Make the Most of Your Summer with These Productivity and Efficiency Tips

Over the years, I’ve put together a lot of tips about how to accomplish more, how to get energized, and how to make the most of time away from the office.
 In honor of the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. (and vacations everywhere!), I’m sharing a potpourri of greatest hits here.  Click on each link to visit the full article.

  1. Increase your efficiency by cutting the time you spend in the office:  This post shares three tips about how you can shift your approach to work so you can get more done and get out the door.
  2. The Reset Button:  Two tips to help you feel less pressured, which in turn will increase your efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Addressing Burnout:  Your Productivity Depends on It:  How can disconnecting from your work improve your productivity?
  4. Get Out of the Office:  Your best thoughts about work probably won’t happen at work.
  5. The Productive Value of Vacation:  How short bursts of recreation can refresh and reinvigorate you.

Legal Rainmaking: To Sell Is…

This week, I met with a lawyer who’s been in practice for 50 years, who will be using The Reluctant Rainmaker to teach a law school class on business development.  We touched on how the practice has changed over the years and why he encouraged his sons to become lawyers, but the bulk of our conversation centered on how he has marketed his practice over the years.  Perhaps you’ll be interested in these three takeaways from our talk:

  1. Business development starts with personal development and must be grounded in integrity, authenticity, and truth.  Turns out that we’re both fans of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and I recommended The Speed of Trust by Covey’s son, Stephen M. R. Covey.
  2. Small, consistent touches are memorable and build relationships.  For instance, this lawyer sends a book that meant a great deal to him when his mother died whenever he learns of a death in a client’s immediate family.  His firm also uses a client satisfaction form at the close of every representation, and he’s created cards to send whenever he sees a client mentioned in the news.
  3. Meeting new people is critical to the success of any practice.  This lawyer serves on several boards, speaks regularly to associations relevant to his practice, and is active in a wide variety of community activities.  As we discussed, the small, consistent touches won’t accomplish anything if you don’t have people to receive them.

We also agreed that too many lawyers have bought into the myth that sales is inapplicable to professionals.  Every lawyer must understand how to sell, and that’s why I’ve reviewed Daniel Pink’s recent book To Sell Is Human recently.  Read about that here.

Out of curiosity, how would you complete the sentence stem, To sell is…?


Legal Marketing: To Sell Is Human

The subtitle of Daniel Pink’s recent book To Sell Is Human is The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.  I’m not entirely sure that the truths shared in the book are altogether surprising, but the book puts a human, approachable face on a necessary skill that suffers from a bad reputation.

Pink starts by proving that we’re all in sales now.  He defines sales as the business of persuading, convincing, and influencing, which he calls “moving” others.  With a definition that broad, it’s almost impossible to find someone who isn’t in what Pink calls “non-sales selling.”  Pitching an idea (to a boss, a team, or a jury), convincing a hyped-up kid to go to bed, or teaching resistent students all qualify as sales activity.

Nonetheless, the majority of people view selling with distaste, largely because of the deceptive tactics that salespeople are known to pull.  Pink cites record-breaking car salesman Joe Girard, known for establishing relationships with buyers by fabricating connections.  (“You’re from Yonkers?  Me too!  Your aunt has a beach house on Long Island?  Me too!  Your middle name is Thaddeus The Great?  Me too!”  UGH, right?)  Although Girard was quite successful in the past, Pink suggests that he wouldn’t do as well in today’s world.  Why?

We have shifted, writes Pink, from caveat emptor to caveat venditor.  Today’s purchasers come into sales conversations armed with information, reviews, and ratings of products and services.  As a result, sales now consists of curating information to assist the purchaser, finding answers together, and making sales both personal and purposeful.

In contrast to the old “ABC” = “Always Be Closing” model of sales, Pink defines the ABCs as Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.

  • Attunement refers to approaching the sales exchange from the buyer’s perspective.  Pink notes that in contrast to the stereotype that extroverts are the best personality type for sales, ambiverts (meaning those in the middle of the extrovert/introvert range) are actually more successful because of superior skill in attunement.
  • Buoyancy is the combination of “a gritty spirit and a sunny outlook.”  Pink urges sellers to be optimistic and reason-focused (asking, for instance, “Can I succeed?” before a sales encounter, to prompt reasons to expect success rather than just ungrounded motivation), with just enough negativity to stay pragmatic.
  • Clarity calls on a successful seller’s ability to define the problem to be solved through the sale and why the purchaser might not want to buy your solution.  Pink offers several tactics to use her, including emphasizing experience over material objects and including a small negative attribute to the solution being sold to make the positives more believable.

When it comes to the “how to” of selling, To Sell Is Human is not comprehensive, and if you’re looking to become an expert in sales, you’ll want to add other resources.  However, he offers three points that provide significant insight into the process of selling.  One of the most useful is Pink’s list of six new ways to pitch a solution:  the one-word pitch, the question pitch, the rhyming pitch, the 140-character Twitter-style pitch, the subject line pitch, and the Pixar pitch.  These won’t translate directly to selling legal services, but the exercise is helpful in crystallizing what a buyer needs to know and what will pique her interest.

Pink also recommends the use of improvisation techniques, which allow the seller to accept whatever a buyer says and to add a suggestion that supports the sale.  I couldn’t agree more about the value of improv for sales and any other business discussion.  See my review of Improv Wisdom for additional suggestions.

Pink finally urges sellers to come from service, focusing on the value that the solution will bring to the buyer.  This point feels like the most “human” of the suite:  instead of just looking from the buyer’s perspective, service requires an independent determination that the buyer will benefit.  Sales, in other words, is not done to someone, it’s done for them.

What’s in it for lawyers?

So many lawyers have told me that they can’t possibly excel in rainmaking because they aren’t extroverts.  This interview in which Pink explained why ambiverts (which includes most of us) perform the best in sales is what prompted me to pick up the book.  If you’ve ever worried that your introversion will block your ability to land business, read the book.  That section alone makes it worthwhile.

More generally, the book’s premise and examples will help to mitigate distaste for selling and the idea is something you do to someone, not for them.  That shift in perspective alone can transform the way you approach business development.

Finally, the examples and exercises will focus your attention and will help you to improve in sales.  As I said, learning sales techniques will require additional training (I recommend Mastering the Complex Sale:  How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High!  By Jeff Thull), but To Sell Is Human will help to erase discomfort around sales and provide an authentic way of approaching a necessary task.

Why You MUST Track Your Rainmaking Results

How do you track the results you get from your business development efforts?
 I recently spoke with a potential client and asked that question.  Her response?  “I don’t need to track my results.  I know what’s working.”  She had a $25,000 book of business, and based on our conversation, I suspect she could triple that relatively quickly just by getting clear on what was and wasn’t working in her rainmaking.

When you’re working on legal business development, having some sense of which activities are profitable is extremely important as you determine whether to discontinue or to increase your involvement with that activity.  Unfortunately, an informal, memory-based, qualitative system for tracking results is not sufficient.  Memories fade and may be inaccurate.  Just as mental tracking is unreliable for balancing a checkbook, it is insufficient for making decisions about business development activity.

Every lawyer should have a client intake routine that includes determining how that client became aware of you and your practice.  Consider incorporating into your client intake form a question that asks, “How did you find out about me/this firm?”

If you work in a larger firm that does not use intake forms, consider creating your own form that requests the information and gathers information about how and when a client wants to be contacted, who else should be kept apprised of the matter’s progress, and other information that will help you deliver better client service.  And if you’d prefer to avoid forms altogether, create an intake checklist so you make certain to ask these questions.

This insight from business performance improvement expert Dr. H. James Harrington applies directly to business development for lawyers:

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement.  If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it.  If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it.  If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.

How important is it to track your results?  According to one consultant, two out of The Ten Most Effective Law Marketing Techniques deal with tracking (numbers 3 and 10).  While I might word my top 10 list differently, there’s no doubt that knowing what is and is not working is critical if you want to grow your practice.

Extra tip for law firm marketing:  if you’re hoping to increase your firm’s or team’s business development results, one of the first steps you should put into place is tracking what each team member is doing and what results those activities are generating.  Not only will you have better information about which activities work, but you’ll also get much-needed information about which team members are putting in the appropriate effort, where their strengths lie, and how you can help them to be more successful.

How do you track your results?  If you’d like to get a baseline of your business development effectiveness plus tips for your next steps, take the 20-question Law Practice Profitability Audit.  There’s no charge, and you’ll get insight into what you’re doing well plus where you can improve and how to do so.  Completing the assessment will take about 5 minutes, and you’ll get a personalized report delivered by email as soon as you submit your responses.  Visit this page to get started.

Legal Business Development: Do this & never compete on price again

Warning:  Being a fungible billing unit is bad for growing your law practice!

I’ve written previously on finding your Unique Service Proposition, which distinguishes you from other lawyers (and non-lawyers) serving your ideal clients’ legal needs.  In that article, I noted that if you are one of a pool of fungible practitioners, you’ll be forced to rely on other ways of distinguishing your practice–including, perhaps, competing on price.

In today’s cost-conscious environment, many lawyers feel that they must compete on price.  (Note that this issue applies to all lawyers, regardless of the size of firm or sophistication of practice.)  No savvy client will pay an undeserved premium, and clients seem to hold the advantage in hiring lawyers these days.  But competing on price is not the only option.

Other lawyers struggle to find a reason why a potential client should choose them over someone else.  Personal connections make a difference, and many lawyers feel most skilled in landing business after a face-to-face consultation.  But getting to that point may seem daunting.

When it comes to marketing, if you feel like you’re just one of a large number of fungible billing units, you’ll have trouble standing out from your competitors in a way that will be appealing to potential clients.

The common thread?  The belief, All of the lawyers in my practice area are the same.

At first blush, this may be true.  You most likely have the same education and similar experience (though the depth of that experience may differ), and most lawyers would say that they are strategic, good listeners, responsive, and smart.  Fair enough.

Your task is to dig deeper and find what sets you apart from others in your practice so that your potential clients and referral sources know what makes you the best lawyer for their specific needs.  Without a clear point of differentiation, you are simply one of many fungible lawyers, which makes your business development job more difficult.

When searching for what makes you different, consider these examples:

  • Does (or should) your practice focus on some subset of clients or issues?  For example, you might be an employment attorney who focuses on the food service industry.
  • Do you have previous experience or education that is particularly relevant to your practice?  For example, if you do white collar defense and you previously prosecuted such cases with the Department of Justice, that insight will distinguish you from other defense attorneys.
  • Do you approach your cases in an unusual way?  For example, you might offer a collaborative approach.  In some practice areas, flat fee billing or a retainer engagement would be a distinctive form of practice.
  • What skills or resources do you have that benefit your clients?  Consider fluency in a foreign language, a wide network of advisors and service providers you can refer to your clients, or a familiarity with a foreign legal system that’s relevant to your practice.

When you determine what sets you apart from others who practice in the area of law that you do, you lay the groundwork for business development activity that is both distinctive and appealing.  But remember:  the touchstone of these points of distinction must be usefulness to your clients.  You should not market based on your skill in rock-climbing, because it will not benefit clients–unless you have a niche practice in representing individuals who suffered injury on rock climbs and now seek to sue an expedition leader.

Questions for you to consider today:  What sets you apart in a way that your clients value?  How can you capitalize on that attribute or experience in your marketing?

Tips to Simplify Legal Newsletters

Newsletters offer a way to stay in contact with a large number of contacts easily, consistently, and productively.
 Newsletters focus on substantive information, and assuming you’ve defined your areas of practice carefully enough, your content will be valuable to recipients and therefore welcome.  Better yet, if your topics are timely and if you include an appropriate call to action, you may even receive requests for assistance on matters related to your writing.

Most firms have multiple newsletters tailored to their various areas of practice, often with multiple contributors.  Whether you’re responsible for coordinating the content for your firm’s (or team’s) newsletter or you’re a sole practitioner with soup-to-nuts responsibility for the newsletter, you’ve probably had more than a few hair-raising moments wondering how you can possibly get it all done.  (And if your firm doesn’t have a newsletter, I can virtually guarantee that fear is the top reason why not.)

So, let’s make newsletters simple.  These five tips and resources will reduce the time and angst required to produce a newsletter that delivers results.

Repurpose presentations and articles you have written for publication elsewhere into newsletter content.  Shorter articles tend to be more useful, especially in electronic newsletters, so you can often get several issues of content from a single article.

  1. Keep a list of generic questions your clients ask and turn the responses into newsletter articles.  You must make certain that no one interprets your article as legal advice for them (check your local ethics rules to be sure you’re in compliance) but with appropriate language, you can easily create useful information based on frequently asked questions.
  2. Use social media to “listen” for topics you should cover.  You may find news or op-ed pieces you’d like to address, and by catching hot topics, you’re increasing the chance that your readers will be interested.
  3. Include the “so what” for news.  It’s hard to offer unique breaking news that isn’t being covered by journalists, bloggers, and other newsletters, but you can one-up many other reports by including some analysis and commentary of the news.  In other words, let others handle the details of who, what, when, where, and how.  You focus on the why and so what.
  4. Source your content from a good outside vendor.  In the past, I would not have recommended using pre-written articles because they’re generally easy to identify a mile away.  Generic and often not written for the audience to whom they’re sent, bad pre-written articles that are simply dropped into a template will not help your marketing efforts and may indeed inflict terminal damage.

But I recently learned about a content provider that offers well-written articles that can (and really should) be edited so that they offer good information with your unique voice and perspective.

Insight in Motion, an offering from Amicus Media, offers articles written by lawyers on topics currently including estate planning, family law, bankruptcy, immigration, and personal injury.  (I’ve urged them to include intellectual property soon–we’ll see!)  I’ve reviewed the articles and I’m impressed with the information presented and the way the content is presented.

Offering two levels of subscriptions based on the number of legal articles you need each month and number of practice areas, Insight in Motion provides a “keep it simple” approach at a reasonable price.  Even better, the company will create a customized newsletter template and send your newsletters if you’d like.  The content can even be published on your firm’s website or blog.

I took a thorough tour of the system and asked the same questions you likely would, and I’m impressed.  If your practice falls within the areas that Insight in Motion covers and you’ve been holding off on creating a newsletter, this may be your golden opportunity.

For more information on Insight in Motion, visit this page.

And in case you’re wondering:  no, I will not receive any affiliate fees or other incentive if you enroll in Insight in Motion.

Which of these tips can you use to make your newsletter strategy simpler?