Archive for November, 2010
The holiday season is officially upon us. Thanksgiving is always a reminder to me that I have two switches in life: on and off. There is not much in between. I eat or I don’t eat. And so far this year, my eating switch is on.
They say the average American gains seven pounds during the holiday season. I think I gained at least that much over Thanksgiving alone.
The start of the holiday season also means the countdown to the end of the year collections for most firms. As a marketing person, this is usually my cue to duck and cover and avoid any incoming attorneys. But it is also a time where day-to-day marketing efforts slow and some long-term planning can actually take place.
So, before shutting down for the year, take a little time to think about what lies ahead. There is no better time than now to start planning to make 2011 your best year ever.
I am the daughter of a salesman. My dad sold Marley Cooling Towers for more than 40-years before his retirement about a decade ago. He was good at it.
Cooling towers are the giant box-shaped structures you see on large buildings. They are used to regulate heating and air conditioning units by cooling hot water so it can be reused as a coolant.
Cooling Towers and legal services fall on two distinct ends of the sales spectrum, but they do share a couple things in common.
Like legal services, cooling towers are not particularly sexy. Just as most folks don’t relish the thought of needing a lawyer, there aren’t many folks out there saying, “Gee I can’t wait to buy my new cooling tower this year.”
They also aren’t something sold in mass quantities. Like law firms, they have a long sale cycle and one major client can have the power to make or break your year.
My dad taught me that selling is part of anything you do in life. It really comes down to four steps — introducing yourself, asking questions, demonstrating what you do or have to offer, and asking for what you want. Translated in official sales jargon, the steps are: 1) Open 2) Needs Assessment 3) Demonstration 4) Close.
My first career was as a newspaper reporter, and every day I was out there selling. I needed information and I sold my own credibility to get it. I got to know people. I asked questions of them. I built rapport, and I asked them what I needed. I knew I had closed when I got my story.
As a marketing and business development consultant, my ability to sell continues to define my success. Being a lawyer is no different. Whether you have the word sales in your title or not, your business is selling. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Take your mind out of the gutter. The word I am talking about is Sales.
Over the last decade I have attended hundreds of law firm marketing seminars and conferences where the topic of sales is on the agenda. The theme is universally similar — Should law firms do it and, if so, how?
The subject of law firm sales always makes me smile. Given that — with the exception of the recent economic downtown — law firms have seen their revenues and profits rise exponentially over the last 20 years, I’m still surprised at the unwillingness of lawyers to acknowledge that selling is an inherent part of what they do.
As Weston Anson, author of “The Attorney’s Guide to the Business Mind,” states in his book — All business is selling:
“All economics is driven primarily by business and commercial interests. And all business is, indeed, driven by sales. Therefore, successful economics equals successful sales. This gross oversimplification does not gloss over a basic truth: that is, wihtout successful sales and marketing programs in place at all levels in any organization — from law firms to Procter & Gamble — planning is fundamentally unsound. Without strong sales and marketing, there is not a strong business base…”
As a licensed attorney, I have deep respect and admiration for the legal profession and the code of professional conduct that goes along with it. The world is changing and it is of great vital importance that we work to uphold the foundation on which the profession was built. But we should not fear the vocabulary. Being an ethical lawyer and recognizing that selling is an essential part of the business are not mutually exclusive.
The debate in firms should not be whether to do it or what to call it, it should be about how to do it in a way that allows lawyers to provide the highest standard of legal representation. But whether you call it marketing or business development or even what it is — sales — it is an essential part of the business of law.
Last week was the first week I went without posting a blog. I also turned down a golf outing with a former colleague who is now a prospective client. My excuse? I’m too busy.
It’s true. October was a great month for my business. I have a new client ramping up and my existing clients are keeping me as busy as they ever have. And, I have a life. I have commitments to my family, friends and community that can’t be ignored.
But can I afford to say I am too busy to market myself and continue to develop new business? No.
I’m not alone. I have prospective clients tell me all of the time that they want to utilize my services but business is so busy that they can’t afford the time. And although I empathize, it’s simply not an excuse.
It’s when business is good that marketing and business development is more important than ever. It’s a time when you have the financial resources to invest in future business and for you to start filling your business development pipeline for when the current wave slows down.
The market for legal services is not a place of instant gratification. It takes time to identify the right prospective targets. It takes time to create new relationships. It takes more time to nurture those relationships until they are at a point where they are ready to buy.
Yes, it is a busy time of year and things are only going to get busier. But there are lots of ways to fit marketing and business development into your schedule. For me, I’m taking a Sunday afternoon to write a few blog posts, so I have them in reserve in the event I get too busy. And although golf is out of the question, I may at least be able to squeeze in some networking time on the 19th hole.
What’s your plan?