Is “Always Be Closing” True In Legal Tech?

Last month, I moderated a Codex | Evolve Law panel* at Stanford Law School (SLS). The panel debated whether traditional salespeople can work with lawyers or if attorneys need to sell to attorneys. Despite my best efforts as panel moderator, I couldn’t work in Alec Balwin’s famous sales speech from Glengarry Glen Ross. However, the discussions that unfolded during that panel raised another question: Should you—as a legal tech company—always be closing with lawyers?

Steven Silverbach, the sole non-attorney on the panel, who spent almost nine years at Salesforce prior to becoming the VP of sales at Clio, stated that lawyers were not needed in the sales team. I disagree, though.

I wrote about sales and marketing in a two-part series last spring. The message was that “sales” should not be a dirty word in the legal profession.  And while the series focused on attorneys selling to clients, the fact of the matter remains the same: sales must exist within the legal world.

Of course, sales—nor marketing—come that naturally to attorneys. That’s why sales teams should take more of an integrated approach. If you think of the sales process as a funnel, it would have four layers:

  • Business Development
  • Pre-Qualify
  • Demo
  • Close

At the business development stage, a lawyer needs to be involved depending on the stage of the company and the audience. In the early stages of a companies’ life, brand awareness is crucial, particularly for legal tech companies with novel technologies. If the intended audience is lawyers and the technology is e-discovery or legal research, which lawyers are quite familiar with, you do not need lawyers to do business development. However if you are solving a problem in a unique way or the technology is for lawyers and their clients, you may need a lawyer on your team.

It’s critical to build up not only relationships but also thought leadership in your area of expertise. What seems like pure marketing is actually business development. Attending conferences, creating white papers, blogging, and speaking are authority marketing that should be done by a lawyer early on.

Sales skills come into play during the pre-qualification step, so I recommend lawyers partner with salespeople to bring in those leads who are willing to use technology and are primed on your product or service. Lawyers can use their knowledge of law firms, specifically their buying processes, to help evaluate leads.

During the demonstrations phase, I don’t recommend a lawyer being involved. Salespeople demonstrate the technology, clearly articulate its features and benefits, and overcome the lead’s objections. It’s a very precise process that requires the skills of a trained sales professional.

Closing is the hardest part of sales for non-sales people, particularly lawyers. You must be assertive and use the language of sales, not legalese. Steven Silverbach’s experience echoes mine at Traklight: it does not take a lawyer to close. You can talk to lawyers as regular businesspeople! Early on at my company, we hired specific sales people with legal training. We learned that it’s not needed, and in some cases, it can become an issue because attorneys are not trained in the art of closing. You can never discount that value of trained salespeople—the folks taught to “always be closing.”

In all my chats with successful sales teams, I’ve found that a key to success is creating a repeatable and scalable sales process. A recent Smokeball survey regarding legal tech hiring and employment indicated that 73% of 2016 legal tech hires will be for sales positions. I urge you all to be careful on who you hire and consider the sales funnel when determining job needs and employee fit. Take a broader view than lawyers to sell legal tech. #onwards

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