I’ve never met anyone who aspires to be a sleazy salesperson. The issue for some attorneys, however, is that they are afraid to sell/promote/talk about generally their services AT ALL for fear of that is how they will be perceived.
The prominence of this issue among attorneys is one reason I stopped to read Jeff Haden’s article “Want to Close More Sales? Stop Selling” in which he interviewed Laura Greeno, founder of WebScout, an online marketing firm for small- to mid-sized businesses.
In the article, Laura starts with the good news for attorneys: Cold calling is out and relationship-based selling is in. Below are a few excerpts from the article and my take on why lawyers need to pay attention. I’d be interested to hear your comments below.
Identify Your Niche.
Or as Laura puts it:
Lead with your core strength…When you say you do 10 things really well, people don’t believe you. You lose credibility and trust (even if you can actually do all those things well.)
Kelli Proia of IPinFocus.com wrote a great post on this issue. In her article, Kelli likens the attorney practicing in too many areas to a doctor who “specializes” in operating on hearts, delivering babies, and helping teens with acne issues.
At first, the comparison seems ridiculous, because, well, it is ridiculous. No doctor would ever be taken seriously if he or she tried to cover that much ground with his or her practice. But attorneys still try to get away with it all the time.
Attorneys must focus their practices to be credible. I understand it’s a leap of faith for some because of the fear that you will miss out on an opportunity if you don’t list every area of practice you in which you could possibly serve clients. This approach will actually backfire on you.
Say a Prospective Client (“PC”) has a specific estate issue that he needs addressed in his will. PC asks around to trusted friends and gets two referrals for estate planning attorneys. First, he checks out their websites and LinkedIn profiles to learn more about them. PC sees that Attorney #1 practices solely in the area of wills, estates and trusts, while Attorney #2 practices in estate planning, criminal defense, and family law.
I am not one to bet (seriously…I play Bingo with 80 year olds when I go to Vegas) but if I had to put money on it, I bet PC goes with Attorney #1. Why? Because in this day and age, if PC is investing in a lawyer to draft his will, it will likely be because the complexity of the issue requires it. If he just needed a basic will, he may first try to Google the statutory forms and information. If that didn’t work, he might try Legal Zoom next.
Fellow attorneys, it’s time to face the truth. Technology is changing our industry and the first attorneys that will be made irrelevant by technological advances will be the generalists.
Give it away. As much information about your services as possible.
Once you have narrowed the focus of your practice as mentioned above, it’s time to start sharing. Laura mentions:
Information is your new “pitch.” The key is to enlighten and educate. Your buyers want reliable information so they can make informed decisions. So give it to them. Stop worrying about proprietary information and what your competitors may or may not learn about your products or services or strategies.
When considering what to write about, a great place to start is to consider the top 10-20 questions you get from clients and prospective clients and answer those. Another opportunity for lawyers and law firms is to develop content around the process or experience a new client should expect when working with you.
In an earlier post, I wrote about “information asymmetry” – a phrase coined by Daniel Pink. Prospective clients are more empowered than ever due to the amount of information available on the Internet. By sharing information about your services and the problems you can solve, you are building rapport with and empowering prospective clients before you even know they might be interested in your services.
The internet is changing the way consumers make purchases. Now is the time for lawyers and law firms to get ahead of the curve.
Attracting New Clients Begins Online
60-80% of the sales cycle happens through online research before a service provider is even contacted. Laura notes the importance of attracting sales via your “digital presence”:
Stop selling and start learning how to attract sales.
The big difference for sales, of course, is the way we buy things today. Online isn’t a separate entity; it’s how we live our lives. So if you plan to be in business in the next five years you must merge your offline world into an online presence. The buying process starts much earlier (most often it starts online) and decision-making is nearly complete before we ever contact the provider concerning the goods or services we buy.
Many attorneys tell me that they receive the majority of their new business through “word of mouth referrals.” These days, what do you think is the first thing that a perspective client does once a trusted colleague recommends you? That’s right – you just got Googled.
When is the last time you Googled yourself? Do you know what you would find?
The article mentions the importance of investing in your “web assets” – your website, blog and social networks. A robust, online presence is important for attorneys, particularly for attorneys in practice areas where the decision-makers are no longer in their backyards. For these attorneys, it is nearly impossible to regularly network in person with prospective clients. “Staying in front of” these prospective clients means sharing interesting articles (whether the attorney developed them or not) via online channels.
As I Said from the Beginning – This is Good News
For a profession that has long loathed (and many instances been ethically prohibited from) selling, the shift to business development by generating content designed to educate prospective clients is great news! Even for attorneys who are comfortable with networking, lunch meetings and the like don’t have to “self-promote” during these meetings. Instead, they can point prospective clients to an article or a monthly newsletter they author. Consistent, quality content posted on a website or blog and shared through social media channels can do the selling for them.