Do you hate the idea of glad-handed, cold-calling selling?
That’s OK. It wouldn’t work for lawyers anyway.
In the year 2005, the traditional approach to selling doesn’t even work for insurance and stocks. In his studies of financial advisors, Robert Krumroy has found that it’s been getting harder and harder for financial advisors to attract the attention of new prospects, or to keep the loyalty of existing customers. In a world with too many voices screaming for attention, the old approach to selling simply does not work.
Bob’s new book “Please… Make ME a little bit FAMOUS!” describes what does work: a more patient, less aggressive strategy based on defining a target group, becoming well known within that group, and gradually generating sales from those relationships. The book won’t come out until January, but when I had a chance to read a pre-publication version, I was struck by how well these ideas could work for lawyers.
Every day, the average person sees over 3,000 sales and marketing messages. Given this information overload, Krumroy has found that financial advisors now need 12 to 18 contacts per year to achieve that “top of mind” status that can lead to a sale. Now if you contact someone 18 times per year directly trying to sell, you will be a pest. So the most successful financial advisors have learned to walk the line between social and business relationships, and to find low key ways to keep in touch. If you build enough relationships with the right people, Krumroy says, the sales will come. Selling by not selling.
The idea of slow, steady, repeated contacts has been around in marketing for a long time. As Drew McLellan put it in a marketing speech I saw last year: “You want to be a drip, not a downpour.” But applying this much patience to sales is a new concept. Sales gurus often talk about needing 6 contacts with a prospect before you should expect a significant step forward. In this approach, even 12 to 18 may not be enough.
The hard part of executing this strategy is to come up with new reasons for frequent contacts that will be perceived as positive, memorable, and helpful, rather than pushy. Frequent emails are one key part of this strategy. For example, Krumroy says, you can take digital pictures of your prospects at a golf tournament or charity event, create an online album at a service like Shutterfly or the Kodak Gallery, and then send a link to the online album to the people on your list. Even if they never open the email, this will keep your name in front of people
Successful rainmakers are naturals at selling by not selling. If they get more systematic about it, their results will multiply. But the concept also has some risks for lawyers who hate to sell: they could use this approach to justify just scheduling more golf dates, then considering the sales job done.
On my Amazon list of recommended sales books for lawyers, the top book is Mark Maraia’s Rainmaking Made Simple. He talks about this issue in chapter 17 “Avoid Random Acts of Lunch.” Like other social encounters, lunch can be a great way to advance relationships and sales. But it only works well if you prepare in advance, and follow-up later.
What’s more, lawyers need to be selective about who they invite to a business lunch. For financial advisors, every neighbor is a potential customer for stocks, mutual funds and insurance. But not everyone needs advice on antitrust litigation or government contracts, so most lawyers will have a much narrower target market.
In future blog postings, I’ll have a lot more to say more about how to adapt Krumroy’s ideas to law firm rainmaking. But today’s main point is summarized in the title of this posting: sometimes, what works best is the zen of selling by not selling.