Fretzin: “Well, do you like that result?”
Steve Fretzin: No, I don’t like living in hope, waiting for people to call me back or having to chase after people that you know, they’re saying “maybe” and “I’ll think about it” and “I’ll get back to you.” And it’s really just a blow off. Right. So I needed to have someone with an outside lens or without blinders on, give me advice and help me to sharpen my saw. And I think lawyers need that, too. And, you know, it’s fine to have a mentor and it’s fine to have an internal BD department. And God bless them, their job is challenging. But I think, you know, to have an outside coach like you or I is another level because then our focus is so on them, whether it’s giving them the plan, helping them with the plan, helping them with process accountability, check-ins, debriefing.
Steve Fretzin: Just as a simple thing, somebody calls me up and says, “Hey, I just had a meeting, here’s what happened.” And then our skilled minds and our experienced minds can hear that and go, “Wait a second. There’s another decision maker that I’ve just picked up on that this lawyers had no clue about.” Then I can say, “Did you ask this question: Other than yourself, who else, if anyone, might be involved in this process?” And they go, “Oh, I didn’t ask that question.” OK, so not only do you need to go back and ask that question, but moving forward with the next prospective client meeting, you go on, is that one that you’re going to add to your repertoire? “Oh, yeah. I’m not going to miss that again.” Well, that’s a game changer because this person may have been losing business or missing business for years by not asking that question. So these are the kinds of things that really can be game changers for attorneys, giving them process and language that they that they previously didn’t have.
Alay Yajnik: I’m glad you brought that up, because oftentimes it is the little things, it is the missed questions, it is the phrasing of the questions, it is the body language. Those are the little things that can make a huge difference. And I love that you focus on that. Prior to when a lawyer starts working with you, what are the top three common challenges that they have?
Steve Fretzin: Number one is they’re just stuck. They’re stuck as an associate, stuck as a partner, they’re stuck as an attorney doing everyone else’s work. And I know that’s not an easy situation to get out of, but that’s a regular one that my clients come to me with. And I absolutely help them out of that situation that might involve taking them on to work on their b.d. But maybe even on top of that, we’ve got to work through how do they communicate to the firm their plans for the future and how do they get supported through an associate of their own or maybe a team? These are all things that that I help attorneys with, because if they can’t get those hours loosened up, it can be very challenging for them to go out and do the b.d. that they are desiring to do. That’s one example, obviously planning, execution. They’re just really not able to see, as I mentioned earlier, what the clear path is to growing that book. Who their targets should be, how do they specialize? What makes them unique or different in the marketplace? It could be how do they separate themselves through social media? And there’s no clear path there. Everybody’s posting on social media. But how how do you create a niche or how do you create a space for yourself in social media that separates you from the pack? Right. Whether you’re in health care, whether you’re an estate planning, personal injury, what can we work on together that’s going to help clear that path for you? So there’s a lot of different things. And see what I don’t help them with, somebody needs a website coded. That’s not me. If somebody needs to produce a newsletter, I can certainly provide resources for that. But, you know, marketing’s separate from business development. I can help a little bit in branding and an organization, but not not the heavy lifting on the marketing. That’s that’s someone else’s job.
Alay Yajnik: And you mentioned that there is that small sliver of attorneys who could benefit from what you do and who are a great fit for your services. What are some signs that our attorneys can be looking for that say, “You know what? These are some signs that I should be giving Steve a call because we’d be a great fit.”
Steve Fretzin: I would say you’re in a position where you want to draw a line in the sand and say, “I don’t want 2021 to look like 2020.” And I know that it won’t because 2020 was a nightmare for a lot of people. But, it’s “I want to learn business development and I want to internalize it so I have it for the rest of my career.” No one hires me twice. They go through the program. It’s training, it’s coaching, it’s accountability. It’s a full blown deal so that they get to their goal. And then it’s what’s next after that, it’s equity partner. It’s, you know, being able to build a book and be portable. It’s being able to go out on your own. But it’s people that are at that transition point. I’m not going to say pivot because it’s been overplayed like crazy, but it’s at that transition point where they want to go from senior partner to partner or from partner to equity or they they’re just struggling, making maybe one hundred grand at their own firm. And they really should be making three hundred thousand a year, take home. That’s the kind of client I’m looking for. They’ve got to be like, “I want to take it to the next level.” Not that 10 percent that you mentioned earlier.
Alay Yajnik: What excites you going forward about Fretzin Inc.? You’ve already written three books, you have a terrific podcast. What excites you about 2021 and the future?
Steve Fretzin: Yeah. So in addition to coaching and training attorneys that are looking to grow – and I’ve got lawyers that are doing fifty thousand a year and bringing in business and six million and everything in between. So there’s really no low or high end on that. And again, it’s about their ambition. The thing that I’m most excited about for 2021 is peer advisory. So many people know about Vistage and they know about some other peer advisory types of groups out there. I run peer advisory groups for lawyers right now. I’ve got two rainmaker roundtables running where I’m taking high producers, high performers that maybe either don’t need the training or have been through my training already. And they want to just be in a peer advisory group of other high performers in other states and other cities and other practice areas that they can share best practices with. And what’s nice for me is I get to facilitate a high level discussion, bring in excellent speakers. And that’s something that I started building in 2020. And I’m going to continue to build that not only for rainmakers, but people that are looking to grow, but they want to learn from from their peers. And so that’s another sort of deliverable, if you will, that I’m really focused on in 2021.
Alay Yajnik: That does sound exciting. Congratulations on all the success that you’ve had, Steve. What is one tip or piece of advice that you might have for attorneys who are looking to build their book of business or to level up their business development?
Steve Fretzin: The biggest the best tip I’ll give you is “don’t wait.” I have people in their 50s and even in their 60s that are coming to me on their knees because things didn’t turn out the way they thought. They thought they would just do someone else’s work, make a great living. And maybe that worked up to a point. But now there are 55 years old. They’ve got another 20 years left, and that’s fine, but they’ve got to really restart. So, you know, building a book is something that you don’t want to wait on. And whether you hire me or Alay or you want to just start reading books or just starting to take in content, don’t wait. Get on it now.
Alay Yajnik: And Steve, if they wanted it to reach out and connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Steve Fretzin: Yeah, probably the best ways to find me on LinkedIn. My name is Steve Fretzin. You can find my books on Amazon. Just type in my name and check out my website at fretzin.com. Very easy to find me.
Alay Yajnik: Steve, thank you so much for being on the show today. I really enjoyed our conversation. We have a lot in common and I love the way that you work with your attorneys.
Steve Fretzin: I appreciate it. Thanks so much for having me.
Alay Yajnik: Everyone, that is Steve Fretzin. Three time author, business development, training and coaching and the host of The Be That Lawyer podcast.
Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to write the show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode.
Alay Yajnik: Now, if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help. Request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. My name is Alay Yajnik. Thank you for listening. And until next time, remember, you can seize freedom, you can embrace happiness, you can build your perfect practice.