Decoding legal sales is one of the holy grails. Combine savvy business development skills with legal prowess and you just unlocked a path to outsized success.
Brand new research with more than 250 corporate counsel reveals clear preferences about who they want to deal with and what facilitates new law firm revenue.
Dedicated Business Development and Client Service Executives
Clients love their dedicated client relationship manager. You can call them any one of:
- Dedicated Business Development Executives (BDE)
- Client Service Executives (CSE)
- Client Relationship Manager (CRM)
- Client Executive (CE)
And there are likely to be more titles floating around. But — clients know who they are what they do and almost all are almost universally loved.
These individuals — who don’t practice law — watch over a set of specific client needs and run interference on key aspects of the relationship. This is all they do — make life easier for the client and the partners in their firm.
Corporate counsel report 4 common denominators among these professionals:
- Serious caring — it shows and the caring is obvious to clients
- Listening — a dedicated ear combined with empathy and problem-solving
- Institutional knowledge — clients tell us their client relationship manager quickly becomes a walking encyclopedia of their preferences, priorities, needs, and sensitivities
- Streamlining — saving time and money for all involved
The client connection between these client relationship managers is robust. I can’t endorse these professionals enough.
You will find over 50 of these individuals in the top 10 law firms in The BTI Client Service 30. Some with more than others, but just one makes a difference.
Dedicated Sales Executives
Dedicated Sales Executives (DSE) are tasked with finding new clients and bringing them into the firm — or just finding new clients. DSEs are on the bleeding edge of law firm business development strategy. Here is what they are up against:
- 44% of clients report being approached by dedicated law firm sales professionals
- 56% have not
- 9% of all corporate counsel — whether approached or not — are open to it
The 91% who are not enthusiastic share the following.
“Sales is an understood subtext of networking. There’s no reason to add this to the mix.”
– Associate General Counsel, Large Healthcare Company
This quote above says so much about business development and training for attorneys.
“Not encouraging this – if they don’t practice law they won’t understand.”
– Deputy General Counsel, Global Food and Agriculture Company
“I prefer to meet people who I will be working with.”
– M&A Counsel, Leading Semi-Conductor Company
Law firms may or may not be ready for dedicated sales professionals. Few clients are.
Law firms are compelled to find a place for business development in their core strategy. You will find DSEs scoring big successes — and they will continue to do so. But they will be few and far between. The few successes are backed by deep insights the DSE brings — about either the person or potential client company on whom they are calling.
The DSE faces competition from:
- Corporate counsel peer referrals
- Compelling LinkedIn posts
- Thought leadership from law firms
- Clients’ existing networks
- Informal networking groups
- Client relationship managers
Few things beat the caring, listening, and knowledge the client relationship managers deliver.
And — you can gain this current knowledge with clients every day. This offers the perfect setup for developing business with existing clients.
We are in a world where clients are more open to hiring new law firms than they have been for decades. Harvesting and building knowledge is part of the successful business development roadmap. Advantage client relationship manager.