In a recent post, I shared research showing that 82% of B2B decision-makers consider commercial salespersons to be unprepared. I speculated (with confidence based on almost 30 years coaching lawyers) that lawyers might not fare even that well on the “prepared” scale.

The data from B2B buyers keeps coming in and, well, it isn’t good. Based on research from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, we see that buyers think:

  • 58% of sales meetings are not valuable to buyers

  • The #1 factor most separating sales winners from second-place finishers is bringing new ideas and insights to buyers.

That second bullet reinforces the data showing that sellers who embrace the Challenger Sale approach, which is based on bringing fresh thinking to the table based on deep knowledge of the client’s business, outperforms all other selling styles.

The sales bar is much, much higher now

The old days, in which a strong firm reputation, a ready smile, a firm handshake, and relationship-building skills were sufficient to generate business, are gone. Forever.

Today’s more sophisticated, better informed buyers are also busier, and have many more solution options than in years past. They also are privy to sophisticated analytics, BigData, and AI that often results in them knowing more about your firm’s performance and value than you do. Merely claiming that you’re skilled and experienced just won’t cut it. The refrain from the Billy Preston hit, Nothin’ from Nothin’, is apt: “You gotta have somethin’ if you wanna be with me.”

To differentiate from the competition, that somethin’ has to be the ability to inspire buyers and drive demand for your services. You need to bring forth new ideas and insights during the buying process. Those who do experience much greater sales success. Ideally, you’ll use that fresh thinking to start the process. Otherwise, you’re at real risk of not getting on someone’s calendar at all.

Yet, according to the data, only 36% of commercial organizations have sellers who do this. Once again, I’ll venture that if we were to poll law firms’ clients and prospects, lawyers would compare unfavorably with even that modest number. This last isn’t criticism, merely acknowledgment that many lawyers’ habits were formed during the most advantageous market conditions in memory, when none of these skills were required.

The good news

You don’t have to become great at this instantly. It’s like the old joke about the campers who saw a bear approaching their camp. One camper, panicked, challenged the other not to take time to change into his running shoes, saying, “You’ll never outrun the bear that way.” The second camper replied, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.” Likewise, at least at first, you only have to become better than competitors who will likely cling to old habits that cause these buyers to grade them so low.

Begin now to become a student of the industry that produces most of your business. If, like so many lawyers, your practice is a huge mashup of different businesses with no apparent pattern, take a look at reports of venture capital investment, e.g., PwC’s MoneyTree, which sorts the data by industry. Money flowing in is a good indicator of the degree of innovation and dynamism present. Then, pick one that seems most opportune, and get started understanding it so that, before long, you can formulate some ideas that will differentiate you from those described above, and make you welcome in the discussion about the future.

Mike O’Horo

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