How Your Competition Closes Business

David Ackert, President, Ackert Inc.

The Legal Sales & Service Organization’s 2018 RainDance Conference kicked off with a working session focused on navigating a pitch meeting and closing business. David Ackert, President of Ackert, Inc., stressed that “close” in the context of an institutional pitch, rarely translates into a buying decision in the meeting, but if you use the “Six Stage Framework,” you satisfy most prospects’ pitching criteria. This advances your working relationship and creates new opportunities for work, whether or not you secure the matter you just pitched.

The six stages of a pitch presentation should include:

  1. Build rapport – How have you been?
  2. Establish relevance – Here’s what we know.
  3. Propose solutions – Here’s how we think we can help.
  4. Field reactions/concerns – Did we miss anything?
  5. Establish action items – There’s a variety of ways we can stay in touch; what would you prefer?
  6. Follow-up – More than once!!

David based the above directly on inside counsel feedback – They said they want to be pitched this way.

The Six Stage Framework gives a structure and roadmap to navigate the conversation for lawyers. It’s essentially a script – a few words to get the conversation started. Lawyers respond well to business development, sales training, etc., if you give them the right tools, such as words, in this instance.

Steps 1 – 5 will get you successfully through the meeting but the real challenge lies in the follow-up. A BTI Consulting survey reveals that it requires up to 14 touch points before a prospect will respond to solicitation. BTI also says 90% of lawyers quit after the FIRST unsuccessful attempt to contact a prospect. Note that BTI does not count client alerts, newsletters, etc., as touch points.

What lawyers may fail to see is that follow-up is a way of signaling your commitment to client service. It answers these questions for the prospect before they’ve engaged you:

  • Are you invested?
  • Are you helpful?
  • Are you consistent?
  • Are you thorough?
  • Are you organized?
  • Are you too busy to take on a new client?

These are all communications you want to signal, and this will help the prospect make a decision.

The session then paired attendees into teams to discuss missteps attorneys may make in each stage. A few of the ones mentioned include:

  1. Building rapport:
    • Forgetting to do this at all
    • Using the first step to talk about themselves
    • Not doing advance research and therefore not being prepared to start the conversation
  2. Establishing relevance:
    • Not framing the information or research in the right way
    • Not demonstrating the firm’s experience and how it relates to the prospect
    • Not taking the time to ask if “what they know” is actually on target
  3. Proposing solutions:
    • Offering a solution before all of the facts or information is gathered
    • Basing a solution on attorney sitting in the room versus holistic solution from a firm-wide standpoint
    • Not fully understanding the prospect’s decision-making process
  4. Fielding reactions/concerns:
    • Skipping this step and moving right into asking for business
    • Regurgitating what prospect said to them – “what we heard the scope of work to be”
    • Getting defensive and not actually addressing concerns
  5. Establishing action items
    • Not establishing any action items
    • Not establishing a decision-making process
    • Asking for the business on the spot
  6. Following up
    • Not following up in the prospect’s preferred manner
    • Afraid to follow up so it never happens
    • General follow-ups rather than tailored follow-ups

But the biggest faux pas David addressed: if you get to your 14th follow-up and still haven’t received an answer – ask for the business.  It’s appropriate to ask for the work then.

To combat the above, attendees then discussed best practices for lawyers to be more effective in obtaining new business. A few key practices included:

  • Prepare like you would for a deposition; be just as prepared for the building rapport stage as the offering solutions stage.
  • Show visuals to facilitate discussion in the meeting.
  • Ask a closing question – what else do we need to do to earn your business?
  • Establish preferred method of follow-up – timing and format.
  • Offer something of value in the follow-up, e.g., a recent webinar on issues that matter to the prospect.
  • Document what worked well, or didn’t, in the pitch meeting and apply to future meetings.

At the end of the day, if you don’t get the work, stay in touch; timing may just not have been right.

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