A solid pipeline of enquiry, with a high rate of conversion, is critical to business – independently of industry or size. The relentless disruption and change in the legal landscape are placing the profession under increasing pressure to master sales in addition to their counsel, writes Anthony Hersch.
This challenge is compounded by the shift in customer expectations and decision-making criteria in response to abundant choice, technological advancements and competition.
In addition, the specific characteristics that clients demonstrate when seeking a legal practice are often atypical to other generalised sales processes, which can make acquiring the necessary skill sets to fill the pipeline more difficult. On this note, it’s essential to invest in understanding evolving client priorities and expectations, and actively determine how to effectively meet and exceed their requirements.
Consider these common decision-making traits that are likely to affect your customer experience (CX) and corresponding return on investment (ROI) as discussed in Cordell Parvin’s piece Why Traditional Sales Techniques that do not Work for Lawyers:
- Clients find you and initiate the buying process – not the other way around. It’s therefore essential to be visible, but also that you’re extremely clear about your speciality to ensure you attract suitable clients that align with your proposition.
- Clients have unlimited choices and access to unlimited information. Potential clients will typically review your website and social media channels to assess the reputation of the firm, as well as key stakeholders. They will also review the type of matters you’ve been involved with and how you’ve represented previous clients when forming their opinions. It’s subsequently important not only to be visible, but actively reinforce credibility.
- Clients expect you to understand their industry, their business and them. According to the NAB Australian Legal Services Industry Survey – key insights into what your SME clients need and want report, 26 per cent of SMEs switched law firms due to a perceived lack of understanding about their business, followed closely by poor responsiveness (23 per cent), lack of personal relationship (22 per cent) and the perception that expertise was lacking (21 per cent). Actively communicating your niche, demonstrating expertise and investing in client relationships are universal principles of good business.
- Clients demand respect – and carry a big megaphone. Clients are more sceptical about lawyers and law firms than ever before and nothing desecrates trust quicker than a bad review. Conversely, a great review is primary driver for referrals.
Boutique firms, that focus on a specific niche, are increasingly well placed to respond to the evolving market and deliver the type and style of service that clients expect.
In practical terms, this can be achieved by:
- Identifying your point of difference: Define the company’s unique selling proposition (“USP”) by assessing what you do, why it’s different, who it can benefit, and what your competitive advantages are. When determining your USP, be aware of some rooky mistakes: service is not a point of difference, nor is personable and accessible. These are expectations. Conversely, an area of specialisation or concentration on a particular client profile is a good USP.
- Create a powerful brand: a strong brand instils trust. Invest in developing your company’s brand identity, to include a distinctive, professionally developed logo, complementary image suite and messaging that reinforces your specialty. Also be aware of your personal branding, as ultimately, a client is investing in you.
- Be relevant: a powerful brand is only an asset when supported by active, and relevant communications, that connects you to your market. Consistent, and relevant, communications encourage engagement and confidence. To achieve maximum traction, keep your messaging simple and regularly reach out to your target audience with high-quality, relevant content.
- Avoid the “owner trap” and commit to the tactics: The age-old thorn of “working in the business vs on the business” is ever prevalent and does require some investment. At minimum your website needs to be clear, concise and build confidence. Encourage public testimonials as much as possible, such as a review on your Google Business profile – or even better, through a rated testimonial tool, such as Trustpilot. Commit to a mix of lead-generating and educational posts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter on a weekly basis. Consider outsourcing (on or offshore) to keep the momentum without draining internal resources.
Anthony Hersch is the chief operating officer of JustKapital.