By David Whiteside, Director of Client Growth & Success at CLIENTSFirst.
As kids growing up, we all had aspirations and dreams of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Doctors, nurses, policemen, fireman, lawyer, teacher, rock star were pretty common. But, how many of you aspired to be an Orchestra Conductor? Interesting how we end up in the occupations we have today.
In the world of professional selling, law firm sales is probably one of the most unique in how the sales effort is executed. First it is somewhat uncommon when the “sales person” and the “product” are often one in the same. Add to that lawyer’s dislike of being seen as “selling”. Nor do most seem to fully embrace being called “the product”.
Today, the reality of the legal business is selling is required and the lawyer is the product. The customer has become far more business like in how they acquire, measure and work with their outside legal providers. They like nice people and friends, but are quick to commoditize and likely to hire based on a matrix of experience, qualifications and rates versus the severity of the problem. Hiring firms from panels that offer a full bench of practice skill and geographic reach is becoming common. This has created urgency for law firms to improve the sophistication and skill in how they go about the sales process.
We know change is hard. The term “Relationship Partner” has been around a while and is often substituted for sales and on occasion may even work to that end. But most of the time Relationship Partner is a euphemism for origination credit with perhaps a little stay away from “my client” for good measure. Not always best for the client.
If we use an orchestra as a metaphor for the law firm. The orchestra is made up of many musicians. Some great musicians and some just good, but specialists who know how to play one, or maybe a number, of instruments. The musicians are typically arranged in what are called “sections” of similar type. The violins are part of the larger Strings section, Woodwinds, Brass and Percussionist are also arranged in sections. Each section has a designated leader. Musicians have often spent their lives perfecting their musical skills on a narrow range of tools.
Like a music school, law schools teach in a manner that creates soloist. The end result is law firms are made up of specialists, soloists. Makes sense, if you can’t play solo how can you play in the orchestra. Like the strings, brass, woodwinds and percussionist sections, firms have soloists organized by practice groups. Practice groups usually have a leader. Floors and offices arranged by practice and skill. This works well for product delivery. But from a sales perspective, when soloists lawyers are the sales people, if they play the cowbell, they often see the client as needing more cowbell.
Imagine the sound of 100 soloists without any direction? A troupe of musicians randomly playing scales as a warmup comes to mind. That is what a client hears. What takes the individual musicians’ talents and pulls them together into a harmonious performing orchestra is the Conductor. During the actual performance much of the conductor’s work is unnoticed. They may have a flair for the theatrical side, but in fact the most important work by the conductor was done in the weeks of rehearsals and practice before the actual performance. Bringing the sound into harmony and convincing some of the musicians how the conductors vision of the symphony should sound.
The role of the legal sales professional is in many ways the life of the orchestra conductor. Today’s client buying legal services doesn’t want to deal with dozens or hundreds of soloist. Like a symphony audience, they want an orchestra conductor who can harness the resources of the firm for them when and where they are needed to get just the right sound. The right soloist or section at the right time. Internally legal sales professionals face challenges of how to get the sections, and the soloists’ lawyers within the sections, to buy into the grace and harmony of the orchestra. How do you effectively communicate, lead and inspire to get the best sound possible out of the individual musicians? You may not have aspired to be an orchestra conductor, but look where you are today.
About the Author:
Dave Whiteside is Director of Client Growth & Success at CLIENTSFirst.
Dave’s focus is helping the company grow and expand its CRM, Data Quality, eMarketing and Client Intelligence service offerings, and building alliances that help deliver additional value to Clients.