Why is ‘sales’ only whispered in the legal profession?
Three articles in the 14 October edition of the Gazette made me wonder why the word ‘sales’ is still rarely used within the profession.
Page 1: Accountants to apply for probate rights
Accountants have simply spotted an obvious sales opportunity and are seeking to take advantage of it. Are solicitors looking for similar opportunities?
A good accountant, who has taken an active interest in the affairs of their high-net-worth clients for many years, will see probate as a natural extension of the service that they currently provide. It is a way of adding another string to their bow. It provides clients with a seamless service.
From their position, accountants will have a clear sales advantage over lawyers and even the likes of the Co-op who sell probate along with wills and funeral plans. They see their clients much more frequently than lawyers tend to do, if only to prepare their annual tax return, are more proactive at suggesting planning opportunities. They are also more adept at cross-selling.
Page 2: Profession 'inherently masculine'
There has been a great deal of coverage about the inequalities within the legal profession, but little coverage of ‘diverse’ professionals who are successful and why. In my experience, the successful professionals are good salespeople (the term 'rainmakers' tends to be used), but this is rarely mentioned and I am not aware of any studies into this in the UK, although there is some in the US.
When working with good rainmakers, I have often found them to have some sales experience. I recall one very successful corporate finance partner who financed his student travels in the southern hemisphere with a holiday job selling paintings door to door. He said that ‘once you have experienced that sort of rejection, there is nothing to fear in picking up the phone’.
Another successful female partner told me of her student holiday job in one of the major electrical retailers where the sales culture and performance rewards had influenced her approach to business development (another euphemism for ‘sales’).
Page 12: Ticking the boxes is no longer enough
How can a student, such as Carly Moore-Martin, differentiate themselves from 300 other students with a similar degree and an impressive array of extra-curricular activities and interests?
Put yourselves in the shoes of the employer. Of course, you need someone who knows the law, but you can take your pick of those. Your other objectives will be to build a profitable practice in the face of growing competition. So all other things being equal, a candidate with sales and marketing skills is going to stand out from the rest. Alternatively, if you operate in particular target markets, a candidate with knowledge, experience and contacts within that sector will be more attractive.
Is a reticence to embrace and recognise the importance of sales making it easy for competitors to enter the legal market?
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