Actually, everyone is a salesperson. Some undoubtedly are better at it than others, but every one of us learned to sell from the moment we left our mother’s womb. It may not have been polished, and the sales pitch was a bit noisy, but all parents would agree the selling was damn effective. As teenagers, albeit more on the whiny side, our selling still was effective to some extent in spite of our parents’ attempts to interject discipline into the process.

Then, we come to attorneys. Lawyers learn to be effective sales people as they develop their legal skills. WHOA, you say. Okay, before I lose the rest of you, I’ll explain. The fact is that lawyers sell every day to judges, opposing counsel, juries, and even clients. It’s just a different type of selling from that involved in generating business. And lawyers are a bit more uncomfortable doing the latter.

That brings me to the article “Willie Loman, Esq.: How Lawyers Became Salesmen” by Gina Passarella that first appeared in The Legal Intelligencer and this week on New York Lawyer. It explains how law firms are moving more from pure marketing to selling (oops, I mean “business development”), and quoted extensively from my colleague Jim Hassett over at LegalBizDev, who has more than 20 years experience in sales training, and from current and former CMO’s in the Philadelphia market.

The gist of the piece emphasizes the need for lawyers, generally, to become much more effective in terms of business development selling. Some key points include:

  • Don’t train everyone, since every lawyer won’t be good at it;
  • Those, who are really good at it, should be allowed to focus more on it, and not have to worry about meeting billable hour goals (see my post “Rainmakers Don’t Get Fired");
  • Train those who are willing and able to be effective salespeople, and are able to convey the firm’s value proposition to clients and prospects;
  • Emphasize the need for meaningful action plans that include more lawyer face-time with clients, referral sources and prospects; and
  • Demonstrate the firm’s capability regarding greater efficiency by way of legal project management.

We were all born a salesperson, but training can help improve lawyer selling skills in the business development arena.