For business developers, Thanksgiving is the virtual end of the year. Use the remaining 7 weeks to assure a strong start to 2014.
Successful law practice depends on asking the right questions, the right way, in the right sequence, in support of the right purpose. Likewise, astute salespeople must have the experience and judgment to ask the right questions that cause prospects to examine complicated or difficult issues in new, more useful, or more penetrating ways, leading the prospect to an optimal decision.
Lawyers will do anything, buy anything, embrace anything that offers the possibility, however remote, of getting clients without having to sell. All the money that lawyers spent over the past 25 years on the progressive iterations of marketing communication (brochures > PR > newsletters > events > websites > social media) have all been about sales-avoidance.
Corporations demand changes in law firm billing. A major shift is taking place as more corporations shop for legal services based on price, not brand. The old law game is ending; learn how to play the new one.
The late entertainer George M. Cohan is quoted as saying, "It doesn't matter what you say about me as long as you spell my name right." His point was that as long as the newspapers caused the public to know his name, he could live with any editorial negatives.
But what happens when it's the other way around, i.e., the (virtual) ink is positive but they spell your name wrong? Perhaps I just find out.
We all write articles intended to earn the attention of our target market segment, and to establish what has become known as "thought leadership." The most recent online issue of San Diego Attorney magazine published my article All Referral Sources Are Not Created Equal. It’s about how lawyers can convert unproductive referral sources into fewer productive ones. I trust you'll find it helpful.
For me, the good news is that they published it, and listed it on the cover. (No, that good-lookin' guy isn't me.) The less good news is that, on the cover, the Table of Contents, and the article itself, they misspelled my surname as O'Horro.
Out of curiosity, I Googled "Mike O'Horro" (fervently hoping there were no ax-murderers among my ersatz namesakes). Happily, the few Mike O'Horros listed are probably more respectable than I am. The better news is that Google seems to have solved the problem for me. A search for Mike O'Horro produces (drum roll) the same results as if you'd searched for Mike O'Horo. Maybe the takeaway is to publish often so that search engines will interpret misspellings as an intent to search for the correctly-spelled entity. Or, it was simply my lucky day.
Kidding aside, for those who publish relevantly and consistently, over a long period of time you become a relative fixture in the search engines, and you might just be able to overcome a human error that would otherwise have erased your effort.
Mike O'Horo (with only one "r")
You know you have to improve your business development skills to get the business you need. But most of the training you see offered feels more like a degree program with a someday/maybe payoff rather than the specific help you need right now.
RainmakerVT is just-in-time training. You don’t have to commit to a long, drawn-out training program. That means that In 15-30-minute chunks, available from any computer or tablet 24/7, each course teaches you a concrete, practical skill you can apply right now, to the immediate challenge in front of you. Buy only what you need, only when you need it.
RainmakerVT is the most innovative, effective, convenient and affordable business development training you can get. Take a look at our course list, and then read what lawyers like you said about RainmakerVT in user-feedback interviews.
Q: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
A: "Practice, practice, practice."
How do you develop the kind of client roster and revenue level to which you aspire? Same answer: Practice, practice, practice. The key word in any skill-based pursuit is "practice."
For some reason (one that may not even be conscious), lawyers seem to expect themselves somehow to intrinsically know how to get business, i.e., without any training or practice. Why is that? Would they expect themselves intrinsically to be able to play the piano, turn the double play, prepare a gourmet meal, play scratch golf, or write the Great American Novel?
I don't know about all those other sublime skills, but my theory of why lawyers expect to get business without skills or experience is because, up until the Great Recession of 2008, they did get business without skills or experience. Lots of it. From the mid-to-late '80s until the economy tanked, they plied their trade amid a perfect storm of demand for legal service that enabled annual rate increases of from 6%-10%.
This experience caused lawyers to believe that marketing and selling were easy, and didn't require any real skill. The glitch is that they weren't marketing or selling; they were order-taking.
The order-taking era is over, permanently. It's time to deal with the real world, i.e., what your clients have faced for a long time, and it's characterized as declining demand and increasing competition, both of which require real marketing and sales skills.
Because nobody is born good at it and there are no "naturals," that means you have to actually get good at marketing and sales, which means:
- understand what it is
- learn how to do it
- practice, to get good at it
- do it often enough to become experienced
- get objective feedback and coaching so you can improve and approach the "artistry" level
You'll get good at business development the same way you got good at lawyering. So, let's start by no longer calling it "business development" and, in recognition that the five bullets above represent an investment and progression over time, hereafter call it "business development practice."
RainmakerVT's online training simulations include a free "Practice Mode" that lets you refresh what you learned - in five minutes or so just before you apply the skill in the real world.
The "die" part of Trout's warning doesn't refer to sudden, traumatic failure. It's more akin to death by a thousand cuts. If you think about it, you've probably already seen signs of it.
- The longtime client who now puts "your work" up for bid
- The uncomfortable discussion about reducing your rates
- The senior people with whom you've always had "a good relationship" don't call back right away, or at all
- Another law firm being selected for a transaction that's always been in your sweet spot - and you learned about it through the legal media or rumor mill
Are any of these clients angry with you or dissatisfied with your work? Not necessarily. It may be that, because this class of legal work is mature, everyone who does that work has become indistinct, and they're now lumped together in the "capable law firm for [legal service category]." Because the choice of firm that performs it has become less risky, and therefore less significant, the choice may have defaulted to whomever they had contact with at the time the need arose.
If you're comfortable being part of a large, indistinct mass of capable law firms that are seen as relatively interchangeable, do nothing. You're already there. Together, you can drive prices downward to where, in the face of rising operating costs, you're in danger of extinction.
If, however, you aspire to be perceived as a firm or lawyer of impact, with the pricing power that goes with it, you've got to be distinct. There aren't many ways to do that, but they include:
A different perspective on an ongoing category of business problem, and a fresh approach to solving it ("Everybody treats this as an HR/employee exit problem, but it's really a trade secret problem...")
Innovative service delivery methods that reduce cost, speed up delivery, eliminate redundancies and align better with clients' operations (Think back to the original big-transaction electronic deal rooms that made real-time document collaboration a reality.)
A precise focus on a narrowly-defined market segment, where you're the industry expert of record ("Sarah is the organic restaurant lawyer; nobody knows that space like she does.")
As Jack Trout (and his late partner, Al Ries) sagely teach us in the first two principles offered in their seminal work, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing:
How can you be first? How can you be different?
It doesn't have to be world-changing, like Henry Ford's mass-production line. It can be something simple like Ungaretti & Harris becoming, in 1995, the first law firm to offer a written client satisfaction guarantee, signed by all the partners.
Or the first lawyer to represent only other lawyers.
Or the first bank to finance tort litigation.
You get the idea. Now come up with a first for your practice.
RainmakerVT is the world's first interactive online business development training for lawyers. You'll learn by doing as you manage an avatar through networking events, sales calls and other common, but challenging, marketplace activities. At each critical juncture, you'll decide what to say or do next, and you'll receive immediate video coaching that explains why that choice was or wasn't the optimal one. You learn, make mistakes, get coaching, and practice -- in complete privacy. RainmakerVT is available when you are, 24/7, from any computer or tablet. You can buy only the specific training you need right now to help you with what you're about to do in the real world.
How much does it cost? You probably spend more at Starbucks each week.
Here are rave reviews from lawyers just like you.
…for all the help, guidance, advice, insight, encouragement and support we’ve gotten over the past 3-1/2 years as we’ve re-invented client development training via RainmakerVT.
As all entrepreneurs will admit, there’s a long, arduous stretch between the “Eureka!” moment when you see the future and how you can create it, and the heady point where you’ve become the de facto standard that everyone uses and against which competitors are measured. When you’re inventing something completely new (“disruptive innovation” as they like to call it in Silicon Valley), this stretch is defined by more unknowns than it’s possible to conceive of at the outset. That’s probably a good thing. If we actually had a list of the obstacles, frustrations and disappointments in front of us, would we still have embarked on the journey?
Along with those challenges, however, we also got to experience the rush of creativity behind doing something that’s never been done before. The six weeks that Craig and I spent in our equivalent of Boeing’s Skunk Works, during which we scripted all the RainmakerVT lessons, tests, interactions, scenarios and dialogue, were simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. All the battles with our technology partner as we stretched them far, far beyond their comfort level to invent true interactive simulations, were worth it when we saw the finished product and heard the glowing feedback from lawyers who participated in our user evaluation program.
There is much, much more to learn, experiment with, succeed and fail at, and experience as we continue.
Today, though, we’d like to thank all the lawyers, consultants, trainers, coaches, CMOs, BDOs and others in the legal marketing-and-sales-support industry who have been so generous with their time, knowledge, wisdom, contacts and relationships. Many of you have been friends for much of the 20 years we’ve spent in the law biz, and we couldn’t even have attempted to create RainmakerVT without you.
We also thank Brad Lea, Jason Straub, Brad Doyle, and the entire crew at LightspeedVT for for believing in us, and for all their smarts, skill and perseverance during the dark days of figuring out the complicated puzzle that became RainmakerVT — while overcoming the recurring urge to take us into the elevator lobby and shoot us. You translated our vision into reality.
We’re nowhere near declaring success as we envision it, but there’s no way we could have gotten this far without the encouragement and support of our families, who somehow always manage to see a bright spot amid our every disaster, failure and frustrating setback.
Two family members in particular are worthy of special acknowledgement:
Trish O’Horo Wilson, who, without being asked, simply started helping us, taking care of a bunch of administrative tasks that were falling through the cracks every day. All of a sudden, Craig and Mike had more time to focus on priorities. It’s our good fortune (and Trish’s bad luck, I guess) that Trish is both a seasoned business executive and a seasoned sales person.
She managed our user evaluation program masterfully, then started selling and managing accounts, and managing Mike — no small task, that. Today, we recognize that she’s been the perfect startup co-founder, wearing many hats interchangeably, seeing what needs done and making it happen. That we refer to her as our COO is akin to describing a decathlete as a javelin-thrower.
Helen O’Horo Gillespie, despite having her own flag-distribution business to operate, and also without being asked, saw that we were overwhelming Trish and started off-loading a lot of Trish’s duties, so quietly and effectively that it was a few months before we even knew of her role. Her focus and dogged persistence assure that whatever she puts on her plate gets done. She and Trish operate so independently, and coordinate so seamlessly, that we were able to remain blissfully ignorant of how they had made our burdens so much lighter. It’s like we have this other team within our team.
Special thanks to Trevor Goss, without whose knowledge and energy this website -- and our ability to communicate with you -- wouldn't exist. You'd still be looking at the tired site we had for too long.
Finally, but most importantly, many thanks to the forward-thinking law firms and lawyers who, seeing the same future we see, purchased RainmakerVT knowing it was new and imperfect, and who continue to partner with us to improve every aspect of the product, user experience, and our ability to support its effective application.
With that, we wish everyone a rejuvenating Thanksgiving holiday and, if you’re traveling, a safe and hassle-free arrival and return.