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4 posts from November 2005

November 30, 2005

How to make sales training work with lawyers – Part 2

In Part 1 of this posting, I explained how Tom Snyder’s Four Truths of Behavior Change can help law firms develop more effective sales training. This week, I’m going to focus on Truth Four: “Change does not happen all at once” and the related principle: “Measurement is the engine of change.”

In sales training programs, Tom said, senior management too often assumes that everyone is on the same page when in fact there is no consensus. Naturally, if decision makers fail to agree on the measure of success, some will be dissatisfied, and the program will fail.

In the book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? (P. 231), former IBM chairman Lou Gerstner put it this way: “Execution is all about translating strategies into action programs and measuring their results… Proper execution involves building measurable targets and holding people accountable for them.”

You’re probably thinking: why not just measure revenue? Of course that’s the ultimate goal of every sales training program. But every attorney knows that you only build legal business by building relationships. And it can easily take 6 or 12 or 18 months before a new relationship produces revenue. So if you want to measure the success of a training program by looking only at income, you will need to be prepared to continue the program for 18 months to see whether it works. And if it fails, then you’ll need to start a second program, and measure that one for another 18 months. That’s an expensive way to judge results.

Tom described two types of leading indicators that can be used to measure progress sooner: efficiency metrics and effectiveness metrics. When these variables go up in the short term, sales will go up in the long term. Efficiency metrics track activity, such as the number of sales meetings or proposals per week. I believe that these are especially important in law firms that are just beginning to take a formal approach to business development.

Tracking these numbers every week can be annoying, especially if you have zeros for a few weeks in a row. But that’s the very moment when the tracking pays off the most, by reminding you that you need to find time to get more meetings.

In our group coaching for rainmakers, we circulate weekly reports showing what each person in the group accomplished every week. The pressure colleagues put on each other to succeed is far more effectinve than anything an outside consultant can ever hope to accomplish.

Effectiveness metrics are more subtle, and measure performance in ways that are known to correlate with sales success. In a recent survey of legal sales experts, Roberta Montafia of Day, Berry & Howard explained: “Metrics is a concept that law firms have struggled with. As an industry we tend to focus on new clients and the measurement of new revenue, but have neglected the next step… measuring client satisfaction and loyalty as well as partner performance in the management of relationships. Measures need to address and compensate team behaviors and business development skills. If not, then individual, self-interest behavior will dominate. If the team doesn’t have goals, specific action items and a timeline, then how do you know what success looks like?”

November 16, 2005

How to make sales training work with lawyers – Part 1

Some law firms invest an enormous amount of time and energy in sales training, fail to see any increase in revenue, and quit. Others see revenues increase, and continue their programs year after year. What’s the difference between the law firms that succeed with sales training, and those that fail?

When I spoke at the recent ISA Sales and Marketing Conference, keynote presenter Tom Snyder of Huthwaite explained one key reason: “Research shows that launching a sales improvement effort will always fail if it relies on the training alone to make a difference.”

Tom began with statistics from a variety of programs showing that 92% to 97% of the people who complete traditional skills training fail. About half of this group tries to change but can’t, and the rest simply refuse to try. That leaves just 3% to 8% in the group that tries to apply the new skill and succeeds.

The underlying problem: “Human nature makes training new behaviors a difficult challenge.” If you don’t believe this, just ask a middle school teacher, an exercise coach, a prison reformer, a psychotherapist, or a nutritionist.

Tom talked about three reasons this is true for sales training:
1. Most people choose to be “comfortably average” and are not willing to “sweat for excellence.”
2. People believe that whatever they are doing already is the right way to do things.
3. According to “The Law of First Knowledge,” people continue to believe whatever they learned first, regardless of later evidence against it.

As an example of the Law of First Knowledge, Tom cited his own mother. Although she was a highly educated and intelligent woman, as a young girl she had been taught that if you washed your hair, then went out in the cold while it was still wet, you’d get pneumonia. Tom found that regardless of the evidence he could find to contradict this folk wisdom, his mother continued to believe it.

Huthwaite is a global leader in sales training, so their senior VP of Business Development would probably not be giving speeches about 92% to 97% failure rates if they had not discovered the solution. The answer lies in recognizing and dealing with “The Four Truths of Behavior Change”:
1. Organizations cannot facilitate change casually.
2. Adults learn in context.
3. Classrooms serve a unique purpose.
4. Change does not happen all at once.

This week, I’ll focus on the implications for law firms of Truth One: “Organizations cannot facilitate change casually.” To overcome this problem, Tom offers three recommendations:

Everyone must play a role. Leaders must be trained along with the followers. Senior partners should not expect a sales training program to achieve success if some stand skeptically on the sidelines, and others actively mock the program.

When Roberta Montafia of Day, Berry & Howard surveyed legal sales and marketing experts (both in-house and consultants), all agreed that leadership was the single most important factor in sales success: “To develop a successful sales program the firm’s leadership must have the trust and confidence of the partners. They must have the clout to stop the interference from naysayers and to make the tough calls that will invariably arise.” (The complete article - “Law Firm Sales: An Industry Overview” – can be found in the “For members only” section of the Legal Sales and Service Organization web page.)

What you measure gets done. All must agree at the outset on a definition of success, and then make sure that the program tracks this measure, and succeeds. Next week, I’ll discuss why this is harder than it sounds.

There must be a “what’s in it for me.” If you thought the other principles were hard for law firms, think about this one. Sooner or later, this comes down to compensation. Is there any topic in a partnership that is more controversial?

More after Thanksgiving. If you can’t wait that long, go to the Huthwaite web page and download the white paper “The Four Truths of Behavior Change.”

November 09, 2005

How sales and marketing should work together

Since many lawyers are uncomfortable with the word sales, they use the word marketing broadly, to refer to all the activities that are involved with developing new business. In contrast, most industries make a clear distinction between the sales department (which deals directly with customers) and the marketing department (which works behind the scenes, deciding which customers to target and how to reach them).

Why should lawyers care? Because, as I’ve discussed in previous postings, confusion over these two roles is causing law firms to waste an enormous amount of time and money.

Law firms are not the only place where there are tensions between the two functions. When I spoke at the ISA Sales and Marketing conference two weeks ago, Neil Rackham discussed these problems in his keynote opening address on “Sales vs. Marketing.”

According to Neil’s web page, “more than half the Fortune 500 train their salespeople using sales models derived from his research.” Three of his books have been on the New York Times best seller list, including SPIN Selling, the single best source of research data on what works in sales, and one of the top 10 sales books for lawyers on my Amazon list. He began his talk by reviewing some data. According to the Aberdeen Group: “45% of sales and marketing people believe that the collaboration is not working.” Similarly, a McKinsey study reported that 70% of CEOs feel that the relationship between sales and marketing was “suboptimal or dysfunctional.”

Here’s how the ISA conference program summarized Neil’s main points: “In the beginning, there was Sales. Then Marketing came along and since then the Sales /Marketing relationship has ranged from uneasy peace to open hostility. Yet, if any two functions need to work smoothly together, it's Sales and Marketing. If their relationship isn't right, the organization is in trouble.”

The idea that the sales department develops first is true for every startup that has ever existed, including my own company 20 years ago. When you are trying to meet payroll, you either learn how to sell, or you go out of business. But law firms have followed a different path.

For more than a century, the legal profession grew through informal rainmaking, without formal sales organizations or procedures. When competition started to get tougher in the 1980s, the Legal Marketing Association was born. But the law firms that joined were not startups worried about meeting payroll; they were established businesses with dozens or hundreds of employees. They were wealthy enough to survive expensive mistakes, and some did. They spent far too much of their money on brochures and studies (marketing), and not enough on meetings with clients (sales).

As I explained in an earlier posting, in August 2003 three former officers of the Legal Marketing Association -- Silvia Coulter of Coulter Consulting Group, Beth Cuzzone of Goulston & Storrs and Catherine MacDonagh of Day, Berry & Howard -- started a second group, the Legal Sales and Service Organization, to restore balance to the profession by focusing on sales and service The challenge of the future will be to get the sales and marketing groups pulling in the same direction.

Neil’s talk included many suggestions for accomplishing this, such as having the marketing department support sales by crafting a value proposition summarizing capability, impact, and cost. For example, the value proposition for an industry leader in intellectual property law might be: We file patent applications, enforce patents, and litigate. Because we have more experience than other firms, our patents are easier to enforce and defend. Other firms offer lower hourly rates, but we reduce risk and lower long-term costs by providing the best protection of inventors’ rights.

By creating compelling value propositions for different sub-groups of clients, marketing can help the sales people to target the best prospects and make better use of their time.

Do you want to know more? Me too. But we’ll both have to wait.

After the talk, I asked Neil where to get more details. He explained that next summer, the Harvard Business Review will devote a special double issue to the relation between marketing and sales. The lead article will describe research conducted by Neil with co-author Philip Kotler, Professor of International Marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

The day my copy arrives, I’ll be studying their data and analyzing the implications for law firm business development.

November 02, 2005

Why I love to be misquoted

OK, maybe I wasn’t misquoted, but it’s still a good story…

A few weeks ago, I got a call from an editor at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly who was writing an article about networking. We had a great conversation, and I got excited about the article. But when I first saw it on the front page of the October 3 issue, my reaction was mixed.

The article itself was great. But the last sentence in my own quote bothered me: “Lawyers who look at networking as an opportunity to generate client contacts can’t just take their friend out for golf or engage in what I call random acts of lunch.”

If you’ve read the number one entry from my Amazon list of sales and marketing books for lawyers, you know why. That great phrase -- “random acts of lunch” – is not something I invented, it’s the title of Chapter 17 in Mark Maraia’s book Rainmaking Made Simple.

Although I’ve never met Mark, an hour after I saw the story I emailed him an apology for taking credit for his words. He sent me a very gracious reply, so I guess that means no harm, no foul. And I felt so bad about it, that I finally found time to review his book on Amazon.

But here’s the worst part: even if Mark had been upset, I would have been glad that the quote had appeared. What’s more, I really don’t know whether I was misquoted. I thought I mentioned Mark’s name, but I could have gotten swept up in the conversation and just used the phrase.

I also empathize with the reporter’s challenge, based on my own experience as a writer. On several occasions in the past, experts I wrote about felt misquoted and got upset. Were they really misquoted? I have no idea. Their quotes always matched what I had written down, and I’ll never know whether my notes were wrong.

In this blog, I try to avoid such problems by giving people a chance to review any quotes before I post them. But most editors face strict deadlines and don’t have that luxury. And some feel that such reviews actually make quotes less accurate. When people have time to study their words, some will change what they said. They’re not lying, it’s just human nature to want to make the words look good in print.

So if you get interviewed by the press a lot, I guarantee that you will sometimes feel misquoted. It goes with the territory. But there’s an old saying that bad publicity is better than no publicity.

So I love to be misquoted. Most people will never know what I said anyway. Any publicity will help to increase my visibility and my business. Yours too.