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Why your best seller may not be who you think it is

I've just returned to Sydney from the  2015 Legal Marketing Association (LMA) conference in San Diego. The conference is one of the best places in the world to hear the what law firms are doing to grow their businesses. Little wonder then that this year, more than 1,300 people chose to attend.

All up the conference ran for three days, covered 60 sessions and featured more than 140 speakers.

Sales is no longer a dirty word

Key themes this year included Business Development, the Business of law, Client Service, Marketing Technology and Marketing Communications.

And one of the most fascinating addresses was the keynote speech which was given by Dan Pink, best selling author of “To Sell is Human”, covering the new principles of influence.

Pink argued that the traditional negativity associated with sales was the result of buyers having less information than sellers, few choices of what they could buy and no way to talk back to the seller.  It was, by definition, ‘buyer beware’.  

The seismic shift in the availability and transparency of information today has changed the relationship to one of ‘seller beware’. And with this has come a new found interest in evidence based-selling.

Sales reimagined

To help professionals reconsider ‘sales’ in light of these changes, Pink directed the audience to research by Adam Grant from Wharton School of Management. His studies showed that, far from the ingrained image of the extroverted ‘spivvy’ salesman, the most effective salespeople (by a wide margin) aren’t really extroverts at all. They are the ‘ambiverts’: the people who are neither extremely introverted nor extroverted, but possess the best characteristics of both.  

5 ways to find your firm’s ambivert voice

Pink suggested that there are five simple ways firms can capitalise on the new sales paradigm to help win more work:

1. Focus on the ambiverts when deciding on your firm’s leadership positions. by their nature know when to push and when to listen. They know they don’t have to try to be an extrovert or a ‘glad handler ‘ to be effective at sales. They’re more likely to be authentic by being themselves. This builds trust.

2. Get leaders to consciously ‘turn their power down’ when dealing with people both internally and external. This will help them take on board more perspectives and consider things more fully. That’s because there's often an inverse relationship between power and the ability to see problems from other’s point of view.

3. Practice imagining what the other side is thinking.  When we become overwhelmed with data, thinking takes over EQ. So step back and get clarity by deliberately trying to see things through another set of eyes.

4. Start taking your physical cues from the other side. This can often help you better understand how they are thinking. Even adopting the same stance or language will help adjust your approach.

5. Stop spending time trying to pitch, persuade or change minds. Instead, invest time in making it easier for others to act. This includes creating an ‘off ramp’ of options for decision making. You can read more on how sales in changing and what you can do to capitalise on it in this article in the Washington Post.  Or read this piece to find out how leaders can lose touch.  Alternatively, you can even test your own ambiversion here.

Other ideas that came out of the Conference

While Dan Pink’s talk was fascinating, it was just one of several great sessions that I went to.

One of the more talked about sessions included focusing effort on building next generation of rainmakers by starting lawyers early with their business development training.  Another looked at the increasing use of client feedback as a way doing business – rather than treating it as a one off project.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about firsthand, next year’s LMA’s 2016 conference will be held on April 11-13 in Austin, Texas.

An edited version of this article originally appeared in ALMPA’s “Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers” on 21 April 2015.

Sue-Ella Prodonovich