During my time at AgileLaw, I've spoken to many vendors who sell to the legal industry and lawyers in particular. Many lament how hard it is to get face time with lawyers to demonstrate and sell their product. Sure, it's hard to get in front of lawyers. Most of them bill by the hour (or 6 minutes) so every minute they spend listening to a salesperson is time they don’t spend working for their clients (and billing time). In addition to the billing issue, there are some specific techniques that make life hard both for the salesperson who does it and for other salespeople who have to follow up with the lawyer later on.
Here's my take on what to avoid when selling to lawyers (from a lawyer's perspective):
Showing up unannounced and then waiting all day
It's weird enough when you get a call from the front office telling you a salesperson is there to see you when you don't have an appointment (and you don't know who they are). But it gets downright creepy when that person is told you're busy and they say "no problem, I'll wait." I’ve had this happen before and the salesperson waited for two hours (he was there for so long I forgot about him). I finally had the receptionist come back to my office to tell me he wouldn’t leave. While he was successful in getting a meeting, it lasted about 2 minutes which was just enough time for me to (as nicely as possible) tell him to get lost.
I can't tell you how many times a salesperson has lied to me. Some lie about their software capabilities, others lie about price. They get discovered, I get mad, and they lose the sale. Lawyers are trained to cross examine people and spot liars so why tempt fate?
It's ok to make small talk if
the lawyer wants to. If the lawyer wants to spend time telling you about their kid's swim meet or the big bass he caught then spend as much time as they want. But don't waste time telling stories about yourself. Most lawyers want to hear what you have to say and then move on. I have some epic stories of salespeople wasting my time but I don't want to waste your time so I'll spare you the details.
Not knowing what you're talking about
Everyone has their pet peeves. Mine is when a salesperson starts talking about "dispositions" or when they act like they know what a Daubert hearing is and then start talking about something totally unrelated, like venue. If you're selling to litigation lawyers then you need to know the basics of the litigation process and a LOT about the part of the process relevant to your product or service. If you don't know the process then you'll waste your prospect's time. The same is true if you don't know how your product works or if you don't understand the basics of how a law firm operates.
Also known as the worst offense ever. Don't spend your time and your prospect lawyer's time scheduling a call or meeting and then showing up late (or not at all). If you don't have a relationship then you get one shot to make an introduction and a good impression. If you flake out then your credibility is gone forever. Don't make appointments and then miss them.
Now it’s your turn. What's your best story about the worst salesperson you’ve ever encountered?
Cyclone Covey is a entrepreneur and active lawyer serving as General Counsel for four companies. Prior to joining his companies he practiced complex commercial construction litigation in Atlanta, Georgia with Griffin, Cochrane & Marshall, now a part of Sutherland.