Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to win by losing?

Having a view into a cross section of law firms around the world, I see that most firms are looking for more client development results from their attorneys, are operating with a lower headcount, and are dealing with longer client development cycles or all of the above. Adding to head count is one solution but developing your attorneys to focus on the best opportunities is a better way to optimize your law firm client development effectiveness.

When I was the Senior Sales Director of a multinational company, we would frequently be asked by our Managers and reps to bid on RFP’s that were sent to us unsolicited. They were clearly written by a direct competitor and we could quickly see that opportunities like those were generally a huge waste of resources. Focusing your resources on winnable opportunities, and eliminating the others quickly is the number one way to increase your win ratio. I've identified an objective method to achieve that goal.

If you are not going to win an opportunity, the best course of action is to lose it as quickly as possible to invest as little time and resources as possible. Here are some best practices to identify opportunities that you will win by “losing”:

1) Qualify Your Prospects – If the opportunity is an unsolicited RFP, ask for access to the key stakeholders in the initiative and determine why they issued the document. If you can’t get access, or identify a qualified reason to compete, why bother?

2) Assess Your Chances of Winning - Assume a low likelihood of winning the business and seek data which would cause you to increase your odds. It is important to evaluate the opportunity in light of the resources needed to pursue other opportunities that you may have uncovered yourself and have a higher likelihood of winning.

3) Three Buyer Phases - Look for clues about your standing as it relates to where your organization enters the sales/ client development process.

Phase 1 - Needs Analysis - Straw man attorneys/firms come in at the end of this phase so if all the heavy lifting has been done that’s a pretty good indication you are wasting your time. If the buyer is pressing for price and doesn’t have any questions, that’s another clue that a competitor has this opportunity wired and the buyer is just getting bids for the file.

Phase 2 - Evaluation - Look for buyers making a bona fide good faith effort in understanding your solution. If access to key executives outside of purchasing is denied, that’s another sign that the buyer is just putting your organization through the motions. Try to schedule a review during this phase to determine if the buyer will commit resources to truly evaluate your option and identify issues other than price to be addressed.

Phase 3 Commitment –During this phase, the buyer needs have already been identified and the proof of your solution has been thoroughly evaluated. If you feel that the buyer has not been thorough in evaluating your people and product, it may be an indication that the objective is to get a low price from you that they can use to negotiate with the wired attorney/firm.

Walking away from opportunities is difficult and anti-intuitive. Most law firms don’t have unlimited resources, and one characteristic of a mature, high performing client development organization is the ability to assess where best to allocate resources. Focusing your energy only on deals that can be won is a key ingredient that will pay dividends.

Please contact Andrew Wilcox,, 850-893-8984

How do your clients measure your legal work?

One of the quickest ways that I can invoke silence in a seminar is asking attorneys if they know how their clients measure the success of the legal work that they do for them.

It amazes me that this simple step of alignment, and huge opportunity, is missed all too often. The client has a legal need and as luck would have it I am an attorney that can handle that need…

In this day of alternative fee agreements, RFP’s, and the like, how does that separate you from everyone else looking to secure business?

I get asked all of the time to be measured on Client Development Process implementation. Some of the more common metrics are: Reduction in RFP’s, hit rate on RFP’s, Increased bill rate per partner, profit per partner, marketing expense pay back ratio. These are all granular items that can be tied specifically to my offering.

One of the main reasons that the answer is unknown is because the question is a business one that is not be asked of a business unit. A General Counsel has a legal need generated by a business unit. One that probably several firms in your area can handle. So they go with the cheapest or the one that appears to fit in a billing range, set by them. Without value established, it’s just a number, and a number that most likely someone will come under to get the business. Not always, but often.

You get delegated to people that you sound like. If you sound like an attorney, chances are you will end up talking with attorneys. Those attorneys from a business more than likely talk to several attorneys at several firms. Many that probably do the same or similar work as you. Do you want to play bill rate bingo?

Rainmakers talk to all levels of a business and have targeted conversation tied specifically to goals associated with each job title. A CFO has different business goals than a COO. A CMO has different goals than a VP of HR. A CEO has an eye on all of them but has their own business goals. These goals are things that they are measured and bonused on.

Having these individual conversations with each enables you to identify costs. How much product liability they have with a new product launch, merger and acquisition goals, on-boarding, turnover cost, retention. What do these things do to affect stock prices, credit ratings, etc?

Value and vision before service and price. Once you know an organizations business goals and what is holding them back from achieving them, you can offer a vision of how engaging in your services will help them achieve those goals. Without value, cost is the only variable. This helps you determine if this is business that is even worth it to you. Is it business that is best served by a trusted member of your referral network?

Regular meetings to review success metrics of your business relationship. So you have won the business. Every quarter, schedule a meeting to go over metrics that you all have agreed to measure the relationship on. If you things are on track or better than planned, is there a better time to leverage more business? If things are not going as planned would you rather wait until they decide to go with another firm or make adjustments accordingly?

In the race to cut costs, you have two ways to play the current environment. Buy the business and destroy your bill rate, or create value and help businesses achieve their goals, satisfy a need, or solve their problems.

I have worked with several firms to create measureable results and would welcome the conversation with your firm.

Please contact Andrew Wilcox,, 850-893-8984