Attorneys have many good reasons for failing to follow up on the advice from business development coaches and trainers, starting with heavy case loads that constantly compete for their time. No business development program can succeed if lawyers fail to follow up.
This is a never-ending battle. One of the greatest contributions of any coach is simply to ensure that things get done. In my work with lawyers, I focus on Neil Rackham’s concept of sales “advances” based on his studies of more than 35,000 sales calls in a variety of professions over twelve years. In SPIN Selling, Rackham defines an advance as “A specific action taken by either party that moves the sale forward,” such as scheduling another meeting, getting introduced to someone new, or providing a list of references.
Great salespeople succeed by planning every sales call, and successfully strategizing how to get the largest possible advance. Rackham’s SPIN Selling Fieldbook provides examples and guidance of how to brainstorm possible advances before a meeting, and then select the one that is likely to lead to the greatest progress. This takes effort and practice. But it may be the difference between success and failure.
To increase follow-up, coaches can provide weekly reports of the advances and results for each person in the business development group. This creates accountability and a subtle group pressure; no one wants to see a report with a string of zeroes next to their name.
The field of differential psychology focuses on the many differences that make each of us unique, including personality traits, values, motivation, and learning styles. The best coaching programs must be designed to build on these individual differences.
The book Discover Your Sales Strengths summarizes 40 years of research by the Gallup organization on why some people succeed at sales, and some do not. Based on interviews with over 250,000 sales professionals, they have concluded that the most successful sales people learn how to apply their personal strengths to develop successful selling tactics.
There are many many ways to sell. But lawyers don’t have time to learn them all. If an individual finds a particular task difficult or distasteful, they should focus their limited business development efforts on something else. Each individual must specialize in what they do best. An effective coach can accommodate personal differences and individual needs by helping each person to identify their personal key strengths.
In recent decades, sales professionals have made significant advances in refining training and coaching techniques. Legal business development professionals can increase their success by applying the lessons learned in other industries – starting with these five critical success factors.
This three part series is from an article I published in the November/ December 2006 issue of Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing.