Many lawyers struggle to learn business development skills, in no small part because they don’t embrace the need to get better at it. Try some of these self-talk techniques to help you overcome inertia and get started.
Many lawyers are uncomfortable with the idea of selling because their perceptions of salespeople are colored by lifelong exposure to the undesirable behaviors and attitudes of amateurs they encounter as consumers of various products and services.
Here are four key differences between the amateur salesperson and the professional:
For many lawyers, the thought of business development is the very bane of their existence. Even the most "gifted" rainmakers occasionally experience a sense of "Oh, my gosh, another year, another mountain to climb." As the legal business becomes more fiercely competitive, it can be daunting--and darn right discouraging--to face the challenge of meeting and exceeding 2017's business goals.
There's hope, provided you're realistic.
About this time each year, law industry publications are rife with advice about “holiday marketing.” The advice tends to be about gift-giving protocols and using social events to network and create relationships.
However, today’s legal environment requires more substantial analysis and strategy, a “Holiday Marketing 2.0” if you will. Everyone knows that the legal service market is more competitive than ever. In the past, simply showing up and sending a holiday gift was adequate “holiday marketing.” However, the 20-year seller’s market, in which there were 150 cases for 100 lawyers, is over. It’s time to shift from a product-centric focus to a client-centric focus, and do it well.
Here’s my simple guideline for how to get business during the social season: Don’t do it. Don’t attempt to get new business during the holiday season at all.
Think about yourself and your personal appetite for someone marketing or selling to you during the hectic holiday season. Think about the chaotic composition of your final three weeks of the year:
- completing work in progress before the end of year deadline;
- taking care of any end-of-year issues with your own practice;
- social obligations to clients;
- social obligations to family and friends; and
- travel for all of the above.
How different do you think the comparable lists are for those with whom you do business, or wish to? How receptive are they likely to be to your marketing or sales overtures? Setting aside concrete business obligations, market contact during the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve is predominantly social. And most people prefer it that way.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore business development then, only that you apply a different perspective and align your expectations to reality, and reality is that, barring someone you know well approaching you for help with a serendipitous burning platform, you’re extremely unlikely to get actual new business in December. December is for teeing up calls and meetings for January.
Make December A Reliable Client Accelerator for the New Year
Here’s how to make December a reliable new business accelerator for January without creating discomfort for anyone:
- Begin converting social relationships into business relationships without jeopardizing the friendship. Your instincts tell you that anything resembling a pitch will put a friendship at risk, and it should. The root of “relationship” is “relate.” Your social relationship is based on relating to each other’s lives. Similarly, a business relationship is based on related to someone’s business life. As you learned when you are very young, to be interesting, be interested.
- Position yourself with referral sources by associating yourself with business issues that your contacts’ jobs require them to care about. Your sources want to help you, but you make it hard by using language that disconnects you from their contacts’ conversations. Relevance is key to any conversation and relationship. Whether the context is social or business, if what you discuss isn’t relevant to me, I will tune you out. Commit now to raising your awareness of what’s happening in the business world generally, and in your prospects’ industries particularly. Your referral sources will rarely hear their contacts using your practice group terminology (M&A, Employment, Litigation) and when they do, it is usually too late in the decision cycle to introduce a stranger. What they will hear is those contacts discussing business situations, problems, challenges and opportunities. If they associate you with those topics, when they hear them you’ll come to mind and trigger their intent to introduce you.
- Begin conversations that can’t (or shouldn’t) be completed in a social setting. This makes it natural to suggest continuing the discussion in a January lunch, meeting, or phone call. No matter how fascinating your topic, nobody wants to hear everything you know in a social setting. As the public-speaking axiom goes, “It’s better to leave them begging for more than begging for mercy.” Tee up an interesting topic, stay with it just long enough for the other person to demonstrate real interest, then graciously suggest that you don’t want to monopolize their attention and ask if it makes sense to connect by phone later.
At this juncture, you’re forgiven if you’re feeling frustrated at reading so much about what you should do and so little about how. “The devil is in the detail (and the detail is the ‘how’).” To learn how to do what I urge, you have to invest a little time and money on training, and the holiday season can be a great time to do that.
RainmakerVT is online business development training technology that delivers inexpensive on-demand, just-in-time training that gives lawyers the discrete business development skills they need during holiday events to effectively and confidently address immediate challenges, and to turn the holiday season into a reliable client accelerator for the New Year.
The past eight years have been tough on lots of lawyers and those who support them. The recession strained finances and kicked off a sea change in client expectations. New categories of competition emerge almost daily. Clients' BigData investments mean they often know much more about your performance than you do. It can feel like a struggle. If you’re feeling lost at sea, here are a few navigation aids that can help you find your course and get back to enjoying your career and your life.
"We have an office in [your town]," implying that this geographic fact has inherent value to a buyer or anyone else listening. What if your prospect were to ask you "So what?" How would you answer? In an age of instant, simultaneous communications, virtual locations and cheap air travel, what specific, compelling business value does physical proximity convey?
Lawyers struggle to negotiate pricing with prospects and clients. Part of this is the product of lawyers’ personalities,. Part is based on the fear that inartful price discussions could cause them to lose the business. However, a large part comes from having a singular focus on money. Besides a price reduction, what else can you offer that your client might accept in lieu of money?
Throughout the Summer, we see lots of highlights of individual baseball stars performing amazing feats on the field. But as we begin the playoffs, we're reminded that the best team wins the championship, and that means getting contributions from everyone on the team.
Let's examine the team that supports your clients. What value does each teammate bring to your business development efforts?
Why do some lawyers take full advantage of business development learning and training opportunities, while others pooh-pooh them or delude themselves that it’s not important to improve their knowledge and skills? Why do those who admit that better BD skills are important nonetheless procrastinate forever, promising themselves that they’ll get to it when they have more time?
It’s rare that a single person makes a buying decision. There are almost always multiple people with a role in making it. However, groups of people don’t know how to make decisions. It’s not an intuitive skill, and everyone struggles with it. In fact, “no decision” is always your biggest competitor. Here's how to defeat no-decision.