I met two amazingly helfpful sales people today.  But one almost blew the sale for his employer, while the other succesfully converted a customer into a client for life!

A big part of the reason I designed my business to run the way that it does is because I wanted to STOP travelling so much for business.  After 4 years of nearly constant travel for The Florida Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service (LOMAS) and then 3 more years of way-too-much travel as a private law firm marketing consultant I was determiend to stay home as much as possible!!!

So the irony isn’t lost on me that I’m the one who goes around saying our businesses have to work for us, not the other way around and here I am living out of a suitcase again!  But I LOVE getting out around the country to meet-in-person some of the lawyers I’ve been working with only by phone for these past several years.  And I love meeting hundreds of new prospects at all these CLE presentations with local bar associations I’ve been conducting the workshops for, as part of the Tour.  And besides, I’ve been around long enough to know that every wave eventually reaches the beach so you better “ride it” while you can which is  just what Ale & I decided I’d do with this Lexis-Nexis/Microsoft-sponsored National-CLE-Tour.

If you haven’t done alot of business travel before you may not realize the “little things” you miss being out on the road.  Like buying a new pair of running shoes.  Or passing by the local electronics shop to pick up a few new gadgets/toys.  Sure you can find stores that sell these things in any major US city but it’s not the same going shopping by yourself in a strange city where there are so many new & unique sights to see. 

So now that I’m back in town for a couple of weeks I decided to go and pick up a few things that have been on my shopping list for far too long.  Specifically, a new ipod nano, a new pair of running shoes and a set of Bose active noise-cancelling headphones to make the next 20 flights I’m scheduled to take between now and July 1st a bit more comfortable.

I’ll write again later to share a story about a phenomenal sales person who really demonstrated enormous value in my pursuit of a new pair of running shoes.  In fact, by the time he was done price was literally no object and now I’m a client of that store instead of just a customer.  I video’ed a few parts of the experience to share with you that I’ll assemble and share in the next day or two. 

But right now I have to report on an enormously knowledgeable and helpful salesperson I encountered at the Best Buy who, despite himself, nearly blew a $1,000 sale .  Here’s what happened.  I’m sure you’ll see the parallels to your law firm too. . .

I went to the Best Buy to buy an ipod nano, a set of running heaphones for it and the aforementioned Bose noise-cancelling headphones plus we had to pick-up two new external hard drives to store videos on.  All-in-all I walked in figuring I  was going to drop about $1,000.

The only problem was, the sales person.  You see, Best Buy is obviously running a promotion with their staff getting them to push the Best Buy credit card.  And that’s exactly what this very nice and quite knowledgable sales person was determined to do.   Talk about losing the plot!

Me: “OK, so you make a very compelling case for why a Nano is the best choice for me.  I’ll take one of those orange ones.”

Him: “OK, how are you going to pay for this? Because if you apply for a Best Buy card today you can get $10 off and no interest for blah, blah, blah.”

Me: “OK, thanks for letting me know but what I’d really prefer to know about is those noise-cancelling headsphones over there.  Can you tell me about the differences between the Dr Dre’s vs the Bose and the different Bose models?”

Him: “Sure [insert some very helpful technical knowledge and some very compelling reasons why I should buy the most expensive Bose headphones rather than compromise to save a buck].  So about that credit card, did I mention you can save $10 today if you apply for it?”

Me:  “Yes, you did.  Thank you.  But what I’d really like to know is if you can offer any guidance about the best headphones to use with the Nano if I’m going to be running with it?”

Him: “I sure can!  [Insert some more very helpful technical information and he even pulled out a pair of his own running headphones from his pocket to show me blah, blah, blah].  So about that credit card…”

Me:  “You know, I really appreciate that you’re trying to save me $10 but I’m much more concerned with gettting what I came here to get and making the best decision I can so I don’t have to think about these things again.  Can you help with external hard drives?”

Him: “Yes.  Are you going to be using it for blah, blah, blah, or yadda, yadda, yadda? Because if it’s for [insert even more great and helpful information here].”

Me: “Thanks.  You know, I really appreciate all of your help here today, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the patience to figure all of this out without your help.  Are you going to get commission or credit for this?”

Him: “No, just go to any of the cashiers.  But you know, with that ipod you really should consider the Best Buy warranty on it because blah, blah, blah”

Me: ” Thanks!  That’s great advice, good bye.”

Now let’s examine what happened.  The store incentivised their most valuable people to focus on the wrong things.  (Sales people & rainmakers are the most valuable people in any business).  So There was this very knowledgable sales person who instead of focusing on the core products and helping me figure out how to use them to satisfy all of my needs, he kept disrupting the process with information about how to save $10 on a $1,000 shopping day. 

What incentives, rules and/or restrictions are you putting on YOUR staff that may motivate or even force them to work at cross-purposes to the business of your law firm?

Some common culprits you may want to think about include:

  • Overtime policies
  • Lack of access to your calendar
  • Mis-training your “inbound sales” team to be “gate keepers” instead
  • Failure to properly define the word “emergency” in your practice
  • Failure to properly delineate between the job of a receptionist vs. secreatary vs. legal assistant vs. paralegal, etc.
  • Hourly quotas (vs. value-based billing)
  • Over-emphasis on cost savings vs. revenue generation

“But I’m too busy” – This is a common cop-out amongst not-so-successful lawyers as to why they don’t run a better law firm.  Don’t let yourself catch yourself saying it!