As the founder of A2L Consulting I've had the opportunity to do every job in the company at some point in the last 20 years. I enjoy technical work that requires deeply complex thinking. I'm great at conceptualizing litigation graphics for opening statements. Not surprisingly, as CEO, I also love leadership and strategy.
However, the job I love the most is helping people connect with the right people at A2L who can solve their challenges. Usually, these challenges are related to communicating to a judge or jury, persuading a skeptical public audience, or testing to find just the right oral and visual message for a particular audience. What do I call this job? Well, the title of this post is big clue. This job is sales.
A lot of people conjure up images of gregarious backslapping fraternity types when they think of salespeople. If you're doing it well, nothing could be further from the truth.
Sales is simply helping people solve problems. It's pretty easy when they know they have a problem, but it is certainly much harder when they have yet to perceive the problem, when you want to help them prevent a problem, or even when they have no idea that the solutions you know about exist.
In 20 years I've talked to tens of thousands of people in a sales context. I think I do sales well, and the lessons I've learned selling litigation consulting services can be applied to any professional services sale including selling as a lawyer.
Here are the top 10 tips I have for any salesperson engaging in professional services sales or pretty much sales of any type.
10. Create accountability systems. Great sales people want to be held accountable for their metrics (i.e. calls, meetings, etc.) and their results. Bad sales people hide and obfuscate. If you want to be great, get yourself a coach, a mentor or a group that you will report to weekly. Simply by talking through your metrics with someone else on a regular basis you'll become much more effective.
9. Act like your prospects. People generally like themselves. They also usually like people like themselves. If you want to be liked and respected by your prospect, behave like them. While I believe in NLP principles related to mirroring and matching techniques, I'm not being that granular. If your prospect is an introvert, be one when you're with them. If they like to go out for drinks, join them in that atmosphere. Go where the prospects are, and act like the prospects do.
8. Tenacity is the best and most overlooked sales strategy. One study found that most sales people have given up after the fifth attempt to reach someone. However most deals are usually arrived at after at least eight contacts and attempts to get a deal done. As one blogger put it, 90% of salespeople have given up before 80% of sales are made. Very often, to be good at sales, all you have to do is stick with it. If you generally only try to reach someone a few times, you're almost guaranteed to fail as a salesperson.
7. "No's" are good news. It's probably going to take nine no's for every yes you hear in sales. Rather than seeing a "no" as an affront to your self-esteem, be grateful. You just got through one of the nine preventing you from getting to that next "yes."
6. Your existing clients have more business than you think they do. While A2L has worked with pretty much every major law firm in the country, there are really only a handful of firms where I believe we have more than 25% of the firm's annual litigation consulting spend. I've been at this 20 years, and I still have this problem. All of my serious competitors like DecisionQuest, FTI and TrialGraphix, are in the same boat. You can always dig deeper, and it is always easier, faster and cheaper to sell to current clients than it is to find new ones. Treat your current clients more like prospects and less like assets, and you'll uncover gold.
5. No one sales method works for the long-term. At A2L, our sales teams and I use a combination of four methods to generate sales. First, we do great work at A2L so we get repeat business and referrals. In professional services, results are gold, and without them, no amount of sales can help you. Second, we use this blog (here's a free subscription) to share valuable information with the kinds of people we hope to work with (5,000 subscribe already). People call us every day as a result of having read an article about jury consulting, litigation graphics, trial technology, or our visual persuasion services. Third, using a product called LawProspector, we use warm calling methods to reach out to people we know are likely to need litigation consulting services soon. Fourth, we use classic one-to-one relationship selling to build relationships for the long-term. These four methods work together like a symphony.
4. What gets measured gets done. Sorry for the cliché, but it's true. If you're not tracking every bit of sales activity you do, you shouldn't bother trying to sell, because you're just doing it wrong. You must use a CRM. Without metric tracking and accountability in some form, most people will just bounce from conversation to conversation without converting a meaningful number of deals. It feels like sales, but it's really just endless flirting.
3. You're going to sell your way no matter what, so don't try to sell like somebody else. A friend of mine who is a partner to major law firm is a very effective sales guy. He's worked at it, and he is rightfully proud of his accomplishments. He uses a sales coach, and he shared with me something that his coach told him. My friend didn't like big networking events (I can empathize), and he didn't like cold calling people. However, he knew he liked having dinner parties. So instead of uncomfortable selling methods, he has regular dinner parties with people who are prospects and people who are clients. It works for him, and his method is entirely consistent with the message I am advocating.
2. Sales is helping people. I said it earlier, but there's a lot of baggage around the word "sales." It is unwarranted. Sales is simply helping people you care about be relieved of or avoid pain. Who doesn't like to do that? Remember that the next time your confidence is down. Start helping someone.
1. C + M = $ales. You'll make a certain number of contacts (i.e. calls, emails, handshakes) from which will you earn a certain number of meetings. From those meetings you get a certain amount of business. Anyone who tells you sales is something more than that is trying to sell you something. If you don't have enough sales, you're not going to enough meetings. If you're not getting enough meetings, you're not making enough contacts. You're probably going to need to make at least 25 contacts to generate a meeting (very cold calls can be more like 90:1). If you know your average transaction and you know your sales goal in dollars, you know exactly how many calls you need to make and how many meetings you will need to set up. Required Calls Per Week = (((Annual $ales goal / average transaction) / (10% meeting close rate)) * 25 calls to get a meeting) /48 weeks (because nobody sells 52 weeks a year).
I love hearing from other salespeople, particularly those in law firms, litigation support and other professional services. Drop me a note, and tell me what tips I missed.
Other articles related to sales, pricing methods and customer service at A2L Consulting's site:
- 10 Things Litigation Consultants Do That WOW Litigators
- 15 Tips for Great Customer Service from the Restaurant Industry
- Litigators, You Deserve Ritz-Carlton-Level Service
- DOWNLOAD: The real value litigation consultants give litigators
- 17 Tips for Great Preferred Vendor Programs
- 12 Alternative Fee Arrangements We Use and You Could Too