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, and 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 law firms. 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 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….I hope.
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 where 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 First Step
The first step is to understand that sales and selling are not dirty words. It should help if you think about them the way I do:
(Am I allowed to quote myself? Sure, why not?)
“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, you will eventually realize the 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 and Business Development Advisor, specializing in Content, Social & Digital Media. She helps lawyers grow their practices by integrating the right marketing practices in order to build their reputations and their relationships, which leads to building their practices.
Also known as the LinkedIn Coach For Lawyers, Nancy is a frequent LinkedIn trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers learn and implement content, social, and digital media strategies that cut through the clutter, making them more relevant to their current and potential clients.
She is also a personal branding speaker, trainer, and advisor, helping legal and business professionals understand the importance and the impact of defining and reinforcing their personal brand.
Nancy is also the founder of the hybrid self-study and online course, LinkedIn Course For Lawyers, where she personally guides lawyers through the sequential creation of their LinkedIn profile and presence.
As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasting, video marketing, voice marketing, and livestreaming. Nancy also works with many firms and lawyers on Zoom and virtual presentation training and coaching to be the best they can be when presenting online.
She also helps lead select law firms through their online social media strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases.