I’ve been working in legal, professional services, and other service-based marketing for a long time.
Nowhere is there a stigma against the term “selling” as strong as there is in legal and professional services. It somehow feels dirty, slimy, something others do, but not me.
When I started my job as Director of Marketing for a law firm in 1997, it was made clear to me that “sales” and “selling” were not words we used in legal marketing. Shortly after I started, I was asked to make a presentation in one of our offices. After I finished, I sat down and looked to my right and found the word “sales” written on a legal pad by the managing partner. I wasn’t snooping. It was written on a line of its own and in plain sight, perhaps so I could see it…not sure. He heard me say it and must not have approved.
The Day I Discovered The Word “Sales” Was Not Welcome
I continued to learn this was not a palatable or welcome term to use in the legal space. I found that surprising because I started my career in sales after college, and found nothing wrong with it. Perhaps it was because my father used to sell, and he was very good at it. He was nothing even close to a stereotypical salesperson, whatever that was at the time. He was simply his client’s advisor, their mentor, their solution to a problem, and sometimes even their friend. The same goes for my younger brother…also professional, ethical, and very good at helping his clients.
It’s All In The Training and Your Approach
I had a great experience when I started my sales job. I was sent away for two weeks to the home office in Dayton for intense sales training. When you immerse yourself in that kind of a learning environment for that long, it is amazing what you discover about yourself…the good, the bad and the things you definitely need to change about your approach.
I can still remember the day we were recorded using just audio. Video came later. Oh my, did I ever talk fast! We had all become friends at that point, so it was easy to chuckle at ourselves and one another. The best part about that is that I then knew what I needed to do to get better. Had I not had intense sales training, I might have actually stood in front of my potential clients with my 20-something exuberance and passion, and set the world record for fast-talking because I was so excited. I still have that same passion, but I don’t talk as fast.
My message to you is that Sales is not a dirty word. If you think the term is beneath you, call it what you want. Many of us in the legal and professional services marketing world call it “Business Development” because that conjures up the notion of a more civilized, intellectual approach to helping our clients. I’ve come to a point in my career that I’m okay with using that term. It doesn’t really matter what we call it.
The most important thing is that we become comfortable doing it. We need to discover whether this is a strength, a weakness, or somewhere in between. If it is anywhere south of a strength, and we are expected to contribute to the bottom line of our firms, whether now or at any point in our future, then we need to learn how to do it better.
The 1st Step
The 1st step is to understand that sales and selling are not dirty words. It should help if you think about them the way I do:
Selling is a natural extension of a conversation you have with a potential client. If you learn to ask questions and sincerely listen to the answers, then follow up with solutions or ideas that fit what you’ve just heard, then you never have to worry about ‘closing’ a deal.
If you adopt this perspective or attitude, then you will actually realize this sales or business development process is something to be admired and respected. How could it not be when it involves a conversation with someone that results in your ability to truly help them?
As always, I’d love to have you share your thoughts. How comfortable are you with sales and business development, both the terms and the practices?
Is there anything about the process that you find challenging?
Nancy Myrland is a Marketing, Business Development, Content, Social & Digital Media Speaker, Trainer & Advisor, helping lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines. She is a frequent LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for Business trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers and legal marketers understand how to make their marketing and business development efforts more relevant to their current and potential clients, and helps lead firms through their online digital strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases. As an early and constant adopter of social and digital technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasts, video marketing and livestreaming. She can be reached via email here.