339 posts categorized "Tips for Lawyers"

February 03, 2016

Tip of the month:  Focus on improving personal time management

If you are one the lucky people who is already good at managing your time, stop reading this post.  For everyone else, there is no better way to increase efficiency than to improve your personal time management.  So type “time management” into Google and start looking for tips that fit your needs, or buy the Time Management Handbook for Lawyers: How-to Tactics That Really Work by LegalBizDev’s Gary Richards.

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip like this to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business.

 

January 27, 2016

To develop new business, focus on your personal strengths

According to traditional stereotypes, “a good salesperson can sell anything.” That good salesperson was probably on the football team in high school, is fun at parties, mixes easily at networking events, and can quickly become anyone’s new best friend. For all people who do not fit this profile (including most lawyers and me), the logical implication is that we were not born to sell, so we should not waste our time trying.

But when the Gallup organization collected systematic data on 250,000 sales representatives over forty years, they found that the “salesperson who could sell anything” was a myth.  In fact, top producers in one industry often perform poorly in another, because different types of selling require different skills. As Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano put it in Discover Your Sales Strengths:

The strengths that make someone an excellent pharmaceutical salesperson are different from those required to excel in selling real estate, or jet engines, or strategic consulting. 

Just as Michael Jordan found that basketball skills did not help him get to first base, a sales star in one industry may do poorly in another.

Gallup also found that each successful salesperson develops a unique selling style based upon their particular personality strengths. In their surveys, one of the items best correlated to sales success is the statement: “At work I get to do what I do best every day.”  High agreement links to job satisfaction, effective performance, profitability, and customer loyalty. And the more strongly you agree with this statement, the more productive you are likely to be.

Think about the top legal rainmakers you know. Chances are, some of them have succeeded by providing greater value, some through public speaking, some through community involvement, some by becoming active in professional groups, and some by taking clients to football games. Each has found how to apply their personal interests and strengths.

So when you plan your business development activity, think about what you like to do, and how you can focus on your personal strengths to build relationships and provide more value.

If parts of the process lie outside your comfort zone, remember that selling is a skill that anyone can learn, like golf. Not everyone will become great, but everyone can play the game.

The most important point for lawyers is that selling is a skill. To start learning, you must identify the tactics that fit your clients and your personality, and master a few basic techniques, such as listening.

Also like golf, selling is a lot harder than it looks. The good news is that you do not need to be great to win; you just need to be a little better than your competition.

Until a few years ago, that was easy, because other lawyers were so bad at it. But these days the bar is going up.

When one law firm succeeds in training its lawyers to get new business, it usually takes the work away from a second firm. When I interviewed chief marketing officers for an article a few years ago, several mentioned that when they compete with most firms, it’s easy to take away business by providing exceptional service. But when they compete with other firms that also provide exceptional service, getting new business becomes much harder.

How can you expect to keep up, if legal sellers become more sophisticated year after year? It’s going to take more time and money, and is a kind of arms race. Most lawyers find it is more efficient to hire sales experts as coaches and collaborators, rather than to spend the time to become sales experts themselves. Great golfers have coaches, and more and more legal rainmakers do as well.

Can you really expect to compete in this arena if you are not a natural salesperson? Yes. Natural ability is overrated. Focus on your personal strengths, follow up consistently, and you will succeed.

This post was adapted from my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.

January 06, 2016

Tip of the month:  Improve the way you delegate work

Effective delegation is a key to efficiency, and it is also surprisingly difficult.  If you think this is an area you could improve, there’s an enormous amount of useful info on the internet, including in this blog.  If you own the third edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide, see pages 76-84.  Or buy Delegating Work from the Harvard Business Review.  It could be the best $11 you ever spent.

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip like this to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business.

 

December 02, 2015

Tip of the month: Develop a defensive marketing plan for 2016

As legal competition continues to get tougher, it’s more important than ever to focus on protecting relationships with the clients you already have.  What have you done for your best clients lately?  What could you do to further strengthen your position next year?  If you’re not sure, just ask your clients.  But only if you are committed to following up, and actually doing what they ask.

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip like this to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business.

November 04, 2015

Tip of the month: Ask clients how they define value

When I recently interviewed managing partners and other leaders at 50 AmLaw200 firms about client demands for greater value, one senior executive admitted “When it comes to value, I’m not sure what our clients mean.  It means different things to different people.”  There’s only one way to find out:  ask them.  For a list of over 50 questions you could ask to begin the conversation about value, see page 124 of the third edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business.

October 07, 2015

Tip of the month: Track hours for work that is out of scope

At the beginning of each matter, everyone on the team should be given a clear explanation of what type of work is included in the engagement, and what is beyond scope.  To meet client needs, it may be necessary to perform some work that is beyond the scope of the agreement without getting client permission first.  But when this occurs, the lawyer who performs the work should track those hours separately (whether with a formal task code or some informal system) so that the responsible attorney can tell the client exactly what was done, why, and how much it cost. 

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. For background on this tip, see my post “How to track legal work that is out of scope.” 

September 02, 2015

Tip of the month: Develop a formal communications plan

To improve the flow of communications within your legal team, develop a simple chart showing who should talk to whom, about what, and when.  For example, the firm’s responsible partner could provide a weekly status email to the client’s lead lawyer on each important matter, and associates could have a daily five minute meeting or call with the lawyer supervising their work. 

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. Several sample communication plans appear in the third edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.

August 26, 2015

Business development best practices: Don’t stop

Selling is a numbers game.

New life insurance agents are sometimes taught the “100/10/3 formula:” You must approach one hundred people to get 10 appointments and three customers. The exact numbers will be different for lawyers, but in any kind of selling you must approach a large number of prospects in order to get a small number of sales.

In his book 101 Marketing Strategies for Accounting, Law, Consulting, and Professional Services Firms, Troy Waugh (p. 227) talks about the need to “succeed by failing more:”

All advertising, public relations and direct mail programs have failure rates (non-response) that exceed 95%. But the one to five percent success can create excellent leads and pay for all your efforts.

Fortunately, the numbers are not quite this high for most professional service firms. At McKinsey & Company, one of the most successful consulting firms in the world, every director in the firm is responsible for marketing, using the “2/4/8 rule:” constantly work on two assignments, four proposals, and eight new prospects. McKinsey does not have an internal marketing department, because they recognize that all senior staff are responsible for marketing.

It can take significant time to build relationships with all these people, and the best way to build relationships is with face-to-face meetings. When Don Schrello analyzed data from McGraw-Hill, Cahners, and other sources regarding face-to-face selling for both goods and services, he found that over eighty percent of the time, sales professionals require at least five face-to-face meetings to close a sale.

In the SPIN® Selling Fieldbook (p. 42), Neil Rackham’s data on major account sales are even more daunting: “Fewer than 10% of calls actually result in a [decision of] an Order or No Sale.”

Add all these facts together, and it becomes clear that finding new clients takes an enormous amount of persistence, and the ability to shrug off rejection, week after week. As Mike Bosworth put it in Solution Selling (p. 83), “Sales always has been and always will be a numbers game—no matter how good you become, not everyone will buy from you.”

The fact that you will be dealing with large numbers means that you will need to be organized and systematic in managing your interactions with all these prospects.

According to Jim Cathcart in the book Relationship Selling (p. 100), “The way to recognize a true sales professional is to look at what he or she does after the sale.”

In every industry, it is far more expensive to win business from a new client than from an old one. Even if there’s no more money for you in this year’s budget, next year’s budget is just 12 months away or less.

Think about what you might do to stay top of mind with each client, from newsletters to personal updates.

Cathcart suggests keeping in touch with everything from clipped magazine articles to handwritten notes, and a regular account review to uncover both satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Publicize the positive, and fix the negative.

And when you lose a sale, keep in touch with those people too. If you find ways to help people, they will remember you, they will come back to you, they will tell their friends, and sooner or later some of them will buy.

The key to long-term selling is “don’t stop.” Look past today’s victories and losses, and focus on building relationships that will be the foundation of your long-term success.

And on the inevitable days when progress feels slow, give yourself a pep talk about the fact that sales is a numbers game. If you knock on enough doors saying the right thing, your share will open.

As Calvin Coolidge famously summed it up:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination are omnipotent.
The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

This post was adapted from my book the Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.

August 05, 2015

Tip of the month: Ask every client about their communication preferences

At the beginning of each matter, ask the client how often they want to be informed of your progress and the best way to provide this information.  One client may prefer formal monthly reports, another may want informal emails only when issues arise, and a third may be comfortable only with regular phone calls or even face to face meetings.  The client is always right, and keeping in touch the way they prefer will go a long way toward increasing client satisfaction.

 

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. More information about this tip appears in the third edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.

July 01, 2015

Tip of the month: Assess risks to the schedule and budget

At the beginning of each significant matter, reduce the risk of delays and budget overruns by spending a little time brainstorming these questions:

  • What could possibly go wrong that would increase the cost, delay the matter, or decrease client satisfaction?

  • How likely is this to happen?

  • How serious would the impact be if it did happen?

  • Which risks should I plan for in advance?

The first Wednesday of every month is devoted to a short and simple tip to help lawyers increase efficiency, provide greater value to their clients and/or develop new business. Sample risk analysis templates and related information appears on pages 106 to 109 in the third edition of my Legal Project Management Quick Reference Guide.