coaching.jpg

At the end of 2015, I did an analysis of the activity and results for a number of lawyers I train and coach. It revealed a number of obstacles common to everyone, and some principles that will enable lawyers to get the most out of their coaching investment.

Open your mind. We all know the quote attributed to Einstein about repeating an activity and expecting a different result. Expect to rethink some things you've believed for a long time.

Simplify. People too often complicate Marketing and Sales. Your coach's job is to demystify, strip things to their essence, remove unnecessary moving parts, and simplify things for you.

Be respectful, but candid. None of us has time to walk on eggshells and dance around a point. Be as direct as you can, and expect the same from your coach. We're all big kids, and w should be able to handle constructive feedback -- without the kid gloves.

Respect calendars. That means honoring calendar commitments, and being on time for meetings or calls. If a delay or reschedule is unavoidable, let each other know as soon as we're aware of that -- not two minutes before it's supposed to happen -- and by the fastest method available. When we're jumping from one call to the next, we're rarely looking at email. For anything urgent or time-sensitive, I favor text alerts since we're all glued to our mobile phones, or keep them in close enough proximity to hear a text alert. 

Commit to improvement. Make this practice growth a priority. From my work with lawyers for all these years, I've seen how easy it is for them to put off business development in favor of billable work and other things that you're accustomed to. It's manifest by frequently rescheduling coaching calls, deferring committed activity, etc. We all make time for what's important, so make this important to you. If it's important, we'll make it happen; if it's not we'll make excuses.

Put the "What and How" burden on your coach. Don't waste five minutes trying to figure out how to handle an opportunity, problem or challenge, and don't go it alone. Explain it to your coach and expect him or her to figure out what to do, in a way that makes sense to you, that fits who you are, and that you're confident enough will work that you're willing to give it a try.

If I retained you as my lawyer, then attempted a solution without consulting you, over drinks you'd be laughing at my foolishness. The most frequent conversation I've had with lawyers over the years goes something like this: "I met with XYZ Company last week. I should have called you first, but here's what happened. What should I do?" The answer is "Get a time machine, go back to before you acted alone, and call me." After we get that out of the way, I'll figure out a way to fix it. As you know from your own work, it's easier to prevent than to fix.

"I met with XYZ Company last week. I should have called you first, but here's what happened. What should I do?"

Have a proclivity to act. Swapping ideas is intellectually stimulating, but doesn't make the cash register ring. You have to apply whatever we decide.

Close the loop. The second most frequent conversation with lawyers occurs when I've prepared them for a sales conversation, and they never get back to me afterward to decide next steps and continuing strategy, then four weeks later, when they realize that the thing isn't moving forward, they call me for a reconstructive miracle. Let me know right away what happened so I can figure out what we should do next, and how.

Be patient. I have no magic wand. You'll learn, and get really good, based on the time you devote to it, and the number of situations we work through together. If you have a lot of them, you'll learn fast. If not, it's going to take longer.

If your current book of business is a) non-existent; b) stagnant; c) random, of unknown origin; or d) showing signs of fading; or e) experiencing price pressure, you're likely not as far along the skill spectrum as you'd like to believe. In fact, you're likely at the very beginning of the learning curve.

Put the idea of a quick fix out of your mind. This isn't something you're going to do in three months. Plan on it taking at least a year, probably closer to two years, for you to have a reliable stream of business, of a predictable type, from predictable sources, in the volume you want. It doesn't have to take that long, but at lawyers' typically low activity level, it just will.

After you spent three years in law school, how long did it take you to learn the skills it takes to practice law at a level that clients trust and are willing to pay for? Marketing and sales are two distinctly different skill sets. They're related and interdependent, but they're still two skills. The only reason you might not see them as such is if you became successful originating business during the boom-time seller's market that ended in 2008, when it was relatively easy, and you didn't really need great skills. Those days are over; there are no more freebies.

You have a decision to make. You can decide to commit to a sustained program that will enable you to develop skills, gain experience applying them, and win while learning, or you can decide that you really aren't serious about having a reliable book of business.

Mike O'Horo

To get a feel for what's really involved in approaching an opportunity professionally, schedule a 30-minute call to prepare for your next prospect call or meeting, or speaking gig. No charge. We'll both win. You'll raise your odds of succeeding, and I'll get to show you how much of a difference a sales coach can make.