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January 23, 2006

Why Lawyers Can't Sell--And What To Do About It.

Larry Bodine has an interesting post which points out that only about 1 out of 5 lawyers have the innate ability to market and sell. The conclusion is based on testing the lawyer population versus everyone else ("normal" people, I guess). So 20% of us can sell. And the remaining 80%? According to Dr. Larry Richard, a Hildebrandt International director, 55% are "trainable" to be rainmakers and the remaining 25% are "hopeless". A lot of this turns on the fact that many (if not most) lawyers are introverts and careful analytical people. Most of us do not have the people-oriented traits and interpersonal skills associated with selling. In short, the tests suggest, it's a personality thing. The conclusion is not that surprising.

But it is a bit ironic. The same "skill sets" based on logic and prudence that down through the ages have allowed us to do our jobs also have hamstrung us. We have trouble developing into people-oriented managers of living, breathing relationships with real customers. In fact, I'd go further than the tests Dr. Richards cites. My own sense (not a Hildebrandt study, of course) is that less than 20% of us--10% at most--can really put it together to be rainmakers. But I think that the remaining 90% can be taught to be marketing-oriented in very effective ways for both repeat and new business. Each lawyer can help and no lawyer should be given a pass. The discipline of getting everyone in the firm to be part of your marketing culture and making it stick is the hard part. Very few professional firms I know of have a client-focused or marketing culture. Even when they want it, they won't do "the work".

Posted by JD Hull at January 23, 2006 08:35 PM


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