During the 2015 Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference, keynote speaker Daniel Pink discussed many themes related to the role sales plays in the lawyer-client relationship. For decades, lawyers have pushed back aggressively that they aren’t in the business of sales. Of course, they are wrong.
Sales is not something out of Glengarry Glen Ross (Pink redefines the “Always Be Closing” adage of hardcore sales). Gone are the days of asymmetrical information where the sales person holds the cards (think car salesmen—I know you already did) or where the consumer doesn’t have the resources to uncover the same facts as the sales person (yes, the internet in your hand).
According to Pink, sales in the modern era is no longer about problem solving or buying something to solve a problem but is rather the problem-finding business. Sales people find problems in your business and sell you the solution.
In the legal industry, this is only partially true. Lawyers are not just in the problem-finding business; lawyers are in the problem-spotting business. Those lawyers who understand their clients’ businesses use this knowledge to truly add value to the relationship—the kind of value that doesn’t show up on the bill.
In every interview we conduct with clients of law firms, understanding the business is just part of what each of those clients want. They want the lawyer to understand the business in part to more efficiently solve the problem, but what really drives client loyalty and what is truly added value is when a lawyer says to a client: “We have identified the following three concerns that other clients in your position are going to face during the next 12 months, and here is how we are helping them prepare before the problems arise. Let’s meet next week to discuss how this relates to you.”
That is not problem finding. That is potential problem avoiding. Too often, lawyers fail to sell themselves and their services by positioning themselves as great lawyers instead of positioning themselves as lawyers who are in tune to client needs and can troubleshoot for future problems. When they show they are forward-thinking, they don’t have to sell themselves when the problem arises. The client has already made the buying decision.