In response to my asking what he saw as the top issues facing law firm management, a longtime client who is the managing partner at a Gulf Coast law firm, said, “Mike, I love what you’ve done for us on the sales performance side. What I need help with now is ‘measure, manage, reward.’”
He went on to explain that there are always enough visible, anecdotal victories to allow a general sense of well-being, i.e., that things seem to be working pretty well. But, how are we really doing?
Without knowing it, he touched on a subject that hasn’t enjoyed much attention yet in law firms: sales management. (This shouldn’t be a big surprise, given that there are still some firms where the word “sales” remains taboo.)
Why Do Law Firms Need Sales Management?
For the same reason that every other revenue-generating organization on the planet needs it. How reliably can your firm answer these questions?
What is our revenue goal for this year?
What industries, companies and business conditions were our primary revenue sources last year?
Which way is that demand trending?
What industries, companies and business conditions will be our primary revenue sources this year?
How will revenue-generating responsibilities be allocated among the partners (practice groups, industry teams, client teams)?
Do all partners have clear revenue goals and a credible plan for pursuing them?
How do we determine what level of monthly or weekly sales activity is required from each partner to assure reaching his or her goal?
Which partners (practice groups, industry teams, client teams) are operating at that level of activity?
How productive or effective is that activity?
How are they performing against plan to date?
Which partners (practice groups, industry teams, client teams) are operating below the prescribed level of activity? Why?
What type of training, help or support does each partner (practice group, industry team, client team) need to reach his or her goal?
Who needs a pat on the back, or a kick in the pants?
In our observation, few firms have much of this data, which means that sales management is, at best, under-informed, and at worst, nonexistent.
The next thing
We believe that, after years of investing in marketing, sales training and internal sales support, sales management is the next organizational function for law firms to develop. However, unlike marketing and other functions before, sales management isn’t something that law firm leadership can outsource.
To be effective, sales management combines oversight, accountability, encouragement and leadership. The sales manager must have strategic and economic authority over a sales force consisting almost entirely of partners. Without that authority, he or she cannot acquire timely performance data, establish and enforce performance expectations, evaluate performance and reward or sanction behavior, allocate resources to support the sales effort, and bring the necessary perspective to evaluate all that in the proper context of the partners’ many competing commitments.
The problem is that law firms measure very little in terms of business development. Even in firms that invest in helping partners prepare plans, leadership doesn’t check to see whether or not the plans are being executed.