Think Like A Salesman: Insights on Sales and Marketing from Hall of Fame Award Winner Steve Bell

Most legal marketers have experienced that awkward glance after handing someone their business card. It’s that uncertain stare that says they aren’t exactly familiar with what a legal marketing role entails. Because sales is included directly in his title Steven Bell says, “People know exactly what I do. I’m a salesman.”  Bell is the Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Womble Carlyle.

While “salesman” is not typically what one expects to hear about someone who has just received the “Hall of Fame” Award from the Legal Marketing Association Capital Chapter, it is a fact that Bell is very proud of.   The inclusion of “sales” in Bell’s title is a holdover from previous roles at Grant Thornton LLP as Partner for Tax Sales and Director of Sales at Price Waterhouse Cooper LLP.  I met with him recently for a fascinating discussion on the intersection of sales and legal marketing, his recent LMA “Hall of Fame” Award, and his advice for young legal marketers hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Being honored by LMA has somewhat of a full-circle moment for Bell who says he was “surprised” and “delighted” to be honored. “When I first showed up at LMA 14 years ago, people were shocked and resistant,” says Bell. “Over time I became more and more accepted.” Bell is not just a “sales guy.” His background in professional service marketing give him unique insight into how marketing and sales are integrated-- an insight he has shared with many colleagues.  “In a way the award was an acceptance that sales and marketing are two parts to the same coin.”

To incorporate sales into your marketing role, Bell’s advice is to “ring the cash register.”  “Law firms are partnerships. Marketing budgets come directly out the lawyers pockets,” Bell says.  “I would encourage marketing people at law firms to advance their careers moving close to the sale. The more that a marketing person can be responsible for a great client relationship, the more valuable they are to the people paying the bills.” By recognizing opportunities to add to client experience at the point of sale, marketers increase their worth to their firms.

“All legal marketing people should realize that we have two sets of clients: the lawyers that we support and people who are acquiring legal services.”  When it comes to addressing the needs of both sets of clients, “We all have to be at the top of our game,” says Bell. For the attorneys, we are there to create revenue.  Help them do this by connecting them to resources that address their needs and the needs of external clients.

For clients who are purchasing legal services, making sure the overall client experience is excellent is of paramount importance. “Marketing people at law firms should be client facing people. In my experience, clients like to meet with people who are bright, articulate, polished and skilled in things other than the practice of law,” says Bell. Who at a law firm fits this bill more than marketers?

When going up against resistance to new ideas, Bell offers this advice: “Be aggressive. Be bold. Take risks,” he says. “And ask--why not?  Why can’t we have a sales contest? Why can’t we set-up video studios in our offices?”  While industry comparisons are the norm for law firms, Bell encourages marketers to think outside of the legal industry box. “Stop comparing ourselves to other law firms. Compare yourselves to what the great social media companies are doing.  Apply the wisdom of commercial marketing to the professional marketing of law firms.” 

By Kamaria Salau, Director of Marketing at Jackson & Campbell, P.C., for the November/December 2014 issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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