When it comes to selling legal services and book building, attorneys have a unique set of problems. Unlike traditional salespeople, most attorneys never wanted anything to do with sales.
You probably can’t imagine yourself in law school saying, “Gee, I can’t wait to graduate so I can start selling legal services!” It’s just not in the genetic makeup for most legal practitioners.
While there is an inherent struggle that I witness every day in working with attorneys, there are three core issues that attorneys have that make business building very challenging.
Problem No. 1
The first big problem that attorneys need to overcome is what I call, “head trash”. These are the fears and uncertainties that clog an attorney’s brain as it relates to business development.
Most of us don’t like dealing with salespeople and certainly never want to be seen as one. So why would you put yourself into that position?
The key to success here is to think of yourself as the top expert in your field. If someone needed a legal problem to be solved, you would be the best choice to call. Now think about all of the prospective clients in the marketplace who aren’t happy with their legal representation, are overpaying or may not even realize they have a legal problem.
If you’re not in front of them, they may not be getting the best. The key to removing the trash between your ears is by focusing on the buyers needs and not focusing on the pitch or the close. Shift your focus to the buyer and let them talk — while you listen. Be a good interviewer and uncover compelling reasons for them to work with you.
While this might be easier said than done, it’s a critical point to being chosen. Buyers want to feel listened to and understood, not pitched or sold. Think about the buyer from this point of view and I guarantee it will help you relax and enjoy the process of book building.
Problem No. 2
The second big sales issue that attorneys have is time management. While this is not unique only to lawyers, it is one of their greatest challenges. For most attorneys, the pressure to bill hours is overwhelming. In some cases, one attorney might bill 1,800 to 2,500 hours a year. If we do the math, where is the time for learning business development, let alone executing on it?
There are two possible solutions to this problem. The first is to work harder. The second is to work smarter. You probably guessed that the second way is the right way. Fortunately, there are time management guidelines that have been developed to allow busy professionals to increase their efficiency.
David Allen, the writer of “Getting Things Done,” has been preaching these strategies for years, but mainly on deaf ears.
One of his main talking points is the importance of having a process for managing your time. No one ever said that “winging it” was a good strategy to be efficient. One of Allen’s mantras is the concept of the four D’s. By taking in information and plugging it into one of these four categories, you can make better decisions about how to invest your time. They go something like this:
The 4 D’s
- Do it: If it takes less than two minutes to accomplish, do it and get it off your plate.
- Defer it: If it’s over two minutes, schedule time in your calendar to accomplish the task.
- Drop it: Say no to things that aren’t client or prospective client related, and stop messing around online during the workday.
- Delegate it: Get rid of anything you are doing that can be done for $20 to $50 an hour by someone else. Your time is worth much more than that.
Following these guidelines isn’t easy, but once you start asking which D something falls under, you’ll see the difference. You will discover where your inefficiencies are and, hopefully, make improvements immediately.
Problem No. 3
Attorneys aren’t trained to sell legal services. There are no classes in law school about selling and even the local and state bar associations frown on openly “sales-focused” content. In some cases, the only way for young lawyers to learn sales is from a strong mentor within their firm.
However, while the mentor might be a natural-born rainmaker, you are unique and probably not built for sales. For many attorneys, observing a strong originator doesn’t necessarily allow you to learn processes that will work for you.
Some people are built better for book building than others. That being said, business development is a learned skill and not something anyone is simply born with.
It’s important to find a sales coaching and training program to help you develop a plan with processes to achieve your goals. The alternative would be to figure it out by yourself, which can take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost billable time and missed opportunities.
My recommendation to most attorneys would be to treat book building the same way you would learn a new language or play a new sport.
You must immerse yourself into it by finding books, videos and, most importantly, an experienced teacher who has a strong reputation for getting results for his or her clients.
In addition, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. While we all know you don’t have 10,000 hours to invest in learning business development, you might want to consider 100 hours as a launching point.
As a starting point, IICLE has published my new book entitled, “The Attorneys Networking Handbook”. For most attorneys, networking inefficiently will steal away vast amounts of time because there’s no process around on how to do it. This book cuts to the chase and provides tactical and actionable solutions to get results when networking. (You can order a copy at iicle.com/networking.)
While there may be hundreds of reasons why you might find book building challenging, the key is to remove that pesky head trash, work to improve your time management skills and really immerse yourself into learning business development as a part of your career.
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