Legal sales roles are popping up in firms of all sizes. Moving from a support role in-house to a client-facing one can be daunting. With the right strategy, preparation, and a little bit of courage, this transition can be smoother than it seems.
Write Your Own Playbook
Be purposeful in your search for new prospects; strategically plan your in-person interactions so as not to spend countless hours in networking events without a plan. Pick events based on the clientele or industry, and not just because they are convenient.
Make an effort to find out who will be in the room through whatever means necessary, and do your due diligence to research who you will want to seek out in a sea of unfamiliar faces.
Use tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to determine your key clients and prospects, save those leads and study their behaviors, comb through your connections and ask for introductions to those you are trying to reach. And remember that anyone you meet can become a client: the person sitting next to you on the plane, standing behind you in line at Starbucks, or walking into your daughter’s piano recital.
Sales doesn’t keep office hours...
Just as we tell our attorneys to remember that your personal brand follows you outside of the office, you too should keep a keen eye out and always be on your game.
Sales doesn’t keep office hours. If you truly want to bring value, you will spend the extra time necessary to do the research, have the right conversations, and listen actively for new opportunities around every corner.
Maintain Relationships with Great Care
Everyone has their own system to stay on top of their leads – a task list in Outlook, a computer monitor peppered with illegible sticky notes, or a sophisticated software like Practice Pipeline. It doesn’t so much matter how you remember to follow up, so long as you do.
Be cognizant of your touchpoints and what your next move is; always keep your end goal in sight.
Are you looking to influence a certain amount of revenue from this client? Are you looking for a referral from another service provider to a prospect? Is this a current client you are looking to cross-sell internally? Do you have a new group joining the firm that will expand your geographic reach? Plan each step in your sales funnel carefully, and don’t lose sight of the desired objective, as each of these approaches should, and can, be handled differently.
Don’t let poor planning ruin a great opportunity...
The landscape of legal sales seems much more overwhelming when not properly organized and documented. Don’t let poor planning ruin a great opportunity. Be patient. This is not an immediate return on investment of time, with few exceptions. You will hit a lot of road blocks and dead ends, but you will also find a lot of hidden opportunities and you will learn lessons that help you pivot and change your approach going forward.
Don’t Overlook Your Internal Allies
Some of the best sources of information lie within your firm; you don’t have to walk into the front lines of influencing revenue alone.
Befriend your accounting department, and ensure you have a clear line of sight into the most (and least) profitable practices, types of matters or engagements, and current key clients.
Also, make sure you spot the holes where the firm could be doing other work for current clients in different practice areas. Pick the brains of the lawyers who practice in the areas or industries in which you are looking to bring in more work; learn to speak their language, ask as many questions as necessary to understand exactly what it is that they do every day, and take note of any land mines to avoid in terms of prospects that did not pan out in the past.
Staff can be hugely helpful in obtaining details about current clients, as secretaries and receptionists are often the first line of defense when it comes to client communications. Everyone at the firm is on the same team and benefits from new work in the door, so leverage the data and knowledge that already exists to make your process easier.
Clients Expect a Personal Touch
Clients are people. Lawyers are human. Surprisingly, legal salespeople are mere mortals as well. Everyone has a personal side, outside of the directives of their day jobs.
Take the time to find out and retain important details as you foster relationships that play to the innate human and emotional side of your clients. Remember their kids’ names, their favorite restaurants and sports teams, their alma mater, their unique hobbies.
Realistically, any major law firm employs an army of qualified attorneys who can handle their problem; those who put in the effort to not only understand their businesses but also their personalities and what matters most to them stand out from the crowd.
In a world where technology anticipates and delivers on our preferences every day, savvy clients expect the same from their service providers. Take the extra step to send the hand-written thank you note, to follow up with that book you discussed over lunch, to send a quick jab when your football team beats theirs. Research pressing issues in their industry, and ask them intelligent questions about how that affects their daily lives. React, and bring that information back to your attorneys to help them deliver better client service. Be the connector who helps maintain the relationship, both internally and externally. When you make the effort, you remain memorable.
[Jenna Schiappacasse is Director of Client Development at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP and LMA's 2018 President-Elect for the Mid-Atlantic region. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow for her latest writing on JD Supra.]