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:
- Follow up: Amateurs fail to return phone calls promptly, and are too disorganized to follow up with prospects until it is too late. You may be thinking, “I don’t do that.” Yes, you probably do. I can’t count the number of coaching calls about a sales opportunity in which, after the lawyer has explained the circumstance, I ask, “When was this?” and the answer is “a few weeks ago.” For too many lawyers, business development isn’t a priority, so follow-up and other activities don’t make it into their calendars. Or, if it does get scheduled, it gets postponed in favor of billable work or internal firm business. Professionals follow up in a timely fashion, return calls immediately, and deliver what they say they will deliver--on time.
- Pricing: Amateurs get distracted (and distract their prospects) with price, allowances and discounts. Professionals focus on the problem that their work solves, and they organize all communications around that. That makes them relevant to their Suspects and Prospects, and welcome in the early stages of evaluating options. As a result, they learn what the client actually needs, and they propose cost-and-value-justified solutions.
- Win/Win Relationships: Amateurs begin with “I want.” "I want to get some of their litigation business." "I want to cross-sell our employment services." "I want to meet with their GC." They sell with their own goals in mind--compensation, status, etc. Professionals do their best to identify opportunities where the prospect’s need to improve their situation drives the sale forward. They create win/win situations based on relevance, trust, respect and mutual gain.
- Dedication: Despite the market reality that everyone must sell, amateurs resist selling; as a result, they never increase their skill level. Amateurs tend to remain amateurs. Professionals constantly seek to increase their skill level; they set goals that force them to become better salespeople.
Clients and prospects want to deal only with professional salespeople. They find amateurs as clumsy and offensive as you do.
The good news is that it’s easy for lawyers to conduct themselves as professional salespersons. All you have to do is conduct your sales activity exactly as you conduct your legal activity.
Here’s a comparison of how lawyers should interact with a sales prospect. It’s identical to how you interact with a new client. Just honor the same discipline you embrace after you get hired -- as the way to get hired.