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LMA Recap: Changing the Legal Industry Perception of Sales

Changing the Legal Industry Perception of Sales

It’s all a misunderstanding, according to Dan Pink.  Most people, let alone lawyers and legal professionals, associate the word “sales” with adjectives like “sleazy” or “yuck” or “pushy.”

That view he says, is a hangover of sorts from an asymmetrical world where sellers had more information than buyers.  Car sales are the quintessential example.  At one time, the trade in value a dealer offered was the final answer where today, shoppers have a range of sources to find the true market value of a vehicle for trade.

The world has changed from one where the “buyer has no information, no choices and no way to talk back,” to one where a buyer has “lots of information, lots of choices, and lots of ways to talk back.”

Mr. Pink was the keynote speaker on Tuesday at the 2015 Legal Marketing Association conference in San Diego. His presentation bolstered the notion that a focus on sales is more important than ever especially in a “stagnant or declining legal market, so to grow, firms must gain market share from other firms,” in the recent words of one large law firm CMO.

The author of five books however has a very different perspective on the function of sales that is at odds with many of the adjectives with which the word is typically associated.

Changing the Legal Industry Perception of Sales-middle

New Fundamentals of ABCs in Legal Sales

At one time the ABC of sales stood for “always be closing.”  Mr. Pink offered a paradigm shift – one that jettisons intuition and gut feeling for “data, facts and science to drive the processes.” In his remodeled framework the acronym stands for attunement, buoyancy and clarity.

  • Attunement.  By this he means the ability to understand the perspective of clients and prospects.  It’s a realization that sales “can’t force things” and in place seek to understand and find common ground.
  • Buoyancy.  Everyone struggles with rejection, but Mr. Pink says few people struggle so hard as smart and accomplished professionals…like lawyers. The ability to recover and move on in spite of rejection is pivotal in a highly competitive market such as legal.
  • Clarity.  The abundance of information has shifted the sales function from “problem solving” to “problem finding.” Making sense of information and separating the signal from the noise in order to help clients and prospects identify their problem is a primary role.

Power in Precise Calls to Act

In putting the ABCs in practice, Mr. Pink noted we marketers spend too much time trying to change people’s mind rather than to get them to act.  He cites a study of college students and the organizers of a food drive, where one segment of the students were thought to be disinclined to donate food.

To counter the apathy, the organizers sent personalized letters to those students asking them to act with a donation.  The study found that a 25% of that apathetic group took action and donated.

Did the organizers change their perspective on charity or hunger?  Probably not.  But they were successful in compelling them to act – and that’s a technique lawyers and legal marketers can easily adopt especially in a relationship-driven business.

Mimicry Breeds Understanding

The keynote speaker said study after study has shown that sales people that mimic the posture, gesture and language of a prospective client (“without being an idiot”) are more successful in closing deals.  It’s simple tactical technique Mr. Pink says he has studied in an effort to disprove, but time and time again found it sound.

Mimicking client behavior – touching one’s own face when someone on the other side of the table touches their face for example – breeds understanding. It adds to the effort to “reduce feelings of power” and enables sales to see things from their prospective client’s perspective.

The sales function shouldn’t be a dirty word, it’s a basic requirement of business and law firms are clearly businesses. It may well be, as our own Mike Lipps once wrote, “The new reality of the legal profession is a return to the basics of business.”

Related recaps of the keynote session from other legal bloggers:

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Business Development: Transforming Action into Real Results 

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.

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