While I’m out of the office this week for our Annual Conference, I’m bringing you a guest post from Vince Robisch, of Minimalex – Vince coaches attorneys on improving their business development process to bring in more corporate clients. He practiced at an AmLaw 200 firm for eight years, and has sold millions of dollars of products and services to corporate legal departments and law firms, an experience that helps him to understand his clients and their clients. He currently coaches attorneys from specialized boutiques to some of the largest firms in the United States. You can learn more at his website. Vince is using the dreaded “s” word today – sales – to talk about an important topic, that of business development. It turns out that data helps your business. Who knew?

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Let’s be clear that lawyers don’t need to turn into professional salespeople to be good at business development.  In fact, sales and business development often get used interchangeably when in reality, sales is focused on revenue generation, while business development tries to identify a product/market fit.

For our purposes, business development is the action of growing existing clients and bringing in new clients.  Lawyers are in a much better position than the average salesperson to control the entire process and can leave behind all of the advice of slick, high-volume sales pros.  That’s not your business and it won’t help.

However, longer sales-cycle enterprise selling is similar in many ways to a lawyer’s relationship with corporate clients.  In addition, the volume of data gathered from the world of sales can provide valuable guidance for a profession that will spend most of its time delivering work product rather than “selling”.

The following data points will help make your business development activity more effective, boost your resilience, and give help you avoid common pitfalls.  Let’s dive in.

11th Hour Sales Doesn’t Work

You need to develop a daily rhythm that includes business development.  If you divide the year into quarters, top sales performers make more calls early in the quarter.  Average salespeople make them at the end of the quarter and the success rate of those calls is much lower.

What does that mean for you?

Don’t wait until the year before you are up for partner, or equity partner, or until that one big client you rely on decides to switch firms.  Have a process to your business development that you execute daily.

Don’t Give Up

Ever wonder why someone that you think you can help hasn’t gotten back to you?

  • It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer.
  • Only 24% of sales emails are opened.
  • At least 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit for you.

You aren’t being a pest.  People are busy (just like you) and it takes them time to respond.  If you keep in touch respectfully, you will be top of mind when they need you.  And if you aren’t a fit, better to find that out than wonder.  Additionally, your success rates will be much better because you aren’t blasting thousands of people with the hope of getting a response.  You will be hyper-focused on only those you can help, have examples showing why you can help them, and will have done your research on their company.  Most salespeople fail at all three of those steps.

Pricing Matters

While this is a topic that hundreds of books address, price matters.  The proliferation of pricing professionals in the legal vertical and years of survey responses are proof that corporate clients need pricing options.  There is a theory that price is never a real objection.  The failure has come in the way value was presented.  That is often true but not always.  Either way, be ready to have your creative pricing solutions ready.

Almost half of deals are lost because of budget.

Budget is the most common reason stronger sales opportunities fall apart.

Referrals Are (Almost) Essential

Nine in 10 buying decisions are made with peer recommendations.

92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know.

Lucky for you, you’re a member of an international legal network that focuses on member referrals!  While your fellow members are having success with referrals, when was the last time you asked a client for one?  The good news is they want to give you referrals!

After a positive experience, 83% of customers would be happy to provide a referral.

About 47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently, versus only 26% of non-top performers.

With that said, don’t be discouraged when you don’t have a referral.  Your client list, firm reputation, and recommendations on LinkedIn call all help with the social proof potential clients need.

Speaking of LinkedIn…

65% of salespeople who use social selling fill their pipeline, compared to 47% of reps who do not.

Make sure you are on it and that you are using it to the fullest extent available.  I have scheduled multiple meetings with Fortune 500 corporate legal departments through the use of LinkedIn.  It’s a key component of my coaching program.

While your process as a lawyer is different from the typical salesperson, you can use the data referenced to now incorporate the following into your business development routine:

  • Be persistent and focused. Start now because BD takes time.
  • Be prepared to answer pricing questions.
  • Ask for referrals, your clients want to give them.
  • Use LinkedIn to your advantage.