I just came from an interesting program at the Chicago LMA, where the speaker said that the mistake most lawyers make in the sales process is to give away "unpaid consulting."
The speaker was Merit Gest of the Sandler Sales Institute in Illinois. According to her, there are at least 5 steps in the sales process:
1. Establishing rapport (one must be careful here. She recounted the tale of a sales person who visited a client, and asked where he got the picture of sportscaster John Madden that was on the desk. The customer said, "that's not John Madden. That's my wife." Needless to say he didn't get the new business.)
2. Upfront contract -- where the sales person spells out what they're going to talk about and how long it will take
3. Customer's pain. This is where the client tells you about their problems or asks the lawyer a question.
4. Budget -- can the client pay for your services?
5. Decision to hire you.
The downfall comes in step 4, where the customer is pouring out their heart about their pain, asking the lawyer about the question they want answered. The mistake that lawyers make is that they tell the client the answer on the spot. The lawyer can't resist knowing the answer to the question and not giving the answer. What happens is the client takes the solution, and passes it on to their current law firm.
Gest said that at step 4, when you hear the client discuss their problem or ask a question, the salesperson/lawyer should stop talking. At that point the lawyer should ask why that issue is important, what makes them ask the question. At this point the client will expound on why the question or problem is so important, what it means to them personally, etc. Then the lawyer/salesperson should say that they can solve the problem, they have years of experience, and stand ready to help out. This approach will lead to a sale.
Husband: "Honey, did you start making dinner yet?" (i.e., "customer" asks the "question")
Wife: (Totally annoyed, because she just walked in the door) "I just got home. Why do you ask?"
Husband: "Because you look tired and I thought I'd take you out to dinner."
So the moral is -- inquire "what makes you ask?" when your prospect or client asks you a question you can answer, or poses a problem you can solve.