If you're in the habit of pitching legal services straight out, i.e., "We're great at real estate finance; let us help you with that," stop reading. I can't help you. Nobody can. There's no market for product-centric pitches.  If, instead, you're bringing fresh thinking to prospects or clients whom you believe would benefit from applying it (with your help, of course), read on.

When you hear "no budget," you should interpret that as representing one of two problems, each of which can be resolved by shifting your perspective and applying one of a few simple disciplines.

  1. You're talking to the wrong person
  2. The person you're speaking with perceives the Cost of Doing Nothing as too low (either because you didn't explore it thoroughly, or it's actually low) 

The first condition usually exists because of the second. Being "the wrong person" doesn't necessarily reflect the person's purchasing authority. It reflects their low personal stake in the problem or issue. They have the luxury of delaying action, or eschewing it completely. As a result, they have no reason to embrace the risk associated with taking action or even advocating that others take action. It's time to shift your goal with this person. They're no longer a prospective buyer; they're now an intelligence source and potential referrer. You're already discussing the problem's consequences and impact with them. Ask who is most likely experiencing those first-hand.

In either case, you have to identify other stakeholders in this problem who, because they're living with the problem and its consequences daily, perceive the cost-of-doing-nothing as much higher. It's not all that difficult to motivate the stakeholder you're now speaking with to connect the three of you. Even if your current contact is unwilling to make the connection, it's not all that hard to cold-call those experiencing more acute and concrete consequences.

If you can't find a stakeholder who perceives the cost of doing nothing as high, it's time to walk away. People only make the decisions they MUST make. Low cost of doing nothing means they don't have to make a decision, at least now. Put them in your tickler file and ping them every three months or so, or whenever industry media publishes something that suggests the problem is becoming more widespread. After all, it's a dynamic world; things change.

Or, if you're consistently seeing a low CoDN, it's a reliable signal that you're invested in the wrong problem. That means it's time to associate yourself with a different problem, one that more reliably drives demand for your expertise.

Mike O'Horo

Download our free eBook, The Blind Spot that Keeps Lawyers from Doubling Their Income. You'll see just how important the No-Decision problem is, and why mastering the Cost of Doing Nothing process is so critical.