Rainmaking Recommendation #229: You Are Already a Salesperson -Embrace It!

Money Windfall Showing Character Falling And Prosperity 3d Rendering

We all know that attorneys hate the words “sales,” “selling,” “sell,” and so forth.  To lawyers, these words are genuinely offensive. 

One of the biggest excuses I get for lawyers not becoming Rainmakers is “I didn’t go to law school to become a salesperson.”  In fact, I had used this excuse when I first started practicing. 

But, as I always say:

If you don’t know how to sell, you don’t have clients.  If you don’t have clients, you don’t have a practice. And if you don’t have a book of business, you don’t have control over your career.

Building a book of business is imperative if you want to control your career and, of course, your income – regardless of what size firm you are in.

And the word “salesperson” always seems to conjure up the vision of scenes from the movies Boiler RoomGlengarry Glen Ross, and Wolf of Wall Street.  Lawyers have nightmares of having to cold call others to pitch their services to them. 

First, it’s an ethics violation in every state.  ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3(b) prohibits it, and every state has either adopted this rule verbatim or has some version of it:

A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment by live person-to-person contact when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s or law firm’s pecuniary gain. . .

(We’ll discuss the exceptions to this rule in another Rainmaking Recommendation.)

And second, if you are selling that way as a lawyer, you are doing it wrong. 

In the 21st century, nobody likes being pitched.  Think about all of the times others have pitched their products or services to you.    No wonder it feels sleazy and gross to you. And, peddling your services to anyone is no longer a viable way to bring in new clients.  Now, we have something called the internet. 

Traditional salespeople were necessary before the internet because it was the only way to get information about someone’s product or service.  If you wanted to buy a television, you went to the electronics store, and the salesperson would give you all of the features and benefits of a particular brand or model.  Now, all you have to do is search something like “best television with ______ features” and hundreds of thousands of sites can compare all of the televisions out there, provide you with prices and tell you where you can buy it. 

What makes a lawyer a good Rainmaker is the relationships s/he creates with potential clients, current clients, former clients, and referral sources. The days of hawking, peddling, pitching, and prodding for people to buy are long over.  It is relationships that you want to generate.  And there are so many ways to do so (but again, that’s for another day). The tactics and techniques can be used by any lawyer out there; whether you are a self-proclaimed introvert or declared extrovert, you can become a Rainmaker. Period.  You have to find the tools to do so with which you are comfortable – and you also have to think about getting out of your comfort zones, too.

The main traits of a great salesperson, and therefore of a great Rainmaker, are attributes that can be learned and honed:  active listening, communication skills, persistence, self-discipline, negotiation skills, and self-confidence.  By the way, these are also the traits of a fantastic lawyer as well. 

Instead of rejecting the idea of selling, you have to understand that you have been doing it all of your life. 

  • When you were a child and you wanted to stay up late, you were selling your parents on the idea of letting you do so. 
  • If you want to watch one movie or go to a specific restaurant and you’re trying to convince your significant other as to why you should see that movie or eat at that restaurant, you are engaging in sales.  
  • If you are trying to convince a jury or judge that your side is right and the other is wrong, you are selling.

We just don’t call it selling in the legal industry – we call it business development or rainmaking.  And it’s time for lawyers to embrace it!

  • If you are a mid-level associate who would like to become a partner or a partner looking to become a Rainmaker and are interested in individual coaching but would like to take it for a test drive, schedule your FREE Rainmaking Coaching Session
  • If you are a law firm leader and would like to discuss bringing a virtual training program or a Rainmaking Webinar (with Ethics CLEs)  email me.

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