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Why Lawyers Can’t Sell, But Need To

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Lawyers have spent a lot of time studying to pass their bar exams.  When they graduate, they are the white-collar galley slaves, shackled to legal partner’s teams, doing the grunt work for years, until they can be allowed on deck.  As they move up the ranks they begin to interact with clients.  After a few more years they actually have to go out and get clients.  The big dog in the law firm is the rainmaker, who brought in the clients who paid the most money for the professional services of the firm.
 
Lawyers are proud of their achievements, their study, their knowledge of the law, their brains.  They want the clients to appreciate all of this and as a consequence, give them work.  This is the "I deserve it" school of sales in the law.  Knowledge is valuable. I have knowledge therefore you need me to help you sort out these various issues you are facing.  I don’t have to be persuasive, charming, attractive, engaging or likeable because I have what you need.  
 
Once upon a time that was the way of the legal profession.  A bunch of lawyer nerds serving up legal rocket science to companies.  Times change and now there are lots and lots of lawyers, all vying for their share of the pie.  The clients have also become better educated too and are more discerning, particularly around questioning the massive bills they receive.
 
Faced with such a proliferation of buying choices what do clients do?  They do what they do for all the other purchases they make.  They apply the "Know, Like and Trust" rule.  To know the legal firm, means to have a trusted confidant provide some testimonial style advice on how they performed in the past, how reliable they were and their degree of expertise in this particular area.  If there is no track record which the client can judge, then this "know" process is the equivalent of the "cold call" in sales.  Don’t recall there were any "cold calling" modules in the legal curriculum at university. 
 
The "like" part is the legal equivalent of a doctor’s "bedside manner".  Doctors here in Japan haven’t quite gotten around to learning this yet, but in most advanced countries the doctor has to become skilled in handling people.  To greet them properly, make them feel relaxed, assure them of the wisdom of their diagnosis and reinforce the trust the patient can place on their prognosis.
 
This is a great metaphor for the legal profession, because all of those same steps make for the "like" and "trust" results on the lawyer’s scorecard.  The diagnosis component requires two great skills: listening and questioning.  Asking well designed questions to uncover the client’s needs.  This is Selling 101.  
 
The delivery of the solution requires great skill to engage the trust of the client.  The client may not be an expert on the finer points of the law on a specific issue, so the ability to explain complex things in a way the buyer can understand and relate to them is a fundamental sales skill.  Technical experts, like lawyers, get excited about the details and start explaining these with great enthusiasm.  
 
This is what we call explaining the features of the solution in the sales world.  Many lawyers tend to stop there, believing their job is now done, but they are in grave error.  This is the case also with unsuccessful salespeople.  Instead, the features of the solution require to have the respective benefits attached to them, the application of those benefits need explaining and so does how they will impact the business.  Evidence of where this has worked elsewhere needs to be marshalled to sustain the argument and then we ask for the business, using a trial close.
 
Was there a varsity module on "trial closes?".  No and neither was there one on handling client hesitations and objections.  These are part and parcel of the sales world, yet lawyers are oblivious to what is necessary for convincing buyers to select their recommendations.
 
Lawyers are all in sales, they just don’t know it.  They are in bad company though.  They are in the same bracket as the failed salesperson.  They are saying the wrong things, using the wrong approaches and remaining under skilled and under educated about dealing with buyers.  These days the buyer of legal services has a surfeit of choices. They will gravitate to those they know; like and trust.  Lawyers who get it, realise they need sophisticated sales training.  The rest will scramble for the crumbs.
 
 
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