Why Relationships Aren’t Enough to Build Your Law Practice

Referrals are the primary source of business, but a strong network and the ability to build great relationships will not be enough to build your book in the coming years. The buying behavior of those who purchase legal services has changed and the way lawyers pursue new business must change too.

For any lawyer that has had formal training in business development, the concept of “solution selling” should be familiar. Lawyers are solution sellers. They don’t sell products; they solve real problems. The key to successful solution selling is the ability to develop a rapport, ask the right questions, and listen; so you can then go back and find a unique “solution” that fits the specific needs they have identified.

For decades, this approach has been the hallmark of law firm business development, but that has changed if the findings of the Corporate Executive Board’s research on the sales process holds true. The book based on the CEB research, “The Challenger Sale,” debunks the myth that the most successful sales approach is based on relationship building. In the book they compare five types of sales representatives (yes, lawyers do act in the capacity of a sales rep.): Relationship Builders, Lone Wolves, Challengers, Hard Workers, Reactive Problem Solvers. The findings? When it comes to high performers in complex sales, only 7 percent of them are relationships sellers.

Hard data to swallow for a profession where likability, trust and knowledge are fundamental to providing the highest level of representation. But when you consider the changes taking place in the market — particularly since the financial collapse in 2008 — the data makes sense when it comes to the purchase of complex legal services. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Time: Who has it? It takes time for relationship builders to find out all the information they need to know in order to provide a solution to fit their clients’ needs. This time is precious to the buyer and they don’t want to spend it educating their lawyers. If in-house counsel or the c-level suite are going to invest their time, they should be the ones getting the value. Tell them something about their business that they do not know.
  2. Complexity of Doing Business: The traditional solution selling model makes a significant presumption — that buyers know what they need. That is not always the case. The increasingly complex regulatory environment, the need for enhanced due diligence, and sheer volume of potential legal issues facing businesses today is daunting. In many cases, corporate buyers of legal services don’t need lawyers to fill an existing need; they need lawyers to tell them what they need.
  3. Risk Adversity: With the issues facing companies, buyers are increasingly risk adverse. Legal solutions are typically complex, time consuming and expensive. Decision-makers no longer are willing to make a unilateral decision about who to hire. The decisions are more consensus driven than ever before. The larger the organization, the more people involved in the decision-making process.

Do you have what it takes to provide clients what they need to be successful in the coming year?


Posted on January 14, 2013 in Business Development, Law Firm Management, Marketing, Practice Group Development

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