One of the biggest sales challenges facing lawyers is their lack of sales urgency. That means that when a prospect appears, they're in no hurry to pursue it. A recent personal experience reminded me of this inexplicable phenomenon that I've observed consistently throughout the 20-odd years I've served as lawyers' sales coach.

Apart from RainmakerVT, I'm also a co-founder of a technology startup company in Silicon Valley that's about to pursue seed investment. We're in what's known as "stealth mode," which simply means we're keeping quiet, staying under the radar while we finish developing our first product and getting ready to launch. We close, which means it's time for us to form the entity, protect the IP, create the legal basis for investment -- all the stuff that's typical for an early-stage company. You'd think finding a lawyer to do this would be pretty easy for a guy who's trained several thousand of them over the years. I thought so, too.

Obviously, I'm sensitive to the fact that, knowing so many lawyers, any choice I make will leave one lawyer/firm happy, a handful disappointed, and several others who learn about this after the fact feeling slighted because I didn't reach out to them ("What am I, chopped liver?"). I thought carefully about what we needed, learned a fair amount about what the current norms were for startup companies in the Valley, and considered how potential investors would interpret our choice of lawyer, and how much our lawyers could make introductions to potential investors and pave the way for us. I absolutely wanted to give preference to firms that had previously retained my coaching services, or that were RainmakerVT subscribers.

Having selected five that aligned well with those criteria, I sent an email explaining the what, why, how, etc. to partners who I knew at firms whose websites showed practice groups dedicated to emerging tech companies. The Subject line read "Potential client?"

Out of the five, I got two email replies saying they'd get back to me shortly. Ten days later, I still haven't heard from either. Two never responded at all. And one offered to connect me to their BD person (who also never contacted me).

It's possible that these lawyers all know something about my new company or me that causes them to have no interest in having us as a client. However, since we're still in stealth mode with no public presence, that's hard to imagine (well, except maybe for the "or me" part). Even if that were the case, wouldn't it have made sense to send me a note letting me know that they didn't intend to pursue the matter further?

The only thing that's certain is that none have made even a token attempt a sales opportunity that landed in their lap. At least, not yet.

This took me back to my very first client, in 1991. I was conducting a planning session with the head of the Middle Market corporate practice. We were discussing an opportunity for which she wanted advice and coaching. As she shared all the intelligence she had about the company and situation, something about how she phrased some of it caused me to ask her how the opportunity had come about, and when. Her casual reply shocked me: "Oh, maybe a month ago or so." Seriously? You haven't done anything about it yet? What possible credibility will you have when you finally get around to following up and claim to want them as a client?

I suspect that, until I asked, she probably wasn't aware that a month or so had passed since she learned of the opportunity. Time flies when you're billing hours, running a practice group, etc. Each time she thought about it, she probably thought, "I've really got to call Mr. X. And just as soon as I get through this merger I'll do just that." As the merger is wrapping up, another big matter arises, deferring the call to Mr. X just a bit longer "until things are under control." And so on and so on. The next thing you know, a month or so has elapsed.

This has been a recurring theme throughout my lawyer-coaching tenure. 

What are the chances that Mr. X is still waiting for you to get back to him? If asked about your firm or you by another potential client, how do you think he'll characterize you based on what he experienced?

One of the most important traits for a salesperson is a need for achievement. One of the most positive subsets is a sense of urgency. Successful salespeople are “doers,” not talkers or dreamers. They get things done because their sense of achievement depends on actual performance and results as opposed to getting around to it “someday.”

We're all salespeople. If you can't accept that, unless you've already got a huge practice or you're not far from retirement, you won't be in practice long unless you do accept it and act on it.

Mike O'Horo

If you'd like to master the skills that will enable you to create the kind of practice you want and earn the income you want, send me an email and ask to be among the first to be alerted when we release RainmakerVT's new Sales Master bundle in early September. It's a package of courses specifically combined to assure that you convert the highest possible percentages of opportunities into clients. Stay tuned.