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Why don’t law firms have sales teams?

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When we mystery shop our competitors we are often shocked at their atrocious approach to winning new business.  Where we do manage to speak to someone, it’s a lawyer who asks a couple of questions and says they will email a quote to us, hurrying us off the telephone as quickly as possible.

Why do law firms place so little importance on winning new work?

Sales is easy

We believe that the thinking behind this is because business owners know that lawyers are bright people and selling requires little skill so those, who know their subject, will win the business.  There is also the opinion that the only way to have the credibility required to win the business is to ensure that the lawyer doing the legal work does the quoting. Given that our sales team has won over 15,000 instructions over the last five years, we do not agree with this argument.

In our experience, consumers want to speak to professional and knowledgeable people who will give them the time to explain what is involved and listen to their concerns.  Ironically, those who think that sales is all about “the gift of the gab”, are mistaken – the best salespeople are those that speak the least and listen the most.

Why lawyers shouldn’t sell

Lawyers chose to do legal work, to interpret documents, solve problems and minimise risk, not to sell.  Typically they don’t enjoy the sales aspect of their role, and consequently are not that effective at it.  Time giving quotes takes away from their fee earning time, which is why it is often so difficult to actually speak to anyone.

Given they have fee targets to hit, they are often given total responsibility for generating and winning work.  Many can charge what they like, either increasing their fees if too busy, to discourage instructions, or adding additional fees to help meet their numbers.

Cheap solutions

Lawyers are typically looking at two ways to try to solve the problems involved in winning work; online quoting systems or outsourcing to other companies to do their quoting for them – both will damage them in the long term. By using online quoting engines, they are avoiding the need to actually speak to prospects, and instead are relying on prospective customers to make the decision based purely on price.

External sales companies such as panel managers have teams who just give quotes but have no genuine knowledge of the process and charge the law firms exorbitant fees for winning the work. Both have the same result – reduced margins due to lower prices or someone else getting a cut, so lawyers need to run higher caseloads that results in a less responsive service and reducing the chance of repeat business.

Our recommendation

Owners of law firms ignore the benefits of a sales team at their peril and will continue to lose work to companies that do.  By presenting a better image to prospects, justifying higher fees and lower caseloads, this leads to better service provision and more repeat business.