Just-in-time training is a literal term. You provide the only training the lawyers need, and only when they need it. The role of the business development department is to recognize the training-triggering situations and intervene with relevant, timely solutions.

The following is an actual redacted exchange between a partner, a law firm business development manager, and us. In response to the partner's inquiry, the BDM asked us how RainmakerVT training might be useful.

In this case, the lawyer specifically requested help, but even if he hadn't, a BDM, learning about the imminent pitch meeting, could have initiated things just as easily.

Here's the exchange.

I’m in the [city] office today with [other partner] and we were planning a trip to NY sometime during the week of December 9th. While there, we wanted to make a pitch to [company], a design, engineering, construction firm. I have some really close connections in-house and I was wondering if you could help me come up with some marketing materials to sell the firm between now and our trip. [other partner] and I have found the firm attorneys with [company] connections and will be contacting them to see what they have to say. I just wanted to give you a heads up and see if you could help me out. I have a little bit of experience with construction pitches but I could definitely use some professional help. Please let me know what you think.
— Email from partner to BD Manager
Curious – do you have a RainmakerVT program that could help here? (I’m talking to [managing partner] today and plan to use this as an example of how we could use the just-in-time courses.)
— Email from BD Manager to RainmakerVT

My reply:

This is the perfect use-case illustration for the just-in-time concept. Because of how far along the lawyers think they are, RainmakerVT has five courses they'll need. See the bullets interspersed below.

As of this moment, these partners are in trouble, and they don't know it. They're going to go to [construction company] and drill a dry hole. Start with the fact that the only thing driving this meeting is their desire to sell something to [construction company]. What's in it for those with whom they'll meet? Not "someday, after we work our legal magic," but right now, in the 30-60 minutes they occupy that person's office and time?

People hate being pitched. Therefore, there's no way to do it well. First, we need to shift their perspective.

It's free, runs about 6:40. You should watch the whole thing and decide which parts are most important to this purpose. IMO, they definitely need to see it from about 1:30 onward. They'll be surprised by what buyers we interviewed said. Our only regret is that we couldn't record the conversations; mere words cannot adequately communicate the scorn and loathing in their voices as they talked about being pitched.

The key is relevance.

Neither the firm nor these lawyers are inherently relevant to the [construction company] prospects’ jobs; the lawyers need to establish relevance by showing up prepared to talk about issues that affect construction/engineering companies LIKE [company]. I Googled "problems in the construction, engineering and technical services industry." My [italicized] search string was taken straight out of the self-description on [company]'s home page; I merely added the prefix "problems" to it.

My search results led me to a forward-looking PwC publication that features discussions of project finance and -management, cost reduction, and emerging markets (shown by the red arrows I inserted). Their 16th Annual Global CEO Survey should yield the mother lode of topics. A lawyer experienced in the construction business doesn't have to be too sharp or work too hard to come up with relevant, current discussion topics that are worth an executive's time.

PwC image.jpeg

Likewise, this National University of Singapore report about construction challenges in developing countries offers another source of topics.

I did this in five minutes. Tell them there's no need to waste hours of their time and yours messing around with marketing materials about the firm. Nobody wants to talk about the firm. Relevance is key, and right now, neither the firm nor the lawyers are relevant.

The lawyers need to understand that they're not going to [construction company] to make a sale, but to conduct an investigation to find a basis for a sale, i.e., a business problem with sufficient impact to compel a company to make a decision, invest money in a solution, and pull the trigger on it.

Once they've identified an industry-specific Door-Opener problem, they have to progress to learn the [construction company]-specific version of it.

Next, to eliminate wasteful sales activity that has no chance to succeed, they must learn from the prospect whether or not this problem has sufficient impact to compel action.

If the Cost of Doing Nothing is high enough, they have to know how to get a decision. No decision, no client, no revenue. That means learning a group-decision process by which the buyer does most of the work to eliminate traditional sales problems before they occur:

  • identify all those with a stake in the problem;
  • identify the logical internal champion who will move this forward for his or her own reasons, and provide critical intelligence and guidance to assure the sale gets made.

Most sales fail because neither the seller nor the buyer has a reliable decision process, and the buyer correctly recognizes that the seller's sole goal is getting to "yes." What if "yes" is the wrong decision? Anyone who ignores 50% of the possible correct outcomes isn't much help, and earns no trust.

What the lawyers' original pitch plan illustrates is "unconscious incompetence," i.e., the lawyers don't know what they don't know, so they aren't aware of any deficiency in the old pitch behaviors that buyers hate. 

How This Affects Training Implementation

Because of unconscious incompetence, most lawyers will usually be unable to recognize that they need help, so the stimulus must come from the BD staff.

Here are the four categories that constitute the bulk of lawyers' marketplace activity:

  1. Go to networking events
  2. Write articles
  3. Speak at conferences or before client groups
  4. Go on sales calls

Each of these activities are already on lawyers' calendars, which means that

  • We don't have to urge them to do it
  • We know when they'll need the help
  • We can approach them with a relevant foundation ("I know you're going to...")
  • We can offer them relevant, timely help to make that activity more successful, less painful, and take less time