Too many law firms purchase sales training without considering individual lawyers’ situations. They tend to purchase one type of training and expect it to work for everyone. This “one size fits all” approach ignores important differences in lawyers’ market conditions and ability to use the training. The lucky few for whom the chosen training happens to coincide with their situation will see improvement. For everyone else, the time and money was largely wasted. The result: despite acknowledging their need to develop better marketing and sales skills, many lawyers remain skeptical of the effectiveness of training solutions. This perception can kill the firm’s receptivity to training for a long time.
A more productive approach is to group the firm’s lawyers by their individual market situations (which determine what type of results are possible), then provide them with training—matched to that situation—that will yield those specific results.
Here are seven situations in three broad categories. While not exhaustive, these guidelines should help you group your firm’s lawyers by opportunity and need, and help assure productive training investments.
Category 1: Significant External Selling Opportunities
Successful, intuitive sellers who consistently bring in lots of business rarely are able to explain to others how they do it. Their proteges, and other lawyers under their direction, believe that the Rainmaker is hoarding the secret to sales success. A corporate sales skills seminar can give Rainmakers a vocabulary and methodology to help those looking to them for guidance. Rainmakers who have too many unqualified selling opportunities would benefit from a tightened focus through market profiling and sales planning; time wasted on unproductive sales calls can be recovered. Coaching helps them gain earlier control of legitimate opportunities, improve their closing percentage and reduce their cost of sales.
These partners, who have access to business executives and other quality contacts, tend to pitch their services frequently, though not in response to any defined need. They have lots of At Bats, but their low closing percentage yields too few hits. An organized sales methodology, with emphasis on coaching improves Pitchers’ selectivity, eliminates “No Decision” time wasters, strengthens control of the selling situation, and eliminates product-oriented presentations. These disciplines will yield a higher closing percentage and lower cost-of-sales.
Visibles are legal generalists with no perceived specialty who have a high profile in the business community, belong to or hold leadership positions in numerous professional, civic or charitable organizations, but originate too little business in relation to their community profile. Visibles need a formal prospecting and sales methodology with emphasis on sales planning to sharpen their focus, define the most receptive targets, and reduce the number of organizations to which they commit time. Coaching helps them sell more strategically and acknowledge that the buyer’s most pressing need and the easiest “point of entry” for the firm may be another lawyer’s service. All of this will permit them to convert their many social or casual business encounters into sales.
Category 2: Limited External Selling Opportunities
These lawyers’ clients exhibit no discernible pattern or profile, so they have no idea whom they wish to pursue, or should. This condition is a common result of careers spent accepting any and all business that walks in the door, but never pursuing business in any organized way. As a prerequisite to participating in corporate sales training, No Market lawyers should receive “market focus” training to help them profile, identify and target those potential buyers most receptive to their value message and sales initiatives. Without this step, they have no one to sell to, so sales training will be wasted and the lawyers will be embarrassed and discouraged.
Many lawyers have excellent professional reputations, but are trapped in relatively mature service or practice categories. They see a lot of RFPs, to which they feel obligated to respond (at great cost). They face continuing, intense price-sensitivity. Market Focus training helps them define the market to which they will transition. Subsequent corporate sales training should emphasize planning and coaching to develop skills to enable active “bid/no bid” decisions in the declining market. This allows the lawyer to eliminate total time-wasters and recapture time they can apply to targeting and pursuing more profitable work based on current clients’ higher priority needs, or to develop a new market.
Experts are renowned authorities on a particular legal discipline or issue, who have no business. To translate their acknowledged expertise into demand, they need help developing and consistently applying a single “value message.” Experts must also learn how to develop criteria to decide which of their many speaking and writing invitations support their goals, and how to control their message so that they prove the need for service instead of giving away the solution they should be selling.
Category 3: Virtually No External Selling Opportunities
These lawyers honor other partners’ client commitments. Many feel betrayed and threatened by the market shift that has diminished their status and earning power. They wish they had their own clients, but have no idea how to earn them; many are intimidated by the prospect of marketing or selling. Some Rainmakers protect their ability to deliver work they’ve sold by actively discouraging or inhibiting Service Partners from pursuing business. To give Service Partners a ray of hope, invest in Marketing 101-level conceptual education to help them begin to understand and get comfortable with marketing.
Use the chart on the next page as a guide to develop situation descriptions for the lawyers in your firm and define the correlating results you can expect from each situation. As you evaluate sales and marketing training programs, resist trying to decide which one is right for your firm. Instead, match them against your situations and expected results. Then, encourage your firm to invest in as many as it takes to achieve the available results for each situational category. You will raise the odds of success for your firm and strengthen your lawyers’ trust in the marketing department and firm management.
Mike O'Horo is a serial innovator in the law business. His current venture, RainmakerVT, is the world's first interactive online rainmaking training for lawyers, by which lawyers learn how to attract the right kind of clients without leaving their desks. For 20 years, Mike has been known by lawyers everywhere as The Coach. He trained more than 7000 of them, generating $1.5 billion in new business. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org