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3 posts from July 2005

July 26, 2005

Stop marketing, start selling

Did you see the recent survey of business development spending on the cover of Law Firm, Inc.?  The writer seemed encouraged by the upward trends, but I was appalled.

When ALM and Brand Research surveyed large firms for this article, they found annual spending of $1.8 million on marketing (defined as communication to groups of buyers) and $1.3 million on business development (defined as selling to individual buyers).

The combined figures were about 1.1% of gross revenue -- so ridiculously low that I don’t even want to talk about it.  (At least, not until I write Part 2 next week.)  Today, I need to rant about the fact that the average law firm spends more on marketing than on sales.  What a waste.

Let’s see, which is more important:  communicating with groups or selling to individuals?  Which is more likely to bring in new revenue next month:  a better web page, or sitting down to talk with people who have legal needs and budgets?

Sure, you need to spend enough on marketing to identify your tactics and your core message.  But that can be inexpensive, if you’ll let it be.  Unfortunately, if partners want to debate the details, they will pay marketing people to watch and to wait. I recently talked to a graphics designer who spent two years getting a law firm to approve their first brochure.  While these attorneys were fussing with wording, more sales-oriented firms were taking their clients to lunch.

Here’s a tip:  nobody is going to read your brochure.  It’s important to have one, so clients can see how successful you are from the quality of the graphics and the printing.  But no client is going to focus on phrasing the way your partners might.  So if you’re ever forced to choose between spending 100% of your money on marketing or 100% on sales, pick sales.   

Select a few partners who like people, and turn them loose.  Better yet, spend 5% or 10% of your money on marketing to figure out who these rainmakers should talk to and what they should say.  Then turn them loose.  But don’t do what these firms did and spend more than half of your budget on marketing. 

If you’re opposed in principle to direct selling, send the marketing part of your budget to the United Way and hope that the good publicity brings in some new business. It may not work any better than your current marketing, but at least something useful will come from it.

July 19, 2005

Listen up

When you meet with someone who is shopping around for legal advice, how much of the time do you talk, and how much do you listen?  According to sales experts, you should be listening at least 50% of the time, and maybe as much as 80%. 

Most people talk too much.  This mistake is especially common when you are looking for new business, and want to explain all the reasons why your firm is special.  But your customer is a lot more interesting than you are.  If you doubt it, just ask her.  So you need to devote most of your meeting time to understanding what she wants, needs, and feels. 

The best way to understand your customers is to “master the art of the easily answered question,” as explained in Kevin Daley’s book Socratic Selling:  How to Ask the Questions that Get the Sale.  Daley covers several different kinds of probing, and offers many examples to get you started with questions like:

           Tell me more about ____.

           Give me an example of ____.

           What else should I know about ____?

           How does ____ fit the picture?

           Talk to me about your experience with _____.

           How do you handle _____?

           Why is this important right now?

And when it’s time to wrap up the meeting, he suggests that you get agreement and approval with questions like:

           How does that sound?

           Do I have it right?

Sales meetings are the opposite of cross examination.  A meeting can be a huge success even if you say very little.  If you meet with the right people, and they begin to like and trust you, you will be on the way to new business.

July 06, 2005

Make a note of this

If you want to strengthen your relationships with current and future clients, send more handwritten thank you notes.

If you address the envelope by hand, it will get opened first.  And if you simply take the time to say something nice, you will be remembered.  Especially if it’s short, and the reader is not required to do anything or respond in any way. 

You can tell people how their advice or action made a difference to you.  Or how someone on their staff helped you.  Or just refer to a recent event that reminded you of something you’ve talked about, whether it’s the best place to spend a rainy day on the Cape or the latest breakthrough in titanium golf clubs.  If it makes your client smile, your mission is accomplished.  If it makes you smile too, that’s a free bonus.

The message could be written on a postcard, on letterhead, or on personal stationery.  I like to use note cards printed with my name, that look a little like wedding invitations.  Whatever the stationery, the message cannot be typed.  If your writing is completely illegible, try harder. 

There are dozens of note card printers on the internet. I get mine at The Stationery Studio and have been experimenting with their cheapest styles.  The price for my last order (Century Cards) was listed at $25.95 for 50 cards and envelopes. But that was just to reel me in.  By the time I added the return address on the envelopes and paid for shipping, I spent $56.70.  Maybe not what I’d call a bargain, but definitely a worthwhile investment.

Using handwritten notes is an example of “personalizing and customizing,” one of the key principles I describe in my book AdverSelling.  For lawyers, nothing is more important than building relationships, so this principle should be at the top of your list. 

If you’d like to get a handwritten thanks on my own personal note card, just give me some feedback on this blog (email jhassett@advertraining.com).  It’s only a few weeks old, and I am still trying to define the direction.  Should I include practical tips for business development, like today’s?  Or should I stick to the more general analysis of industry trends, as in the past?

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