Neil Witmer Responds: It's Wishful Thinking to Try to Convert Non-Rainmakers

Neil_witmer_1 Recently I met with Neil T. Witmer of Oak Brook, IL, who has a Ph.D. in organizational psychology.  According to Witmer, the "grinders" and "drones" in professional firms lack the essential personality elements to develop new business.  You cannot change their personalities, and they may be unable to change themselves. He said there is no point in trying to turn them into rainmakers. See "Marketers: Forget the Grinders and Drones."

Agreeing with Witmer were J.D. Hull at the What About Clients blog, David Easterly of the Clifton Gunderson CPA firm, and Mark Merenda of the Smart Marketing blog. 

Gerry_riskin135The holdout in disagreement was renowned consultant Gerald Riskin of the Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices blog.  Gerry said Witmer didn't understand law firms, adding, "It is not personality that drives the client attraction process, but a combination of what the lawyer does and the skill to convey it -- skill that almost every lawyer has or is quite capable of acquiring. "  He went on: "1) Almost all lawyers (OK -- there may be a few extreme exceptions) can be trained to dramatically improve their client-relations skills; 2) In law, the most important business development comes from ever-enhancing the satisfaction levels of existing clients."

Here is Dr. Witmer's reply:

"Well, this is my first experience being caught up in the crossfire of a blog.  I am now more acutely aware of its potential to compromise reputations.

Mr. Riskin, you are correct that our research and practice has not yet been within the legal arena.  However our formulas have proven to apply universally across every other industry we have encountered.  My breakfast meeting with Larry Bodine was intended to explore how legal professionals develop business.  Larry highlighted the frustration of many of his clients by the lack of business development skills of their "library lawyers."  Without getting into unfortunate insect metaphors, here is the gist of the issue, as I see it:

While expertise and reputation are important factors in attracting new business, there are certain traits that some people simply lack and cannot be trained, such as drive or confidence.  Most "library lawyers" who lack drive or social confidence are valuable contributors in a library role but should not be trained to develop business.  We should not "forget them," but should forget the wishful thinking of converting them to business developers.  At the same time, their client management skills can, and should, be trained and coached, something that Mr. Riskin and Edge has aptly demonstrated."

Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (0) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end