By Keli Proia.
I fondly remember the only marketing lesson I took with me from law school.
Graduate law school. Get a job at a law firm. Answer the phone when it rings. Meet with the client. Do the work.
All right, no one said those exact words but no one really said anything about how you get clients. After vague conversations with faculty, practicing attorneys I met, and my fellow law students it was definitely implied that clients just showed up at your office wanting to hire you.
Why else wouldn’t my law school teach such an important part of practicing law if getting clients wasn’t that easy?
I was none the wiser until I started my own firm more than 10 years after I graduated law school. Up until then, I worked as in-house intellectual property counsel. I always had a client and a paycheck.
What a harsh dose of reality. Being a good lawyer wasn’t enough to get my phone to ring. In 2009, I began the slow slog of networking events, speaking gigs, volunteering to coach entrepreneurs, blogging, and any other marketing activities I could think of.
It sucked. I struggled to find paying clients. I was desperate to figure out what I was doing wrong. I started to study marketing, sales, entrepreneurship, and how businesses work. I slowly began to understand why lawyers struggled with business development.
Simply put: Lawyers were never taught it, so you don’t understand it. Because you don’t know what else to do, you do what every other lawyer does. You get frustrated when your efforts don’t produce results. Frustration turns to dislike and ultimately you just avoid it as much as possible, hoping your phone rings.
Unfortunately, you need to be good at business development if you are to be a successful lawyer. So here’s a crash course in Business Development for Lawyers.
What is Business Development?
Business Development isn’t marketing. It’s sales.
If you are struggling to bring in clients, it’s most likely because you are only marketing your legal services. You aren’t selling them.
There are 5 elements to every business in the world.
- Value Creation: Creating a valuable product or service that people want to buy.
- Marketing: The efforts you make so your ideal clients/customers know you exist.
- Sales: The efforts you make turning those prospects into clients/customers.
- Value Delivery: Delivering your product or service.
- Finance: Selling your product or service at a price that makes you a profit.
Notice that Marketing and Sales have to different goals.
The goal of Marketing is attracting the attention of people who are interested in buying what you are selling. We call these people prospects. Marketing builds demand for your services.
The goal of Sales is quite different. Sales is the process by which you turn prospects into customers.
Marketing alone can’t do sales’ job.
If you’ve gone to the same networking event for the last year, passed out your business card to every person you’ve met, and have never received one referral or gotten one client, there’s one of 2 reasons.
- Your ideal clients or referral sources don’t attend that networking event, so you’re marketing to the wrong people; or
- Your ideal clients and referral sources do attend that networking event, and you haven’t sold them anything yet. You just keep marketing to them.
Marketing alone doesn’t get you clients. Unfortunately, lawyers don’t like sales.
Why do lawyers avoid sales? Sales is scary. Sales involves active engagement. It also comes with the chance for rejection. Sales requires that you have a conversation. It requires you to ask something of someone that benefits you.
There’s also this mistaken idea that you are selling yourself. That makes people uncomfortable. It’s not true. It just seems to be true because so much of legal marketing focuses on the attorneys themselves.
By comparison, marketing is easy. It’s passive. Place an ad in the local paper. Show up at the event. Hand out a business card or brochure. You avoid direct rejection, but you also struggle to get the clients you need.
If you want to build a successful law practice, you need to sell your services.
If you are still having a problem with sales, think about sales this way:
Sales is the means by which people who have a problem get their solution.
If you are selling your legal services properly, you aren’t selling you; you are selling your solution to your prospects’ legal problems. If they choose another solution, it’s not about you. It’s about their needs, and the solution they believe best meets their needs. Your solution doesn’t work for them. It’s not about you.
Offer your solution to your prospects’ legal problems. Offer it with joy and happiness. You have the chance to help someone. You can make someone’s life so much better with your solution. Don’t hide it behind bland, boring marketing. Sell it. Make the world a better place.
You can do it!