Marie-Anne Hogarth writes an excellent article for the Recorder about the burgeoning world of legal marketing. (The “pitch” descriptor in the headline is great, especially during the baseball season).
I was interested to learn about the differences between business development, marketing and sales. That last s-word is no longer avoided; the Womble Carlyle firm even has a director of sales:
Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice is believed to be the first firm to hire a director of sales, which it did four years ago. “At Womble Carlyle, we call a spade a spade,” says director of sales Steven Bell, who goes on pitches with — and sometimes without — lawyers.
“It works best when there is a teaming between lawyer and salesperson,” he says.
Mr. Bell doesn’t seem to show up yet on the firm website. I might have described things a bit differently, but Mr. Bell is clearly not a shrinking violet.
Since I haven’t yet caught a pure solo sales pitch, I thought about it in the context of another profession. Say I was approached by representatives from rival orthopedic surgery practices who wanted preferred status for work on company personnel. I would listen intently, and certainly use the pens and sticky notes left behind. But before someone cuts on a colleague, I think I’d check out individual doctors with people I know and trust who have used them.
So for the purists who think that any mention of sales is antithetical to how legal services are marketed, three words come to mind: get over it. And for the marketing mavens who would have you believe that corporate legal services are just another commodity to be sold, three different words come to mind: not so fast.
Business Development can get lawyers thinking about marketing, and better skilled at it. Marketing can get a firm positioned to make a sale. Sales can get a firm to a “yes/no/maybe later” decision.
But the decision is informed by all these things, and then is probably made by a GC after checking on the firm and lawyers with someone she trusts who is speaking from personal experience.
So here’s Selling the GC – Lesson #2:
Pitching is still defense; a personal referral is the best offense.