Selling for law firms. Why Is selling still such a dirty word in the legal profession? I recently bumped into some old college chums who run their own legal practice. I asked them a perfectly straightforward question: “How is your sales team doing?”
I’m annoying like that. However, the looks of bewilderment and horror I received were similar to those you would find in Dali’s Guernica.
Shocked by my question they may have been, but I was even more shocked by the reception it received. It illustrated to me just how little has changed in the 20 years I’ve worked with the legal profession.
Avoidance of devoting time to sales or even an anti-sales mentality are still quite common. Perhaps it is because the profession is only just overcoming the upheaval caused by the introduction of marketing!
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. You are in business. You have to sell to stay in business. That means you need a sales team. That is a given – the only other thing you need to work out is what your sales team should look like.
Think hard before going down this route. The purist approach is to bring in experienced sales people with legal industry knowledge. These people all have to be paid and, although they bring in business, they do not generate fees. Furthermore, are you sure you want another tier of “suits” between you and the client? For one thing, how will potential clients react to being dealt with by someone who cannot do the legal work?
Over the years, I have witnessed a number of examples of this approach. By and large, they have all failed. However, I have seen scenarios where it has worked. These involved small sales teams comprised of senior lawyers or ex lawyers acting on a consultancy basis. Such people have extensive knowledge of the services on offer and years of client nurturing experience. That said, these ambassadors still have to be paid. So, once again, think hard.
In effect, this means that all your fee earners should take some responsibility for sales. This is particularly true if you are a partner. And that is exactly what I meant when I asked my friends how the sales team was doing – they are the sales team. So, how do you create the right environment for this to happen?
Many fee earners will shy away from sales activity for a variety of reasons. However, one thing is clear. If you expect them to engage in the process, you need to give them the tools to do the job. This requires training not only in some of the obvious sales skills but also in some of the softer skills such as listening and asking open questions. After all, these will also come in handy when they are doing fee earning work with clients.
Providing the right kind of training will not make things happen on their own. There has to be some form of incentive. In most businesses, sales people’s remuneration is composite. It includes “basic” and performance-based commission. For fee earners in a law firm the commission element would be a good starting point for work brought in for others. An annual bonus based upon cross-selling performance will also do the trick.
Cross-selling is as good a place as any to start. Clients involved in a transactional matter such as a conveyancing are prime candidates for referral to your wills department.
Your strongroom is the second port of call. It will contain all manner of wills, documentation and other miscellaneous content. If you have decent practice management software in your organisation it can be a real boon. For example, LawWare’s software has a built-in strongroom component. You can add times and dates for review to each strongroom entry to automate the process and prompt you to contact clients.
LawWare also includes a Client relationship management module. This should be the next place you look. You can use it as a method of contacting clients and prospects on a regular basis. In addition, you can use it to fine tune your marketing to specific groups of clients which then allows you to sell effectively and efficiently to them.
These three starting points are commonly known as the “lowest hanging fruit”. It is far easier to sell to existing clients than it is to convince new ones to come on-board. Once you get past this point, you are into areas such as networking, third-party referrals and just plain old new business development. Allow your team to cut their teeth on the low hanging fruit first. This will give them the confidence to move onto tougher prospects.
Many firms need a cultural shot in the arm to get the sales ethic going. This should come from the top. Think about your criteria for elevating a fee earner to a partner. Excellent fee earning stats are one thing, but is the business brought in by the fee earner? Partnership criteria should include both elements.
That’s the easy bit! Allied to that you should look at building a clearly defined sales and marketing strategy which includes a series of elements:
The days of random advertising, mailing and ad hoc networking are long gone. If your sales approach is to yield tangible benefits, it requires organisation, persistence and continual review.
© LawWare Limited 1995-2021
Our clients range from small start-up legal practices to multi-partner, multi-site firms.
Another great customer service experience from LawWare. My laptop had to be stripped back to factory settings as part of a repair - taking hours! In contrast, restoring LawWare took one phone call to the support team and I was up and running in 6 minutes. If only everything was so easy!
As the first commercial user of LawWare back in 1998, we have had no hesitation in remaining with the product through its development. We thoroughly recommend it to any firm looking for a practice management system.
The helpdesk is exceptionally good. Whatever the query there is always a human being there to help. No leaving messages or being advised to go to a website. The best computer service for solicitors I have ever used!
The linking of documents and casefiles saves so much time! I have experience of several accounts packages and I like that LawWare is simple to use and easy to learn. Support is quick and effective and staff are helpful and courteous.
I have worked with a number of Case Management providers over the years but have not come across anything with the attention to detail and thoroughness of LawWare. My colleagues and I have not been disappointed.
I can’t imagine trying to be a law firm in the 21st Century without 21st Century IT systems. Having a ‘single system’ that underpins all the work, whether we are in the office or out, is an integral part of what we are building.
The level of support is the main benefit using this system. The system itself once you have had training is simple and easy to use. We have a great relationship with LawWare and the ongoing support is second to none.
Significant preparation was required to configure and import the data from our old firm. We had to get all clients onto the new system and then learn how to use it. We just find it very easy to use, much easier than our old system.
Being a busy litigator with a growing firm it is incredibly useful to be able to view my files from any location with some form of internet connection. I am a fan, and want to keep working with LawWare to make a good product great.
The switch to the new LawCloud system, which is still on-going, has gone very well. We found the LawWare team without exception to be very helpful and knowledgeable. All queries are followed up and dealt with promptly.