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Defining “Must Do”

Whether we’re talking about professional business development or our personal lives, there’s always a long list of things that we don’t get done, despite our declarations that we coulda, shoulda, woulda, oughta, wanta do them. So, which do we actually get done? Only those we must do. What defines “must,” and how does it differ from those other, aspirational, descriptions?
It’s simple. We must do something when the consequences of not doing it are a) known and b) deemed unacceptable. Why is this important for lawyers and others trying to develop business?
To answer, let’s first look at the progression of the biggest problems faced by salespeople of any description:

  1. High “no-decision” percentage, which leads to
  2. Long sales cycle, which causes
  3. High cost of sales

In the case of lawyers, who rarely track or measure cost of sales, we can substitute “time” as a proxy for dollars. Lawyers waste most of their time trying to get potential clients to reallocate a slice of their current legal spend to them. You don’t think of it this way, but you’re asking prospects to make two decisions:

  1. To change existing (perhaps longstanding) buying habits
  2. To make you the beneficiary of the shift

You may think that your inability to accomplish this twopart mission is a reflection on your skills, experience, or reputation, or on the quality or duration of your relationship, or the strength of the incumbent’s relationship. That’s possible, but very unlikely. Far more likely is benign neglect. After all, most clients don’t have to make either of those decisions. What will happen if they ignore those decisions completely? Nothing at all. There’s no negative impact. Their cost of doing nothing is zero.
Think about the pros and cons here. The only pro is that maybe they gain some as-yet-unknown advantage by awarding you a slice of the current pie—but only maybe. That’s a pretty fuzzy value that won’t motivate many people at all. There are a lot more cons, and they’re far better understood.

  • They don’t want to have to manage another law firm
  • They don’t want to disappoint, or explain the reapportionment to, the incumbent lawyers
  • They’re too busy to devote time and attention to a decision that’s of minimal significance
  • Decisions involve risk, and we only take risks when they’re necessary to get something important or valuable

Unless prospects perceive that failing to decide will produce sufficient negative consequences that cause unacceptable impact, they’ll decide not to decide.
By now, you should recognize that your interests are best served, and align best with those of prospects and clients, by helping them more fully assess and appreciate their Cost of Doing Nothing relative to the decision on the table. If that turns out to be low, both the prospect and you can abandon the problem as not being important enough to require a decision. On the other hand, if your facilitated examination reveals far more strategic, operational, economic, and career impact than they previously recognized, they’ll recognize that they must make a decision, and that you’ve helped them reach this degree of clarity. You’ve performed a valuable service and delivered meaningful value.
The alternative is to make your pitch, then wait around for a long time for a decision that likely will never come. Why be an anxious spectator? Instead, conduct yourself in a way that you be welcome as part of the decision. Isn’t that a better position to be in than that of pitchman begging for a slice of the pie?

Mike O'Horo

Mike O'Horo is a serial innovator in the law business. His current venture, RainmakerVT, is the world's first interactive online rainmaking training for lawyers, by which lawyers learn how to attract the right kind of clients without leaving their desks. For 20 years, Mike has been known by lawyers everywhere as The Coach. He trained more than 7000 of them, generating $1.5 billion in new business. Mike can be reached at mikeohoro@rainmakervt.com

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesPractice Management

About the Author: Mike O'Horo is a serial innovator in the law business. His current venture, RainmakerVT, is the world's first interactive online rainmaking training for lawyers, by which lawyers learn how to attract the right kind of clients without leaving their desks. For 20 years, Mike has been known by lawyers everywhere as The Coach. He trained more than 7000 of them, generating $1.5 billion in new business. Mike can be reached at mikeohoro@rainmakervt.com

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