“It costs less to get more business from current clients than to get a new client.” Expressions like this represent one of the legal profession’s most sacred truths, mouthed in near-reverential tones by virtually all lawyers and marketers. Despite this almost religious claim, on average, BigLaw's best clients purchase only a small percentage of the firm's dozens of legal services. On a relative scale, this is also true of MidLaw. Despite two decades of serious law firm consolidation, firms' top clients use roughly thirty different law firms, which suggests that firms also have a limited share of budget for those services they do manage to sell.
The upshot is that by any objective measure, firms are in fact not getting more business from current clients, at least in relation to what appears to be available, and certainly not in relation to the reverence with which the “existing client” mantra is intoned. So, why don’t more firms actually get more business from current clients?
They lack reliable intelligence about the business problems that drive demand for additional service, despite having a reliable, readily available means to obtain it.
In the course of performing billable work or managing matters for clients, many lawyers have frequent contact with client executives and counsel at various levels, and earn high levels of trust and confidence. Unfortunately, those lawyers seem to focus almost exclusively on delivering an excellent work product and providing exceptional client service. Rarely do they also investigate additional problems or needs in an organized way, despite having relatively unfettered access (compared to outsiders) to the information and people required to conduct effective sales investigations.
Look at the sales advantages you have as an insider:
The sales activities are the same for both outsider and insider. The important differences are how effective they are and who pays for them. The outsider pays for everything and must divert time to conduct these activities, the highest cost being the time it takes repeatedly to think of a basis for contact and to achieve that contact.
The insider’s position affords easier, quicker and less costly access because he or she is already in frequent contact with the client. The insider initiates and sustains the sales investigation in the course of performing the legal work. The client pays for the frequent access, for the time it takes the lawyer to form relationships with those who will enable and inform sales investigations, and for the lawyer’s in-depth understanding of the company’s business situation and politics. This represents all of the sales investigation and virtually all the sales overhead.
To exploit this “insider” status asset, all you need is a minor shift in attitude and perspective. After you’ve made sure that you’re doing a first-class job on the current matter and are delivering the legal service in a way that strengthens trust, satisfaction and preference, begin thinking of your ongoing performance relationship as “client-funded sales investigation.”
Thinking this way will remind you to
- conduct an investigation of emerging or future opportunities,
- initiate it sooner to offer the greatest chance of bringing it to fruition during the current matter engagement, and
- sustain and refresh it throughout the duration of the relationship.
If you fail to do this, understand that the moment the current engagement ends, you become an outsider again and have to start funding your sales investigation yourself with fewer advantages. Why would we knowingly level the playing field for our “outsider” competitors?
Lawyers don't need abstract business development training. What they need is help preparing for specific real-world marketing or sales activity.
Most biz dev training offered to lawyers is best described as "just in case," i.e., "take time now to learn all this stuff because you'll need it at some point." That can't work. Lawyers are in the "just in time" business, attending to the most pressing matters, deferring everything else until it's imminent.
RainmakerVT lets you rent only the specific training you need to prepare for what you've got to do in the next week or so. Are you going to a networking event next week? Do you have a sales opportunity call or meeting scheduled? Will you be discussing alternative fees with a client soon?
Click on any of these links to see what we mean by "only what you need, when you need it." Here's the rest of our course list.