Blog/Podcast: You CAN Become a Rainmaker—Here’s How
Selling doesn’t always come naturally to lawyers, but with the help of a business development coach, anyone can learn to master it. At least that’s Larry Kohn’s philosophy—and he would know. Larry has conducted more than 33,000 coaching sessions at more than 1,000 law firms since founding Kohn Communications in 1983.
Larry joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast with host Sharon Berman to talk about the benefits of coaching, his top business development tips and what it means to “sell with honor.” Read the highlights from their conversation below.
With a good coach, skeptics are converted
Firms who have never had a good experience with a business development coach are usually extremely skeptical of the process for one of two reasons. First, they may have had a negative experience with a coach in the past. Or, second, because they haven’t been able to motivate their lawyers and marketing staff on their own, they can’t imagine anyone else being able to motivate them, either. Many attorneys hold the false belief that we’re either born rainmakers or we’re not, and there’s no way to learn how to become one.
However, it is possible to learn how to sell, and a qualified outside expert is often the best teacher. Although individual staff and lawyers may be good at business development themselves, they’re not necessarily good at teaching other people how to do it. Too, if internal coaching doesn’t work, it can create grudges or a rift between firm staff and lawyers. In this instance, it’s better to bring in a neutral outsider who won’t still be walking the office halls if coaching doesn’t work out.
When coaching is successful, though, it’s transformational. Lawyers learn that selling doesn’t have to be pushy, that it can fit into their busy schedules and that it creates a community of allies around them. Ultimately, they learn to love business development and become happier in their careers. With a good coach, even the biggest skeptics become true believers.
Larry’s top three business development tips
If you’re feeling stuck in your business development efforts, Larry has three tips for getting jump-started again.
- Keep looking for better ways to serve your clients. As you improve your service, you’ll feel more confident that you provide a superior product than your competitors, and confidence in the value you offer is the foundation of your marketing and business development outreach. Try putting a post-it note on your computer with the question, “Is there a better way?” Think about that question as it relates to your work, your processes, your strategies and your client relations, and do whatever you need to do to make your practice the best it can be.
- Create a target list of people you want to develop as clients and referral sources. At its core, business development is a numbers game. If you know 50 people, you’ll get some business; if you know 500 people, you’ll get a lot more. Still, a list is useless if you don’t use it. The best rainmakers know how to zero in on a handful of people and quickly figure out how to take action. The key word here is “quickly,” because the idea is to think of a few names, reach out to them and schedule follow-ups, and make room to add new people to the list.
- Schedule five minutes of “marketing management” a day to review your targets and to-dos. This strategy relies on a psychological concept called the incubation effect. We use this concept almost every time we forget a word or what we want to say; if we stop thinking about it, it usually pops back into our heads after it incubates in our unconscious mind for a few minutes. You can harness the power of the incubation effect in your business development by thinking about it for just five minutes in the morning. Then, the names and strategies can incubate in your mind throughout the day.
Why firms should support young associates’ business development efforts
Young lawyers are more aware of and open to business development, but unfortunately, their firms often don’t do enough to support them, and instead put the focus solely on billable hours. That’s a shame, because young attorneys, who have grown up in the age of the internet, have a knack for marketing and can teach their older counterparts a thing or two about it.
To keep young associates happy and help them build a book of business, firms should consider being more flexible on billable hours. Encourage lawyers to network and make time for marketing, even if that means cutting down billable hour requirements slightly or allowing attorneys to flex their time to attend events and conferences. And, of course, consider bringing in a coach to teach young lawyers business development skills that will help them throughout their professional lives.
What it means to “sell with honor”
One of the biggest obstacles that lawyers face in business development is shame and the fear of humiliation. Without the right mindset or skills, selling can feel pushy, invasive and downright loathsome. It’s no wonder why so many attorneys avoid it.
This is why Larry came up with the concept of (and wrote a book about) “selling with honor.” Simply put, it means always being a person of value to your colleagues, prospects and clients. The goal is to sell by way of being helpful to your target. If you demonstrate that you can be of service, people will naturally want to know more about you and look for ways to work together. It changes selling from a negative experience into a joyful one, because it feels good to be useful and connected to a group of allies.
It’s difficult to achieve this state of mind on your own, which is where coaching comes in. An experienced business development coach can teach you how to approach selling from an honorable perspective—a skillset that has positive, lifelong implications for your career.