Climbing The Ladder Of Effective Sales Communications
October 19, 2012
Every sales situation is different, but generally speaking a lawyer’s “selling” effort should be authentic and progress up what many call “the ladder of communication effectiveness”.
This ensures each contact a lawyer makes is becoming more personal, more effective. If your contacts with a prospect or referral source are heading down the ladder that means either 1) there’s no near-term opportunity for you, or 2) you know the person controls currently available work or referrals, and that you need to change the nature and direction of your communications with them. The last two sentences you just read will be made clear by the ladder below which was first published in the Harvard Business Review nearly 20 years ago. It’s been amended by several researchers in recent years in an effort to reflect digital communications.
- One-on-one conversation
- Small-group discussion/presentation (less than 20 persons present)
- Telephone conversation
- Large-group discussion/presentation (more than 20 persons)
- Handwritten note
- Typewritten personal letter
- Mass-produced letter
- E-mail absent prior relationship
- News item
The ladder is about how you communicate. What you offer while communicating is a different, and equally important, matter. (Simply asking for an assignment — “Just give us a file and we’ll show you how good we are.” — is a bold, openly self-serving move that seldom works absent a prior long-standing working relationship in another practice area or a strong personal relationship.)
What you provide in your communication as you move up the ladder falls into one of three categories. The categories are referred to as the three I’s. The I’s are: Information, an Introduction, or an Invitation.
Each time you communicate you must offer information of value, or to introduce the person to someone who might provide something of value, or invite them somewhere they’d find of value or highly interesting. It’s a best practice when extending invitations to be able to go along with the person.
An “I” can be personal or professional in nature, or better yet a combination of the two. An excellent example of the latter is presented by an invitation to the group MAMAs, the Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association, founded in San Diego in 2007. The San Diego chapter of MAMAS meet the third Saturday of every month, with their children, setting them apart from any other attorney organization. The group’s goals are many: enhance the recognition of mother attorneys in the profession and community; promote the advancement of mother attorneys within the profession; facilitate the achievement of work-life balance; provide a forum for informing members and the legal profession about issues of particular concern to mother attorneys; facilitate the transition for attorney mothers who have taken time off and wish to re-enter the profession; support mother attorneys contemplating alternative work schedules or extended leaves of absence; and increase the interaction between mother attorneys of diverse backgrounds and practices.
This is a group to which an invitation would clearly be authentic. Authenticity is the key to success whenever you invite, inform or introduce.