The institutional "why" vs. the individual "why not"

Inexperienced salespersons often fail to understand that the benefits to the company aren’t usually the same as the benefits to those who will buy your services. As a result, they find that many promising sales seem to run out of gas just before the finish line, for reasons that are hard to pin down.Most of the time, the answer is not only clear, but predictable and, therefore, avoidable.

90% of traditional business development activity is pointless

Lawyers’ scarcest business development resource is time. Most allocate only an hour or two per week to it, if that. And almost all of that is wasted doing things they’ve inherited, i.e., they do them simply because other lawyers do them. Here are some to stop doing, and three things that will simplify biz dev for you.

Convert unhappy clients into fans

Clients can become upset with us for many reasons, some of which are within our control, and others that aren’t. We make mistakes, forget things, have bad days, or simply get overwhelmed by the unexpected. Such is life. However, what happens afterward determines the future of that relationship, and countless other potential relationships that that client’s experience may influence when reported either directly or via social media. Here's how to convert angry clients into advocates.

Business development success in 15-minute increments, one day at a time

From time to time, lawyers are directed, nay, commanded, by firm leadership to create a business-generation plan. Most respond with an arbitrary list of unconnected activities that bear a striking resemblance to the previous year’s plan that they never followed or updated. Here's a better way.

The Ideal Length of a Sales Email (Based on 40 Million Emails)

Today, we rely on email more and more in our prospecting efforts. However, prospects open less than 24% of sales emails. That means three out of four emails you’ve sweated over and sent to prospects were likely a waste of time. Why send emails if nobody reads them? Here are the factors behind why some emails are opened, and others are sent straight to trash. 

Sales and Marketing are not the same

There is understandable confusion among lawyers about the difference between sales and marketing. Is the distinction merely semantic and, therefore, unimportant? I’ll argue that the difference is both meaningful and important. Here's why.

Stop doing 1:1 marketing

Lawyers struggle with a business generation cycle that’s inordinately long, unnecessarily expensive, and only marginally productive. It’s caused by engaging in one-to-one marketing behaviors. Do this instead.

“Market Math” guarantees BD success

Market Math is a concept to help you visualize how thought leadership distills to concrete sales opportunities. If you focus on a specific industry in which your demand-triggering business problem is inescapable, unless a company is an outlier, as long as your problem has meaningful consequences, if the market is large enough and has a sufficient number of trusted channels through which you can communicate, mathematically it's almost impossible to fail, no matter how many reductions you introduce to the model.

Frustrated with BD advice that gives you only the "what" and no "how"?

For years, lawyers have complained to me that, while the legal industry media is flooded with articles and blog posts about business development, little of it is useful to them because it’s missing the thing they really want and need: How to do it. Most articles tell lawyers what to do, but not how to do it. 

A Cheat Sheet for Professional Selling

We all wish for magic wands and other saviors to give us the gist of what we see as a complicated topic. Business development, marketing, and sales are no different. While I can’t give you a magic wand, this cheat sheet should enable you to grasp a framework within which you can operate simply.

One step forward and two steps back

Lawyers tell me that business development sometimes feels like a constant struggle, with sustained forward motion being elusive. They take a productive BD step today, then do nothing for a few days or a few weeks. Their feeling is accurate. If you’re not moving forward continuously, you’re falling behind. Here's how to keep things moving even when you're really busy.

The New Colors of Law Firm Marketing

It's not often that I encounter truly fresh thinking, expressed in an interesting way. However, my friend Allan Colman has hit that standard with The New Colors of Law Firm Marketing, billed as "the world's first law firm marketing coloring book."

Create a virtual sales force for yourself

The biggest business development obstacle lawyers face is time -- more accurately, the lack of it. That severely limits the number of legitimate sales opportunities you can generate, and the amount of selling you can do. But, what if you had dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of people selling for you?

What you know vs. who you know

You’ve heard the adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know." That reflected the relationship-centric nature of doing business in a Seller’s market. Now that you’ll face a Buyer’s market for the remainder of your career, it’s past time to upend that longstanding belief. Today it's, "It's not what you know. It's not who you know. It's what knowledge people associate you with."

Want to generate business? Get out of your comfort zone.

comfort zone.jpg

Why do such a small percentage of lawyers participate in business development? Despite the constant drumbeat since 2008 about declining demand, price pressure, new forms of competition, and a clear pattern of income shifting from those who don’t to those who do, why do so many lawyers effectively remain on the sidelines?

Part of the answer lies in their preferred terminology: “business development,” which is the preferred euphemism for “marketing” and “sales.” Well, actually, they’re OK with “marketing” but “sales” still produces clammy skin and twitching eyelids. Two weeks ago, in The bright line between marketing and sales, I addressed the issue of euphemistic language as an avoidance mechanism.

Take a look at the activity spectrum below. The two comfort-zone triangles converge where Marketing shifts to Selling. Notice that neither Marketers nor lawyers are comfortable there. Lawyers are all in favor of the first three categories -- Planning, Awareness, and Lead-Gen -- because that’s somebody else’s job. They’re OK with Client Development because they think of that as relationship-building. Selling? Yikes! No thanks.

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I suspect that much of lawyers’ Sales reticence is based on the outdated belief that selling means engaging in behaviors that they and many of us have experienced as consumers and consider repugnant, or at the very least beneath a lawyer. If sales success actually required you to be pushy, coercive, marginally honest, or any of the other sales stereotypes, lawyers’ reluctance would make perfect sense.

Another factor is the fear of closing. The risk that the big Moment of Truth will result in a “no,” and all their effort will be for naught, and they’ll feel rejected.

However, the good news is that none of those feared things is necessary.

The better news is that buyers prefer an approach that looks very similar to how you interact with your clients, where you’re trying to help them make good decisions that align well with their business needs and career interests:

  • Ask astute questions to understand the business problem that’s causing them to need a lawyer
  • Elicit from them the strategic-, operational-, and economic impacts of that problem
  • Help them decide if any action at all is required (sometimes doing nothing is optimal)
  • Develop a picture of the desired outcome
  • Explain their solution options and the ramifications of each
  • Begin exploring how best to implement the chosen solution

Helping someone figure out what to do. Doesn’t that sound a lot like how you’ve practiced law so successfully all these years? You’re already good at that. That’s your comfort zone. The only comfort zone you have to abandon is the one that has you clinging to outdated beliefs that produce such anxiety.

Mike O'Horo


Are you struggling to get your firm to invest in business-development training for you? Share Dezurve with them. It's a brand-new app that lets you demonstrate that you're serious about BD, and that you deserve training and coaching. Check it out, then share it with your firm's Marketing or Business Development officer.

The bright line between Marketing and Sales

Unless you’re helping a prospect inform and make a specific decision about a specific offer, you’re not selling, you’re still marketing. It’s only when you progress to the point where the entire focus is on deciding whether or not to buy that you’re selling. Everything else is marketing. If it’s about your products or services, it’s marketing. You may have some overlap, i.e., where you have to do some ongoing solution discussion during the sale, but the important point is recognizing that if you’re not talking about a decision, you’re not selling yet, which means you’re not getting closer to getting business.

The importance of "doing": the "Forgetting Curve"

If you want to learn learn business development, really learn it, you have to “do” business development. If you want skills, you have to practice. Reading, watching videos, webinars, that’s all necessary, but not sufficient.

You're known, but will you be remembered at the critical time?

There’s nothing more frustrating than learning that a prospect or client who knows you well has hired someone else for work that’s in your sweet spot. Or, you see a conference promotion where others are speaking about a topic about which you’re known to be an acknowledged expert. How does this happen?

Learning to Learn

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.