Articles of Interest
Check this page regularly for articles and links by Jacob and others that address the coaching process, successful sales and business strategies, and other items of interest to Coaching & Beyond's clientele.
Law Firms & Aerial Dogfights ~ By Jacob Preuss
In today’s tough economy, law firms find themselves scrambling for business like air force pilots scrambling to their jets to protect their firm’s interests. Who are these pilots and what are the planes, or techniques they are using to maneuver past their competition? Therein lies a great challenge - and opportunity.
Many law firms (and other organizations) employ or rely on a single individual or a select group to grow their business. These firms have come to depend on senior partners or managing partners to be their lead “pilots.” They are the ones with the connections, experience, and vision to drive clients and referrals to their firm. But in today’s toughening market, firms no longer have the luxury of leaving all the rainmaking to just a small number of partners. What can you do and what are your options? What are theirs?
First, you have to ask, what are you doing or not doing to contribute to your squadron’s efforts? How much or how little are you promoting or selling not only your services but the firm’s as well to your clients and referrals? How willing are you to put in the effort to do something you may not like or that makes you feel uncomfortable to achieve the rewards you and your firm desire? This is the first step in making a change in any organization and owning that change as a challenge. It has to be done at the individual level before it can percolate up to the senior one.
A good place to begin is with your clients. When the timing is right, ask them the following question, “How familiar are you with my firm’s other legal services?” (Make sure you know the answers before trying to promote them, and have the names of those associates available who are experts in their respective fields.) If the answer is “none”, or “very little”, here’s an excellent opportunity to endorse those services.
Ask if he has a moment now to hear about them. If the answer is yes, continue with a statement such as, “We’re a full service boutique that offers legal representation in the following areas...” Briefly describe those areas, and follow up with an open ended question. “Which of these services might be of interest to you or your company?” If there’s a positive response, invite him to share with you who the contact person is and his extension so that your associate can follow up with him.
If your client agrees to provide you with that information, inquire if he prefers being contacted first or his associate. Either way, make sure your client preps his associate on the upcoming call.
This proactive approach demonstrates to your client that you’re looking out for his needs and that of his company beyond what’s expected or anticipated. In business relationships as in social ones, customers appreciate knowing that you care for them, in this case, beyond their billable hours.
If in the above scenario your customer says he has no time to hear or discuss what else your firm has to offer, here’s an option. Offer him a brochure that describes your firm and its services. Let him know that you’ll follow up in several days. When you make that call, ask a qualifying question, “What was the feedback you heard from your colleagues about my firm’s other service offerings?” If his reply is favorable, a suggested response could be, “Who should we be talking to now?”
At this point or earlier in this process you might be thinking, “Can my colleague do as good a job for my client in litigation or some other area as I’m doing for his company’s IPO?” You could also be questioning if you will receive a fair referral fee for any services he could bill the company. Finally, you will want to know that if he or any other associate of yours does further business with your client, will you be adequately compensated?
Here’s a different perspective to consider, the golden rule. By doing for others (i.e. your associates), they may do for you as well, meaning they can promote your services and your specialty when they’re in front of their clients.
These are all good questions and thoughts that have to be addressed by your firm’s senior partners and managing partners. Once a supportive policy is in place, you can then confidently market your company’s full suite of services.
Another area your firm needs for ground and air support is marketing and business development. What is it doing to promote these two key functions on an individual-and organization-wide basis? What are you doing personally to define and expand these opportunities? What budgeting has been or will be set aside to provide marketing coaching? If corporate funding has not been set aside, how willing are you to commit to your own future earnings and career?
“As business falls off everywhere, all of us need to have an eye on where the next thing is coming from,” declared Edward Winslow, managing partner at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP. Marketing coaching can fill in the gap between what you need and what you have to meet your individual and corporate goals. This coaching can take place one on one or in groups to help lawyers and staff not only maintain their client base but grow it.
Jacob Preuss is a Certified Business and Executive Coach trained at NYU. He is also committed to the ideals of the International Coach Federation and the New Jersey Professional Coaches Association. For further information on business-appropriate applications and articles, please visit his web site, LinkedIn profile, or contact him directly at:
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Defensive Selling ~ Jacob Preuss
Of course, not all sales appointments are adversarial in nature. Still, you want to be the one who is better-prepared, better-trained, and more focused on achieving your goal than your client is on
For more information on sales preparation, please contact us.
Way Fast (or Selling in the Fast Lane) ~ Jacob Preuss
We live in the “now” generation: buy now, have now, do now, sell now. We’re so focused on what we want “now,” that we don’t see what other people may want “later.” This is particularly challenging in sales when we want the customer to buy what we’re offering on the spot.
We have an action plan or agenda that we want to impose on the customer or prospect. Very often, we believe it’s the customer’s obligation to listen to what we say and to buy into it as well. However, when that plan fails “now,” we wonder what went wrong, what did I miss, where did I fail, etc.
A good analogy for this situation is an aerial dogfight between two fighter pilots. At least, this is how many salesmen approach their target — that is, the customer. They “lock” onto their customer’s sights, needs, or concerns and then are ready to blow that information to smithereens with their company’s superior technology, speed, support, and anything else they can use to be victorious. That’s generally not the way a sale is made.
Selling is not about knocking the customer’s defenses out of the air. It is, first of all, letting him unspool his story, finding out who he is, building a relationship of trust with him, and establishing – not proclaiming – your credibility. The customer has to experience that trust, not just hear about it.
So before you respond with an action plan to a client, listen to what he has to say, restate to him what his issues or challenges are. Then clarify how your product or service can help him. NOW you’re building a sturdy foundation with your client because he knows you’re listening to him and are addressing his issues and concerns, not yours. Ask yourself throughout the sales cycle, “Am I really tracking with my client or just listening to his words and planning my next action step?” If you don’t experience the difference, you’re on autopilot. And what’s your customer on? He’s on to you! He can detect contrived questions and pat answers. Just as you want to get on with the sale, he may want to get off the phone or appointment with you.
As soon as you can identify your client’s needs or concerns, demonstrate your compassion and support for resolving them. You will then have a customer who believes in you because you care about him. NOW you have the opportunity to seize the moment and present yourself and your company in the most favorable light: that of being a partner with your client in solving his problem(s).
The choice is yours: be with your client and where he’s at, or be with yourself and where he’s not.
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