“Yo Duke,” a man barked behind me. “Yooooo Duke,” he bellowed. In a moment of self awareness, I realized that he was yelling at me because of the Duke University sweatshirt that I was wearing. I turned around to encounter a lean, bald man in a crowded trade show booth full of the sunglasses that he and his colleague were hawking. He immediately handed me a rakish pair of wrap-around shades and, seeing my distain, asked what I’d rather wear on my drive home today. He had me hooked; I’m a sucker for a good question.

Through his stream of questions, we talked about the Costa del Mar sunglasses that I wear offshore fishing, about the Oakley Frogskins that I had lost in Montauk last fall, and about what safety glasses I wore at the shotgun range.  He now knew how and why I wear sunglasses year round and had already sold me two comfortable pairs – rubber coated Wayfarers that are still my day-to-day glasses and a pair of yellow shooting / driving glasses – for far less than I could buy them anywhere else

 At some point in the conversation, I interrupted my new favorite salesman and introduced myself to Jack.  During his career in finance, Jack participated in a deal involving a very profitable sunglasses company in which he became involved. As both a consumer and industry professional, Jack saw an opportunity to manufacture and sell $30-$40 sunglasses that fit and feel like $150-$200 shades. Jack works with Chinese sunglass factories to tweak their styles to better reflect what American amateur athletes and outdoor enthusiasts want. His company, Viking Eyewear, sells them directly to consumers hungry for a better product at a great price at outdoor trade shows and athletic events.

But what makes Jack so effective? First, he’s not afraid to be heard, as I quickly learned in a crowded trade show aisle. Second, he’s not afraid to ask his customers what they need.

What does this mean to your practice? First, you’re not getting in front of enough prospective customers, whether through referrals or networking. We all need to be a little louder in our marketplace and to not be ashamed about it. Second, you’re likely not asking the right questions to the prospective customers with whom you do meet in order to provide them with all of the services that we need.

Small-firm and family lawyers litigators should ask clients about business succession and estate planning issues. Estate planning attorneys should keep in touch with clients to be the family’s lawyer when a question arises. Deal lawyers should ask to meet with directors and officers at client companies to learn more about where the business is going.

Be a little louder and ask a few more questions. It will increase your revenue this summer and beyond.

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