6 Tips for Aspiring Rainmakers to Sell the Invisible 

selling the invisible

By Matt Thompsonthe director of the Client Success Team Program for the LexisNexis InterAction business.

Law firms are a unique category of business in that the lawyers are both the “product” and the “sales force.”

This means traditional sales techniques designed for organizations that sell a tangible products through a dedicated sales force, don’t translate well.  Lawyers are in essence, selling the invisible, as Henry Beckwith wrote.

While there are a number of benefits to embracing traditional sales methodologies in the legal market, lawyers and business development professionals who help lawyers, need recommendations tailored for the legal niche.   In the nearly 20 years I’ve been working with law firms, here are six tried and true tips that stand out in my mind:

1. Simple sales pipeline.

Firms that look to adopt a sales pipeline can get hung up on questions like what tactic should they use or how many sales stages it should have, for example. However, success is driven less by the specific method chosen and more about coming up with a simple process that is followed consistently. Define a few opportunity stages and create a simple process for tracking deals through the pipeline.

2. Align technology with your custom process.

At the very least, law firms should develop a simple yet standardized spreadsheet to track the information about each client in the pipeline. Focus data capture on actionable information: include columns such as company name, sales stage, open date and the potential value of the matter, among others. More sophisticated organizations would do well to consider tools specifically designed for law firms, rather than generic business software, to track deals, pursuits, and relationships.

  1. Augment pursuits with relationship data.

For a lawyer, a pipeline is more than just merely tracking possible opportunities.  It is equally important to track relationships correlated with pursuits. Lawyers should nurture relationships with key clients and prospects, even when there is not specific work to pitch yet. A law firm may target specific companies and industries that are critical to the overall strategy.  Key data points to include are:

  • Which potential clients the firm is specifically targeting.
  • The type of expertise the firm could provide.
  • Existing relationships between the firm and prospect.
  • Gaps in relationships – those the firm needs to close.
  • Areas of interest for key contacts.

4. Qualify opportunities.

Establish criteria for which opportunities are worth the firm’s time to pursue. A pursuit does not equal an opportunity until the firm has identified real work that it stands a chance of winning. To develop this qualifying criterion, conversations with the prospect or client should strive to elicit the following:

  • Does the prospect have a budget?
  • What is the prospect’s buying process for procuring legal services?
  • Does the contact have the authority to approve an engagement letter?
  • What influence does the competition have?
  • What is the essence of the client pain point or problem you are trying to solve?

The answers to these questions will prove especially beneficial if you are going to pull in other firm resources to meet with the prospect or pull together a response to a request for proposal (RFP).

5. Always think at least two moves ahead.

For each prospect, track what the law firm’s next step should be. Even when a firm thinks the ball is in the prospect or client’s court, lawyers and the business development team should strive to identify the next action. It could be as simple as a phone call to make sure the client or prospect has all the information they needed, or to simply send a gentle nudge – an article on a subject of interest to the prospective client. Use the pipeline process in tips #1 and #2 to trace the buyer’s journey and be sure to set a reminder system to ensure the action is taken on time.

6. Schedule dedicated time to review. 

Time management can seem impossible: another partner is calling, a filing is due and finance just sent a third email about entering billable time into the system for invoicing. More often rainmaking boils down to discipline, consistency and making business development a priority:  make time to review and study the process. Ideally, have an outside party involved in the review, such as a member of the business development team, a practice lead, or a coach. This will help a firm maintain accountability, while also providing a sounding board for brainstorming new approaches when an opportunity appears stuck.

* * *

Lawyers may be both the product and sales force, but a little rigor to processes provide structure and a path forward – even for selling the invisible.

Matt Thompson

About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Vice President of Product Marketing for Foundation Software Group and is an industry thought leader on how professional services firms can leverage technology to enable best practice business development initiatives. With 18+ years providing marketing solutions for law firms, he is focused on how firms can adopt data-driven approaches to business development, deliver superior client experiences, and leverage relevant aspects of modern selling methodologies. 

Matt previously held senior management roles within sales, consulting services, product management, customer experience, partner relations and technical communications. A Six Sigma green belt, he is also certified in Pragmatic Marketing. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Lowell (Massachusetts).

Contact Info:

Email: matt@foundationsg.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mattthompsonfoundation

Twitter: @matt_d_thompson


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