Breaking Through the Barriers to Build a Sales Culture

Iris_jones135 It's tough to inject a sales culture into a law firm but four panelists speaking at the ALA Conference in Montreal showed that it can be done.  They were:

* Sally Schmidt, President of Schmidt Marketing, St. Paul, MN
* Adam Stock, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Dorsey & Whitney, with 600 lawyers
* Iris J. Jones, Esq., Client Services Advisor of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld with 900 lawyers and 15 offices.
* Alvidas Jasin, Director of Business Development for Thomson Hine, with 370 lawyers in Cleveland and 7 other offices.

Schmidt listed half a dozen barriers to creating a sales culture.

1. Lack of understanding of "legal sales."
2. Lack of commitment.
3. Lack of a model for "legal sales."
4. Busy lawyers with limited time and resources.
5. Skeptical partners and institutional resistance.
6. Untrained attorneys and staff.


Alvidasjasin Exploit a sense of urgency.  Jasin said marketers should use a flat revenue year, getting beat up by competition, or lost multiple RFPs to launch a business development program. "Five years ago our firm had two years of flat revenues, and the partners got nervous.  I told them 'let's launch these business development programs right away,'" he said.  It worked.

If your firm is having a boom year, Jones said, "Akin Gump not exactly hungry.  So what we did was instead of looking at their revenue numbers, we'd ask "what is your market share?" If market share was less than year before, that got their attention.  You may be getting $40 million in revenue but only getting 5% of client's work - the clients will tell you.  This means the lawyer needs to put on their running shoes."

Spend money on sales training.  Akin Gump has spent over $1 million in sales training for more than 70% of its partners since 2003.  As a result the firm now has 65 client teams.

For the rest of the story, visit the LawMarketing Portal, for details on the following:

  • Centralize the Business Development ("BD") function.
  • "Lawyer as fisherman. 
  • Create an internal BD newsletter.
    Focus on the "platinum accounts," where most of the firm's revenue comes from, so they don't walk away. 
  • Focus on practices clients are not using.
    Use the data to make your point. 
  • Put all of your client information is on your intranet.
  • Create an online marketing calendar. 
  • Have an intranet page for each client team.
  • Put the pursuit list on the Intranet. 
  • Delegate low-value work.
  • Automate biography creation. 
  • Create an online store. 
  • Outsource client satisfaction surveys.
  • Don't outsource client satisfaction surveys.
  • Create a Client Team Handbook. 
  • Make BD easy for the lawyers. 
  • Publicize successes.
  • Promote ethnic diversity.
  • Train the associates in business development. 
  • Train the staff in BD.
  • If you do build it, and make it easy, they will come. 
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..applause. Im still here in Montreal, and apparently live blogging from the sessions themselves are impossible. Due to that, Im in my hotel room, blogging about the sessions Ive seen thus far. Heres my setup: If you loo...
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