When a lawyer becomes a successful rainmaker for his law firm, you often hear that he’s a “born salesman.” When it comes to writing a persuasive proposal – a rarity in the legal field – the term is a “born writer.”
In many ways, this explanation seems to relieve everyone of a good deal of responsibility. It conveys the idea that he doesn’t need to exert himself in order to make a sale. It suggests that he need only to appear before a client and go through the formality of discussing his practice – and some divine force will cause the actual rain.
But Here’s the Truth About Successful Selling for Lawyers
The sooner this myth is drowned in a lake and forgotten, the better. It belongs with the orcs and goblins of a fantasy world – because it has no place in this one. It certainly has no relation to achieving success.
I want to strongly encourage you to believe in yourself and your current and future selling abilities. Don’t give up.
Yes, it’s obvious that some attorneys have greater native capability for selling or proposal writing than others. But native capability is not all that a lawyer needs to sell his firm. Whether in a proposal in response to a Request For Proposal or in the “beauty contest” sales presentation, a lawyer needs more than in-born selling skills just as much as an in-born ear for music doesn’t make you Mozart.
Study and painstaking practice are more essential in developing good selling ability than natural aptitude. No attorney – no matter how much selling knack he has been gifted with – can succeed on the strength of knack alone. It may suffice to keep him or her bringing in a few enviable clients from time to time – but it only advances him to the front ranks because so few lawyers make any effort to learn any sales skills at all. To truly make it rain for yourself and the loved ones and staff who depend on you, you must constantly strive to improve your methods. You need to benefit from others’ experience. You have to add acquired knowledge of sales and proposal writing to whatever natural gifts you have.
You Have To Learn It To Earn It
Nobody ever sprang full-fledged into writing persuasive proposals or dazzling at beauty contests. It takes training to obtain possession of the powers that a lawyer must use if she desires to rise above the ranks of the mere plodders.
The best examples of success in legal salesmanship are no less “made” salespeople than “born” salesmen. Indeed, many of the most proficient attorneys have attained proficiency through sheer determined application in mastering the principles in selling. Despite the fact that they have had no “leaning” in the direction of sales, and no particular fitness at the start, they absorbed the essential strategies and techniques of selling for the legal profession.
As for responding to Requests For Proposals, no attorney has ever been born who wrote an effective one the first time around. And yet many law firms continue to cut and paste from previous proposals that date back to the very first one.
Don’t Be Discouraged By Ignorant Lawyers
Many senior partners and compensation committee members commit an injustice in carelessly classifying all good rainmakers as “born” salesmen. They imply by this that those who have not been born to this kind of work, who do not evince a special capacity for it at the beginning of their careers, are hopeless cases.
But any lawyer can learn to sell their services and their firm. Any attorney can learn to write a persuasive proposal to a client. Any law firm can put together a winning sales presentation for the beauty contest.
There is nothing about selling to make it incomprehensible to an attorney who wants to master it. Salesmanship is not like being an NBA center, where the job opening starts and ends with seven footers. Given brains and a determined spirit and a capacity for application, any attorney can achieve success in selling, even if she has grown up with no particular understanding of sales systems and the steps for effective selling or the proper structure for persuasive proposals for law firms. You can’t expect to study your way to being seven feet tall, but you can absolutely study your way to being a rainmaker.
There is an incredible need in the legal field for a greater number of lawyers who are thorough and competent salespeople. For this reason alone it’s terrible to discourage associates and partners who have the making of a good salespeople who are able to sell their firm and services by telling them that, if they are not “born” salesmen, they can never make a real success.
And As For Those “Born” Rainmakers
Oftentimes the success and ability of “born” rainmakers is seriously impaired by too much self-assurance. They get the idea that some sort of a lucky charm makes their efforts inevitably succeed. Some never even do their best work because – compared to other lawyers who don’t make any efforts to learn to sell – they feel that their poorest work is good enough. They’re content to set the pace and play some golf. It seems frankly unimportant whether they keep it up. Consequently, though they may still keep their knack of selling or presenting, they make very little improvement as the years go on. And they never improve at proposal writing.
It seems to them that their smooth talking is all that there is to salesmanship. Since they already possess it, there’s no point in them seeking self-improvement. And there’s no opportunity for them to improve themselves. This is a shockingly bad mistake.
If a law firm has what is known as a “born” salesman, it has a right to consider itself fortunate. But the rainmaker himself should be careful that he doesn’t forfeit his incentive to do better and to grow just because he feels he’s already reached a satisfactory height.
What you need to make your selling and proposal writing skills strong and competent is less being peculiarly endowed with the knack of selling as that you be animated with a belief in the possibilities of your own development. You need to believe that, if you learn to sell better, you will be rewarded for your efforts.
It’s hard to look around and feel that’s true sometimes, but it is.
It’s hard to feel that you have the time to learn selling or proposal writing, but you do.
It’s hard to imagine a better investment in your future than selling more of your services and selling it at a higher price.
How to Keep It Up
Keep hold of your ambition to achieve the greatest measure of development possible. The rawest and most ill-assorted law firm selling force – if each of your members is dominated by the belief that he can learn to sell your services and by the determination to do so – will earn more for a firm in the long run than the law firm made up of “born” rainmakers who are all so satisfied and content with present conditions that they don’t try to improve.
So summon all the energy of your mind and body. Never entertain a thought of failure. Make difficulties stepping stones to greater heights of achievement. No doubt you will meet severe opposition. There are people who will say, you’re too small, too big, too young, too old, too inexperienced, too expensive, and just about a million other things. Stick with your conviction and courage in the face of such remarks. Study the methods and techniques to counter these objections. Learn how to present the value behind your services. Quantify the benefits your firm provides that others don’t. Understand why you’re the right choice for your clients. Most importantly, differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Remember that many lawyers are making big successes despite these same objections. You too can do it. Develop your talent, sure, but especially grow your courage and define your purpose. It’s not just the power to achieve, but the will to do, that will make your legal practice a success.
Never before have lawyers had such opportunities to make money as now. It doesn’t seem like it, but it’s still true. The country is more prosperous than any time in history. Regardless of in-born talent, nobody who has character has any business being poorer than he wants to be. By successfully selling your legal services, you can ensure that you become prosperous too.