Always be closing,
always be closing.
- Alec Baldwin as Blake in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross (see a clip of this great scene here)
Focus on Closing
My first couple of months as a solo, I spent a lot of time talking to prospective clients. At that time I was offering free consultations. During these consultations I would give away the milk, which meant that very few potential clients were buying the cow. Even worse, I didn’t clearly express to my prospective clients what the cow was and why it was worth my fees to get it. I had no idea what the hell I was doing and was quite perturbed that many of these prospects weren’t becoming paying clients.
Unfortunately, how to sell is among the myriad of things that we lawyers need to know yet didn’t learn in law school. When I was just starting out, I didn’t understand how important the mantra, “always be closing” really was. After months of being disappointed at how few clients I had, I realized that closing clients needed to be my numero uno priority.
Now I have a method that keeps closing at the top of my mind at all times. You should try it:
Get a whiteboard and write down how much revenue you want to make this quarter. (Go ahead. I’ll wait). Under your goal number, write down how much you’ve made so far this quarter and subtract it from your goal number. The new total is how much you have left to make. Be sure to include the date every time you update the board – it adds a sense of urgency. Now every time you get paid, deduct the amount of revenue to date from your goal number. Here’s an example:
Goal for Q1: $20,000
Revenue to Date (2/2/12): $ 6,500
Need to Make: $ 13,500
By doing this you will have the exact number you need to make staring you in the face everyday. Its amazing how that number can keep you focused on acquiring clients so you can meet the bottom line. Remember, that
what gets measured, gets managed. – Peter Drucker
Selling Isn’t Icky
In addition to not knowing how to sell, we lawyers often feel uncomfortable selling. I’ve heard lots of lawyers and other service professionals say that selling makes them feel icky. They say, “I don’t want to force anyone to buy from me.” This position requires a re-frame. Thinking that you are forcing someone to buy from you is giving yourself too much credit. No one can force me to part with my money if I don’t I want to (except the IRS and an armed robber); likewise for your potential clients.
Instead, realize that you offer a valuable service and people need to know that your service is available and understand how it can help them. I can’t tell you how many emails and phone calls I have received from giddy prospects who are thrilled to discover my practice. If I wasn’t spending time sharing information about what I do, people I can help would never know I exist and therefore, never be able to benefit from my services. My point here is that people WANT to buy from you.
When you have a new prospect in front of you, do these three things with an eye towards either closing the sale or discovering that you and this prospect don’t belong together. (Either one is good. You don’t want to work for someone who isn’t a good fit for your practice anyway – it will only lead to headaches.)
1. Listen. Spend lots of time listening very carefully and asking open-ended questions. The more you listen to your potential client, the closer you’ll get to understanding what they truly want. When you know what they really want, you can express the reasons why your services are valuable to them. Additionally, knowing a lot about your potential client will help you to frame the conversation when it comes to discussing fees.
2. Educate. By being a good listener, you will make the potential client feel comfortable that you understand what they need. Then you can spend time educating the client about the particular legal issue their facing and how you can resolve it. Sharing a small portion of your knowledge will help the prospective client trust and believe in your expertise. It will help them understand their options and the true value that you can bring.
3. Close. Once you have spent some time listening to your clients wants and educating your client about the legal issue and the value that you bring, its time to close. Closing is pretty simple, just ask them if they would like to hire you. If they say no, you can move on. If they say yes, you can take the next steps to making them a client (collecting an intake form, sending an engagement agreement, accepting payment, etc.). If they say maybe, let them know you’ll follow up in a specific amount of time (2 days, one week, etc.). Then when you follow up, if they still don’t have a definitive answer give them a deadline by which to decide. When the deadline arrives, if they haven’t said yes, remove them from your sales process. Perpetual maybes can be an enormous time suck. Cut them off and move on.
Ideally, you should want exactly what your prospects want: the satisfaction of their desire or the resolution to their problem. – Josh Kaufman, The Personal MBA
Selling is only icky if you’re selling something you don’t believe in to someone who doesn’t need it. Your true goal is to deliver your services to clients who need them. So don’t make it hard for your potential clients to buy from you. Focus on closing for your benefit and theirs.
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®.