Thank Goodness We Can’t Cold Call
Time and time again, I hear lawyers say, “I didn’t go to law school to be a salesperson!” They also share how little time they have to devote to pure sales activities—even if they wanted to. Every lawyer in the country should be thrilled that the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit attorneys from directly soliciting business. Rule 7.3: Direct Contact with Prospective Clients has been written to protect people from unwanted advances by lawyers seeking to attract them as clients. You know, the proverbial ambulance chasers. Now, don’t be offended if you have a thriving PI practice. The key point here is that Rule 7.3 directly governs what lawyers can (and mainly cannot) do to attract new business. It is 100 percent relevant to our discussion.
Let’s Start with the Difference Between Sales and Marketing
When I ask lawyers about their marketing efforts, I’m generally met with, “We don’t really do any advertising.” As we all know, lawyer marketing is not about placing expensive ads hoping your needle-in-a-haystack prospect randomly sees your ad and hires you. What’s most important is that deep in your heart, you know and understand how marketing is different than sales.
Marketing is everything a lawyer does to position himself or herself in the marketplace. Marketing is about your logo and branding. It’s about your website, social media efforts, and personal LinkedIn profile. Marketing is all about the messages.
Sales, on the other hand, is all about asking great questions. Sales is not about the dog-and-pony show where you proverbially dance on stage, letting everyone know how wonderful, smart, talented, and credentialed you are. Aren’t you relieved?! The only way lawyers should ever engage in the act of selling their services is to ask pointed, smart questions that will show the person you are talking with that you are competent, sharp, caring, and that you take a genuine interest in helping them solve their problems or grow their company or practice.
If your firm hasn’t invested in marketing, no one will know who you are. Marketing effectively softens the marketplace so that when you meet someone they say, “Oh—I’ve heard of your firm!”
Simple Rule. Marketing = Messages; Sales = Questions. Sales without marketing is way too hard, and marketing without sales is way too expensive. Your efforts need to provide a balance between your firm’s marketing efforts and your personal sales efforts. You can learn more about the difference between sales and marketing here.
What Does Sales Really Mean for a Lawyer?
Most importantly, sales done right means that you will have a steady stream of A-level clients with whom you work to deliver services at your best and highest level. It means you will also have a solid base of referral sources who value your experience, trust you, and send ideal clients to you on a regular basis. Sounds great! The best part about it is that every one of you can do this—you just didn’t learn the process or skills in law school. So let’s talk about what you missed while studying to become a lawyer:
- It’s all about your contacts. Because you can’t solicit business from people you don’t know, let’s focus on those you do! Remember that sales is a contact sport (pun intended).
- Make your contacts manageable. Don’t worry about building relationships with all 500-plus people you are connected to on LinkedIn and the hundreds more you interact with each day via e-mail. Focus on your top-ten lists. Who are your top ten past clients, current clients, referral sources, and industry contacts? These are the people you should build your entire sales strategy around.
- Create a sales pipeline. What’s a sales pipeline, you might ask? It’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, I have created one for you to download here—free of charge. This Excel tool will allow you to track your top contacts (see #2 above), rate your contacts, and keep yourself accountable to moving forward by identifying next steps. Once you have created your pipeline, make sure you are connected to each person on LinkedIn.
- Create and practice your elevator speech. When someone asks you what you do, you should not say, “I am an insurance subrogation lawyer,” or “I do estate planning.” Rather, you need to let people know the value you bring as an attorney. What feedback do you hear from your satisfied clients? Focus on the value you bring—not on what you do. If you want more guidance, here is another article I wrote on this topic.
- Be where your clients (and referral sources) are. If you practice family law, hang out with therapists who can refer clients to you. If you are an estate planning lawyer, build your network of financial advisors. If you are a corporate lawyer serving manufacturers, join a manufacturing association. Attend meetings, write, and speak your way into new client relationships. Once you know people and have a business relationship with them, you are not violating Rule 7.3.
- Dress the part, ladies and gentlemen. People you meet will immediately make their first impression of you based on what you look like. You need to dress the part of a successful lawyer. Don’t underestimate the power of dressing the way people expect to see you dressed. Wear a nicely fitting suit, non-scuffed shoes, a briefcase that is not the one you used in law school. So much more on this topic can be found here.
- Spend time on LinkedIn. Please spend time updating your profile. Write your summary and everything on your profile in first person. Remember you are “speaking to” those who you are connected to on LinkedIn—not at them.
- Search your contact’s contacts. For those of you who have spent time on LinkedIn, you know that late last year, the entire “user experience” changed. What you used to know how to do seemed lost forever. Thankfully, you can still search your contact’s contacts to find out who you might like to be introduced to. Here is a recent blog post I wrote to walk you through the process.
- Ask your clients to refer you. Most lawyers fear if they ask their clients for referrals, clients will think they are failing—“oh no, she wants more business—she must not be successful.” It’s just the opposite. If you let your clients know how much you have enjoyed working with them, and that you would give the same attention to their friends and family, you effectively keep your services top of mind. We all know that satisfied clients are among your best referral sources, so ask them to spread the word of your greatness!
- Use communications in your sales efforts. How better to stay top of mind with your clients and referral sources than to periodically send them an e-communication with useful information they would be interested in? Sending targeted communications keeps you and your firm top-of-mind and, again, will remind them you are there—have a law practice—and are a great lawyer!
- Invest in an electronic database. We really like Constant Contact and MailChimp. Both have tiered pricing structures depending on the number of contacts you have. Do not ever purchase a list to add to your database. This would violate rules of these providers plus would violate Rule 7.3 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
- Be a thought leader on social media. While you never, ever want to “sell” on social media, you do want to do everything you can to engage. Join groups on LinkedIn and participate in substantive discussions. BIG topic—more here.
- Post blogs. You have subject matter expertise. Your expertise is what you are “selling,” so don’t be shy about sharing your knowledge. Gone are the days when you only share substantive information after a client signed your retainer agreement. Today, it’s the substantive information you share that makes a client want to sign your retainer agreement! Take a look at a couple of cutting-edge and very active, savvy law firm blogs: DuetsBlog: Collaborations in Creativity & the Law and a blog site by a plaintiff’s employment law firm, Schaefer Halleen.
- Speak, write, and become famous! If you are serious about your sales effort, you will write and speak your way to success. Above, we discussed hanging out where your clients and referral sources are. Next step: Figure out what publications they read and what organizations they belong to. If there is one common denominator cited among the hundreds and hundreds of high-profile lawyers I have worked with related to what led to their success, it’s—you guessed it—writing and speaking.
- Keep your website biography current. The analytics speak for themselves. When people visit your website, they are primarily there to check you out, more specifically, to read your bio. Website biographies remain the most highly visited pages on law firm websites. Don’t be complacent. If you speak, add it to your bio. If you serve on a board, make sure you feature it on your biography.
- Make it easy to be referred. So you have a few people who are good at sending referrals to you, but you wish they would send more. Create a nice one- or two-page PDF you can send them. The PDF will include a summary of your practice, your smiling face, representative experience, client feedback (if your state allows for testimonials), your client service philosophy, and anything else you think would be beneficial to the clients of your best referral sources. If you send your referral sources something tangible they can forward to those they refer you to, you are far more likely to receive a phone call.
- Stick with it and don’t give up. It’s so easy to fall into the “I’m too busy” mind-set and hope your phone will continue to ring. If you want to take control over your practice and its growth, you will commit yourself to developing strategies that will work for you around each of the areas above. As a sales manager, author, and good friend of mine has always said, “If you do the right things, consistently, over time, you will be successful.”
- You might just need a coach. Yes it’s what I do, but there are also other consultants out there with expertise helping lawyers develop new business. You need someone with deep knowledge of the legal industry, and someone who is well versed in your state’s ethics rules. Once you have this person working with you, he or she can help you learn how to develop and implement sales strategies that are ethical and will drive business to your practice. You didn’t learn this stuff in law school, so consider working with someone who can fast-track your sales efforts!
Please visit this page on our website developed just for you—readers of the GPSolo eReport. We have loaded these pages with tools, tip sheets, and other resource materials to help you put the learnings of the articles I’ve written into practice.
It’s one thing to read an article and another to know exactly how it relates to your practice. We also have an option for you to schedule a free, no-strings-attached telephone conference with me. Click here to schedule a call. I look forward to hearing more about your sales efforts.