Wait… what? Is that even English? Let’s bring it back to language we can all follow, shall we?
Selling, it would appear, isn’t a pastime lawyers are terribly fond of. Well, we knew that.
The stats speak for themselves. It was reported that an average of only 5% of lawyers in each law firm bring in 95% of the work. Apparently, the problem lies in the common notion that salespeople are sleazy, money-hungry sharks. People don’t like the thought that they have to get mixed up in the sales process to be effective lawyers. After all, that’s why we pretend it’s something else by calling it Business Development, isn’t it?
But can we call a spade a spade? Is sales something lawyers should dirty their hands with?
Sales in law firms
Unfortunately, we may be about to disillusion you. You see, we think selling and law firms go hand-in-hand. In law firms we’re not talking about hard sales. That isn’t the only tool you have available to you – not all sales techniques are about pressuring your lead into purchasing a product or service they don’t need or want.
Sales can help you provide a better service to your clients. How? If you want to provide a high quality service to the client you need a clear understanding of what they want and need from your law firm. And that’s where the sales process comes in and where it can add real value.
Matt Drought, the author of The Natural Sales Evolution, explains, ‘Think about one of your friends who might be a ‘go-to’ person – a really great problem solver. A natural problem solver is able to clearly think something through, ask the right questions, get a clear handle on the nature of the problem, identify opportunities, go beyond a rigid mindset to open up new ways of thinking and is not afraid to have opinions and share them. These days, the sellers who stand head and shoulders above the crowd, and are winning opportunity after opportunity, have a lot in common with these types of people. That’s because great salespeople are using insights to sell’.
Let’s just recap on that in plain English. What he’s saying is that the most successful sellers are no longer using a direct ‘buy this now’ approach’. Instead they are getting to know their clients (or targets) and applying the problem-solving and analytical skills drilled into them in legal training, to demonstrate that they have an ability to think and act in the way that these clients will need them to, to solve their legal problems. In short, it’s a sales technique that benefits both lawyers and clients without the need for sneaky tactics.
What are consultative and insight selling?
Consultative selling focuses heavily on discovering and discussing the potential client’s existing needs. Think of it as a form of collaboration between lawyer and client. Consultative selling incorporates client care, soft sales and a great deal of emphasis on the ‘discovery’ stage of the selling process. But how does this work in practical terms?
At its heart lies the open dialogue. To start with one needs to understand that the potential client is consulting an expert as one of the initial steps in deciding who to instruct. The ‘discovery’ stage is where a lawyer sits down with this potential client and discusses needs, wants and, even in some cases, expectations. This simple process of ‘discovery’ allows you, as a lawyer, to ‘consult’ and discuss multiple courses of action that demonstrate your understanding and collaborative approach, as well as your professionalism and expertise.
This section of the ‘sales process’ (and yes, we call it that because they haven’t yet instructed you) is all about insightful discussion. It happens long before you start talking ‘shop’ and, if done well, can be used to not only build a connection with that potential client but to influence and guide your entire law firm marketing strategy.
Insight selling is very similar to consultative selling but is a bit punchier. It’s an ideas-based selling technique with a focus on educating the client. A basic version of insight selling might be:
- The client explains their needs
- The lawyer educates the client and introduces them to new ideas and solutions
- The client and the lawyer collaborate and discuss
- The lawyer outlines the possible results that could be achieved
At its heart it’s about listening to the client, discussing options and that ‘eureka’ moment where you both come to a solution that works for everybody – an idea that’s entirely achievable for you as a lawyer and an idea the client can get on board with. It takes the conversations that make up consultative selling and adds in a punchier conclusion.
This is all great… but how can you apply this in your firm?
Here are a few tips on how you can use consultative and insight selling techniques to your firm’s advantage and to make sure that sales doesn’t actually feel like sales…
- Lay the foundations – As with most strategies, start with preparation. Lay the foundations. This is the initial research stage where you educate yourself on the company and/or individual you’re meeting with. Make sure you check out their website including their mission statement, social channels, staff biographies, locations, values and so on. See if you can find out if they’re listed as a client of any other firm. Have they had any public litigation recently? How did that go for them? If they were referred then ask your referrer for a little more background information. Do your homework and you’ll be better equipped.
- Break the ice – It’s likely you’ll have questions to ask the potential client – so it’s strongly advisable to prepare five to ten questions to use as a jumping off point for discussion during the meeting, using the research you’ve done for inspiration. Remember, this is an opportunity to show that you’ve done the homework and care about the relationship you can build.
- Build professional camaraderie – It’s essential that your prospect feels comfortable in the initial meeting. Meet them at their preferred location, as they’re more likely to open up to you and feel a stronger rapport. Find out your mutual interests and demonstrate, through conversation, how you’re a person they can trust. Showing the human side from the offset indicates transparency.
- Discover, explore and solve problems – Next, discover their precise needs, their current problems and their priorities. This is so you can calculate their absolute priority from a legal perspective. What sort of budget are they looking at? This isn’t the moment to discuss exact figures but you can start to sew the seed of solutions. Once you have all of this information then you can start to provide examples of similar work and clients.
- Go into detail on your proposed solution – So, now it’s time to discuss the solution that best suits the client’s needs. This is also the prime time to start talking strategies. How will you approach this? What resources will you need from them? What information does the client need to provide? Make sure to stress that you’re committed to the client.
- Identify the decision makers – You may already know this from your foundational research but you can still steer the conversation to understand who the key influencers and decision makers are. By this we mean the person who controls the finances, the actual user of your services, internal influencers, external influencers and so on. Knowing this can help you to understand decision-making, timescales and challenges that could crop up once instructed.
- Close the sale – We say ‘close the sale’ but we mean this by way of ‘formality’, as the chances are… by this point… your potential client has already chosen you! What we mean is, don’t leave the meeting (or conversation) until such time as you’ve agreed the ‘what next’.
Discover how ELE Global can help you craft consultative and insight sales and marketing strategies – get in touch today!