“From the Client’s Chair” is a series of blog posts that identifies some of the mistakes law firms make when trying to win business. Believe me, there are many. So, let’s move to…
Reason #2 for Not Winning My Business: You’re Just like All the Other Guys
When you become a general counsel, your popularity soars – at least, among the law firm crowd. (Your company’s own employees sometimes hold you in different regard: “What do you mean we can’t bungee jump off the roof at our summer outing?”)
As a new GC, you’re courted by droves of firm partners, all hoping to win a piece of your company’s legal work. Many business lunches later, most of these marketing pitches blur.
So, what’s a law firm to do? Many things (hence, this “From the Client’s Chair” series). But, among them, be prepared to respond to a comment like this:
“Our current law firm is doing an ‘okay’ job for us. Nothing great, but it takes effort to change horses. What makes your firm any different from all the others?”
A surprising number of partners are left speechless by that question.
Most firms describe themselves, their capabilities and their cultures in a similarly bland way. Just read a number of law firm websites. Nearly every site touts its lawyers’ “client-service focus,” “results orientation” and “innovative approach.” Add a picture of a skyscraper (shot from below, for full phallic effect), and you’ve got a website of a firm that’s a commodity, rather than a collection of people offering unique value.
So, before making that sales pitch, be sure you can articulate what you’re selling, how it’s different from what the other guys are selling and why people should want it. In other words, what’s your “brand”?
Maybe your firm has remarkably deep bench strength in legal areas that are particularly important to the target company’s business (or should be). Maybe you’re a small firm and are selling the fact that your potential client will be a “big fish” to you – and, thus, get partner-level attention. Perhaps you’re willing to offer alternative billing arrangements that leave hourly rates behind.
Whatever strengths set you apart, play them up in your marketing pitch.
But don’t stop there: Be ready to back those claims up with proof points. Come with examples of how your firm’s differences have benefited other clients.
Finally, anticipate the concerns your potential client may harbor about using a firm such as yours. Have your reassurances ready to go.
In fact, you might take the offense: Your target client may be too diplomatic to voice her hesitations about using your firm. If they’re obvious, raise them speculatively yourself. Then follow with a list of reasons those concerns can be put to rest.
For instance, your potential client may like the idea of being a “big fish” for your firm, but that appeal could be trumped by her fear that small firms are thinly staffed and can’t get big projects done on time. That’s a natural concern. Anticipate it and work it into your pitch as a hypothetical drawback. Then immediately “bat it down” with reassurances and reasoning.
(And –– once you get the business — don’t screw-up by being late!)
Of course, being able to differentiate your firm requires that you have a grasp of what other firms vying for the same business have to offer – and, particularly, knowledge of the firm your target client is currently using.
Just be certain that you remain highly professional and don’t directly slam another firm for its shortcomings. You can make your point while still taking the high road. Leave the insults to the Cola Wars….