There are literally dozens of reasons why lawyers struggle with legal marketing.
Fear of rejection, slaving away at the billable hour or just plain hating “sales” may top the list. That being said, those are probably more excuses than actual reasons why lawyers struggle with selling their services. As a sales coach to hundreds of attorneys around the country, I have narrowed it down to three main areas that impact the average attorney’s ability to grow their book of business. The only caveat to this list is that the attorney must actually want to develop more business. Okay, here we go.
Reason #1: Attorneys lack a tactical marketing plan
– One of the easiest ways to fail in business development is to fail to plan. In my experience, about 95% of all attorneys don’t have an effective written plan for how they are going to grow their book of business. A business development plan should include the big picture of what you want to accomplish over the next twelve months and also break down your actions and behaviors into daily tasks as well.
To begin, write down your objective or goal as though you are certain it will happen. For example, “I will hit one million dollars in sales by June 2016,” or “I will bring in 5 new matters by the end of 2015.”
By writing your objective in a positive way, you will be reinforcing beliefs on a conscious and subconscious level.
Writing your objective should be easy, especially if you know your numbers from the past year.
Once your objective is written, write out 3-5 strategies that will help you accomplish that objective. Think for a moment about what you’ve done in the past that has brought you the most business with the least amount of effort. That could be introductions from satisfied clients or speaking at a conference where people clamored over you to have you call them. A good analogy for this is to think about an apple tree loaded with fruit. This tree represents the marketplace that you are in today. Wouldn’t it make sense to try and grab the lowest hanging fruit, versus laboring with a ladder to pick apples up near the top? An example of a written strategy would be, “I will leverage existing clients to obtain high level quality introductions”. Try to focus and limit yourself to only a few solid strategies or you may be spreading yourself too thin.
The hardest part of developing more business is to effectively execute on the strategies that you’ve outlined. The key here is to layout the details or ACTIONS that will allow you to accomplish your strategies. These tactics are the day-to-day business development activities that are going to add up and eventually get you in front of decision makers who can use your services. Try to write 5-7 tactics for each of the strategies that you’ve outlined. This will help ensure that you are setting a strong foundation of actions to accomplish your strategies.
Your plan will act as your business development GPS system guiding you to the goals you establish.
Studies have shown that people are 10 times more likely to achieve a goal if it’s written down.
Reason #2: There’s no legal marketing process being followed.
Many people believe that success or failure in business development occurs because “You either have it or you don’t.” We’ve all spoken about a certain rainmaker and how he or she was “born to sell.” While it’s true that some people are built that way on a behavioral level, the reality is that legal marketing is a learned skill. Much like running a successful trial or questioning someone in a deposition, you have a process to follow that has been proven effective. Business development is not that different. The problem is in the negative perception of selling and salespeople, as well as the fact that business development is not taught in law school or anytime after then for that matter.
A good selling process will have proven steps to follow and specific language to use that will take you where you want to go with a prospective client. Think of these steps as a staircase leading up to a door at the top. If you methodically touch each step in order, you will have a much safer and more predictable outcome than if you jump around moving up and down in a random fashion. Having a set process for walking a buyer through a buying decision is critical to success in business development. Unfortunately, most attorneys don’t have these processes and language in their repertoire. No approach is hardly the best approach when attempting to build a book of business. It is much more comforting to know where you stand with your prospective client, versus living in hope that the business will magically come your way.
Reason #3: No performance improvement to ensure continual growth.
I had a coach years ago who taught me something important about practice. We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect.” This coach argued that point and said, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Wow, what an epiphany for me. The idea that simply practicing something doesn’t necessarily make you better. Especially when you’re practicing the same bad habits over and over again. If you’ve been attempting to build your practice for five years, ask yourself,
“Do I have five years of experience building business or one year of experience five times?”
If we aren’t learning and improving, we really aren’t moving the needle in the right direction. The attorneys I work with are constantly debriefing their legal marketing experiences and learning from them. In addition, we role-play through our processes and typical scenarios to improve on a regular basis. For many attorneys, this is a foreign concept. You may never have taken ten minutes after a pitch meeting to strategically debrief what just happened. Essentially, you haven’t tried to learn a few things from the experience.