How Lawyers Should Ask For The Close
Working in sales is hard. So is running a law firm. But as it happens, the skills needed to close the sale in other industries can work for attorneys just as well.
I get it and I’ve been there. Not everyone, and certainly not every lawyer, was built for sales. Some attorneys are uncomfortable with the process. Some are shy about talking business with clients who are in an emotionally fraught situation. And some law firms and lawyers look down on the idea of sales skills having a role in the legal industry at all. But if you’ve ever had to pound the pavement yourself – whether in your law practice or in another job or career – then you know that the need to hit a sales target can bring a great deal of clarity to your work.
That clarity can be motivating. When you know your books and targets, you begin to understand the value of each potential client that comes your way. Armed with that vision, it’s a lot easier to feel good about selling your skills as an attorney. But even then, asking for the sale is something many lawyers struggle with.
You know this next part in your gut.
The last thing people want is to feel like they’re being sold to. Asking, “can we close the deal?” or “can you sign the retainer?” only adds pressure to what’s likely an already emotional situation. The solution may be one of an attorney’s most valuable assets: their empathy. People buy from folks they like, which for attorneys mean that our ability to relate to clients is hugely valuable for sales conversations. Listen attentively to your prospective clients. Knowing their perspective and who they are as a person will help tailor an awkward closing question to their personality. Obviously you want to prove the value of your services, but letting them know how you can help them individually will go a long way in making the decision to hire you and easy one.
Be gentle, yet presumptive.
One way attorneys can ask for the sale is by taking a gently presumptive approach. Outline the next steps in your process. “If you’d like to move ahead with me, what we’ll do next is. …” This doesn’t force an action on the prospect, but it does show them a path that includes your firm. This also reassures potential clients that they’re in good hands. After all, you know what to do next. Your future client may not. Some hard-driving salespeople might scoff at this type of leading and tell you that it’s better to get a firm “no” and move on, but you and I know the legal industry isn’t like the rest of the world. Leads are hard to get and some clients respond better to a nudge than an ultimatum. Give this approach a try and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how readily people respond when prompted to take a logical next step.
Learn from other sales professionals.
One final bit of advice here is to consider how other industries handle sales discussions. In cases where staffing allows it, the person delivering expert-level services almost never handles the office tasks like sales, billing and scheduling. (Small dental or chiropractic clinics are two places where you can see this at work.) Creating a similar division of labor within your firm could free you from operational and sales discussions, which may in turn relieve pressure on both you and your clients. If hiring support staff is a possibility for your law firm either now or in the future, keep this idea in mind as you draft a job description and consider candidates. I think you’ll find that some people are clearly comfortable asking for the close and securing payment when it’s due – two tasks many attorneys don’t particularly enjoy. (If you liked this idea, check out this recent post on what other industries can teach attorneys.)