An outstanding panel of experienced business development professionals will be featured at the April 23 LMANE Boston lunch program – Preparing Your Attorneys for a Pitch. David Whiteside, Director of Client Growth & Success at CLIENTSFirst Consulting, will lead the panel discussion. A veteran sales professional, David is primarily known for his deep knowledge of business development processes and technologies, such as CRM and competitive intelligence.
For a sneak peek at the program, we asked David what attendees can expect from the panel presentation, and his insights generally on sales processes in the legal profession.
What is your background in business development processes and technologies?
Before joining the consulting world, I spent 30 years in the “vendor” world – 23 years of which were with Thomson Reuters. While with Thomson Reuters, I was part of the Monitor Suite Competitive Intelligence business for 11 years, from its early conception and rollout in 2005 through late 2016 when I joined CLIENTSFirst Consulting. At Thomson Reuters, I was fortunate to meet many of the best competitive intelligence minds in our industry and learn from the best. I am also certified for attorney coaching, and have the Legal Lean Sigma’s Project Management White Belt.
What do you hope attendees will learn from the panel presentation?
The panel will discuss the process from the time a new pitch opportunity presents itself, through the pitch and the follow-up. I am very excited to be working with this panel, as Carolyn, Chris, Elyse and Gina are all very experienced and skilled at the preparation process. The idea for the panel came about during an LMA group discussion where many people wanted to know what best practices work in other firms for pitch preparation. We want attendees to come away with ideas they can put into action right away at their firms.
In your experience, what are the toughest challenges in coaching attorneys to make, in essence, sales pitches for legal work?
Lawyers often feel their expertise of the legal matter is all that is needed. They like to explain to the client how good the firm is and what smart, well-educated attorneys they are, and that is all that is needed for a great pitch. Fortunately, this trend is changing. Being a good firm and having smart lawyers is just the ante to the game, as the client knows they are good lawyers and have most likely credentialed them before meeting with them. The pitch process needs to go another couple levels of fully understanding the client's issue to differentiating why this attorney and this firm are a better choice than all the other smart lawyers and well-heeled firms in town. A pitch should include concrete examples of how the law firm has solved similar problems for other clients. They also want to know “how” you do the work, such as the communication style and process, project management methodology, staffing models, outsourcing partnerships, firm-specific tools and platforms for client use, and any number of true differentiators that are part of the process of becoming a trusted advisor.
Is "sales" the same as "business development," or are there differences between the two activities?
Great question! To me, the real question is how did some words get accepted into the legal vernacular, while others are verboten? Historically, “sales” has a bad used-car-type connotation across many industries. I do think the legal industry is softening to the term “sales” more every day as the use of non-lawyers and non-practicing lawyers in sales roles is growing. I think "business development" is just a softer way to say "sales" in most firms. One interesting aspect of professional services, and in particular legal, is the “salesperson” and the “product” is one in the same. A law firm has two assets that make or break the firm: The specific experience of the attorneys performing work, and the relationships they have with clients. Interestingly, few firms can produce an inventory of their product, namely, lawyer experience, and few can produce a relationship map of which attorneys know which clients. Often a law firm can’t respond to an RFP asking for a list of particular work experience without going lawyer-to- lawyer. Basically, the sales or business development function is handicapped from the start due to lack of good data. A lot of attorneys are just uncomfortable thinking of themselves and their work as “the product” and selling it. The real goal of pitch preparation and coaching is to make every attorney feel they have the best product to sell.