Sales: Maybe They Did Teach Us that in #LawSchool?

Marketing and selling.  Two words that strike fear into the hearts of lawyers everywhere.

To us, selling is a necessary evil if we want to attract clients, but we don’t like it.  In fact, we fear it.  Did you know the #1 fear lawyers have is that they will come across like a cheap, used car salesman.

At the same time, we complain that we’re bad at sales and marketing because our law schools don’t teach us how to sell our services.

But what if I told you that you already know how to sell?  In fact, you do it every day with no pushy, slimy sales tactics, using some of the skills that you learned in law school.

Don’t believe me?  I read a book that changed my view of selling and it might just change your attitude toward selling too.  It’s called To Sell is Human by Dan Pink, and here’s what the lawyer-trained-author says about selling in the 21st century.

We’re all in sales.

Every day we are all selling something to someone.  We just don’t recognize it as selling.

Our definition of selling is limited to monetary sales transactions when actually selling is simply about persuading, influencing and convincing others to do something.  Sales is all about moving people.

Politicians sell their messages to voters.  Teachers sell the importance of learning to students.

Have you ever tried to convince a toddler to put down the cookie and pick-up the broccoli?  A teen-ager to clean her room?  A judge, jury, or opposing counsel on your client’s point of view?  That’s all selling.

Maybe money isn’t exchanged, but if you think about sales in a broader sense, we are constantly trying to move people.

How did we all end up in sales?

The Internet changed how we sell.  

For years, sellers knew more than buyers.  Their extra knowledge gave them the upper hand in any transaction as well as a bad reputation.  It why we think of the huckster, the slimy salesperson and it’s where the notion of caveat emptor, buyer beware, comes from.

Today, the Internet gives us “information parity, where buyer and seller have roughly equal access to relevant information.”  Mr. Pink shows us a world where a well-informed buyer actually has the upper hand and a new guiding principle is emerging, caveat venditor – seller beware.

What does this mean?  

If we want to be successful today, we have to embrace our inner-salesperson and sell according to new principles.

What are those principles?

They are Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.  Lucky for you, we lawyers already possess them.

1.  Attunement is the ability to see things from another person’s perspective and react accordingly.  It’s about making connections and finding the win-win outcome.  I know that’s a quality we lawyers use every day in our legal practices.  It’s also the key to selling your services effectively.

2.  Buoyancy is simply staying positive and moving forward in the face of rejection.   You just need to believe in what you’re selling.  You won’t win every case and you won’t land every client.  How fast you pick yourself up and move forward in the face of that will determine how well you do in law and in sales.

3.  The final quality is Clarity.  Clarity is identifying problems and demonstrating innovative solutions.  The author calls this skill “problem finding”.  In law school, it’s called issue spotting.

How does this help in selling?  People pay to have their problems solved.  It’s your job to point out the problems and “sell” your solutions.

So how do we do this?

Mr. Pink lists 3 skills that people need to master to succeed: Pitch, Improvise, and Serve.  Again, lawyers are trained in them.  We just need to redirect the skills we have already mastered to do our jobs and use them to get clients.

1.  Pitch.  Your pitch is what you say about who you are and what you offer.

Your pitch is an offer, it’s not an introduction.  Mr. Pink says, “Its purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.”

Look at your website.  Do you spend so much time introducing yourself that you forget to make an offer, to start a dialog, or to engage the prospective client?

Stop talking about low-cost, high-quality work and offer readers an estate plan that solves their problems.

2.  Improvise.  Improvisation is your ability to listen and to respond to what you hear.  What are you listening for?  Offers.

“In improv, you never try to get someone to do something.  You make offers, you accept offers,’ says improv expert Cathy Salit.  (p.198)

It’s what we do when examining a witness or negotiating a deal.  You listen carefully to what the other party says so you can dig a little deeper into their story, motives, biases and fears, so you can move them.

3.  Serve.

Do lawyers serve their clients?  You bet.

While you want to make money, you’re not just in this business for profit.  You want to make a difference in people’s lives.

To do this effectively, you need to make it personal and make it purposeful.

Mr. Pink says, “We do better when we move beyond solving a puzzle to serving a person…making it personal has two sides.  One is recognizing the person you’re trying to serve…The other is putting yourself personally behind whatever it is that you’re trying to sell.” (P. 212)

In order to make it purposeful, we need to see a bigger picture.  The true test of services is: “If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve?  When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?”

Those are profound questions, and in the case of legal services, they should easily be answered in the affirmative.  Yes, we improve lives.  Yes, we make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, many in society don’t see it that way.  In a recent poll, Americans rank lawyers the lowest among 10 professions for their contributions to society.  After reading this book, I wonder if that view stems from how we “sell” ourselves and our services.

While not written specifically for lawyers, this book is a must read for lawyers.  We lawyers already have the skills we need to be top-notch salespeople without the yucky, slimy parts.   To Sell is Human offers us a way to view selling in a way that plays to our strengths.  The Author even includes a “Sample Case” section after certain chapters where he outlines best practices and offers exercises to hone your selling skills.

Get the book and learn how your legal skills can help you sell your legal services.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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