Back in May, Amy wrote a post a about what makes an attorney bio work (think: robust) and why it is challenging to create a really good one. Since then, we’ve been knee-deep in writing said bios and we have some more insights to share regarding that robust content that is so critical to a bio’s success.
Often, the motivation for updating your bio is to add new information – a recent matter you’ve handled, a new industry you’re pursuing, etc. But it’s job one to keep in the mind the ultimate goal of a bio – to sell a service.
One of Amy’s favorite books on the components of selling professional services is Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling. The book reports on actual research into selling complex professional services like the legal solutions our clients provide. Rackham’s research boiled highly successful sales down to four key questions that he describes as Situation, Problem, Implication and Need Payoff (hence, SPIN).
A bio that successfully answers the four SPIN questions is a bio that resonates with potential clients. It is persuasive, engaging and gives them what they need when they are evaluating one attorney over another.
1. Situational Questions ask for background and facts, but researchers caution that asking too many simple questions like this can be boring and make the potential client feel like they are being deposed.
In a bio: Whenever you prepare for a new business pitch, you are answering the situational questions. This should be done in bios, too, but without being boring or making the web visitor feel like they’re trapped in a game of Twenty Questions. When providing your background, bear your client in mind: What is the target client’s situation? Are they a small company or large? What industry or geographic region? Who in the company will be reading this bio and how can they see themselves in the bio text?
2. Problem Questions are aimed at uncovering needs and gaining a shared understanding of the buyer’s problem.
In a bio: If a client doesn’t have a problem, he doesn’t need an attorney. So think about your clients’ most common problems and address them in the bio. Demonstrate that you can solve them, too.
3. Implication Questions focus on the consequences of the problem, helping the potential client see the consequences of the problem and the value of a solution.
In a bio: Potential clients generally have explicit problems that an attorney can solve. But oftentimes, the client is focused on their immediate need, not yet looking towards related problems on the horizon. Within your representative matters, highlight an instance in which you helped a client not only solve their immediate problem, but uncovered additional areas of concern and resolved those issues before they became immediate problems. Taking the extra step to show how this specific problem could have underlying effects and consequences tells the client that you can provide exceptional value and be a trusted advisor.
4. Need-Payoff Questions focus on the value of the solution.
In a bio: All too often an attorney’s bio focuses on what the attorney perceives to be the coup-de-grace of the matter – the ruling, the settlement, the resolution. But answering the need-payoff question in a bio means that demonstrating the value of the resolution from the client’s business point of view, not the legal point of view. Most mid-career attorneys can come up with a case example or a representative matter that demonstrates this sensitivity to what the client really values.
And, by the way, keep it short!
Another key point to note about attorney bios, which might seem like a tall order after reading the above, is that attorney bios should be kept short. You’ll need to sift through the information you have and figure out a way to condense it, to get to the essence of what you do for clients and the value you offer. Particularly in our 140-character world, people want to digest information quickly. Write a draft, then cut, cut, cut until you have a strong, succinct bio that makes your bio worthy of the big sale.