Most sellers, particularly lawyers and other professional service providers, sell rationally: by trying to persuade or prove to the buyer why they are the best solution. But the science of sales tells us that buyers make their decision on what to purchase based on emotion or “gut feel” rather than a rational decision making. This problem—the mismatch between sellers’ and buyers’ behaviors—is called the Buyer-Seller Paradox. There is an inherent conflict between the way most buyers buy and the way most sellers sell.
Many sellers treat networking as a short-term transaction: what can I get from this person now? They focus narrowly on identifying buyers who are ready to make a purchase. While this may lead to some quick revenue, the seller has missed the opportunity to develop long-term relationships that would lead to more sales down the road and build a relationship as more than just a self-interested salesperson.
Traditional sales approaches operate mainly out of self-interest: the seller wants to get the buyer to behave in a manner that is good for the seller’s revenue generation, even when that is not in the buyer’s best interest. A traditional seller focuses narrowly on making the sale that is right in front of him or her.
The organizers of the GC Thought Leaders Experiment, a study of the data contained in the in-house evaluations of more than 1,400 legal matters, recently released a remarkable finding: the largest and most pedigreed law firms, the AmLaw 20, lag behind the rest of the AmLaw 200—that is: the AmLaw 21-200—in providing high-quality client service. In other words, the assumption that the most lauded and most expensive firms will deliver work that is, on average, superior to their smaller competitors turns out not to be supported by the data.
Judging by most of the lawyer jokes we’ve heard, the answer would seem to be “yes.” In fact, there’s a long-standing notion in popular culture that the very best lawyers are often the very worst sort of people.
For all the talk of how the traditional law firm model is being disrupted by this trend or that, the key challenge for leaders remains, as ever, how to build something that lasts, something that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
Attorneys face a challenge unique within the business world. They must perform both tasks central to business development: performing excellent service (doing) and acquiring new clients in need of service (selling). As law firm leaders look to the future, how can they approach managing and developing their attorneys to be effective doers and sellers? Our webinar “Play Your Position” offers tools in two management areas:
Philosophies of Effective Selling
A successful plan begins with building your attorneys’ knowledge of effective selling. Selling requires the development of authentic relationships with prospective clients—a process that takes time and doesn’t always yield immediate results. Providing solutions to problems that need to be solved, and understanding that how you do what you do is as important as what you accomplish, are two ways to nurture these crucial relationships. A host of qualifiers will impact the path from first contact to closing the deal: the client’s problem, the solutions you propose, the sense of urgency, your access to the tools you need to solve it, the client’s expectations, and of course the budget. Anticipating each of these factors is key to successfully negotiating this path.