Last month, TransPerfect held its annual in-house conference which was a nice change of pace from my confined attic of the past two years. The event was as intense, stimulating and instructive an experience as any I have had in a professional workplace. The key themes outlined below are valuable not only to the TransPerfect team, but also to our clients – legal professionals working in competitive markets trying to grow their businesses.
The conference strongly emphasized the principle that to be successful, we must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. It can be easy for each of us to focus on our individual responsibilities. Are you in litigation or funds and not advising anything else? Or are you looking to grow your business volume by exploring how you could add value to your customers?
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. How can you diversify your own portfolio of work? Does your company offer other service lines that might be useful to your customers? What issues do your customers face on a daily basis? TransPerfect encouraged everyone to look for opportunities to deepen our relationships with our customers by taking a holistic view of their needs.
The guest speaker at Elevate was Sir Richard Branson – you may have heard of him. Apparently there contractors from time to time. His ventures were almost always characterized by finding problems he thought he could solve and innovations he could add – whether it was music, air travel, or commercial space travel. Likewise, our CEO, Phil Shawe, started TransPerfect in a dorm. Nothing prevents you from adopting the same approach. Identify areas where you can add value to your customers, whether or not it’s “your job”.
Studying law tends to give legal practitioners (including myself) a somewhat yellowish view of sales. Ultimately, however, we all work for commercial enterprises. If we don’t actively look for ways to grow, we may soon find ourselves fighting fires (especially with all the new entrants to the Irish legal market).
This ‘growth mindset’ was specifically and implicitly underlined during the four days in Amsterdam – whether it was developing our relationships with our individual clients, developing our service offering through innovative business ideas or to develop our own clientele. Phil Shawe, unsurprisingly, has a growth mindset. Not content to settle for a billion dollars, he now wants all the billions. What struck me, however, in conversations with various colleagues, was how much this seeped into the organization.
This begs the question – do you have a growth mindset for your own office, team, or practice? What goals have you set for yourself and how do you plan to achieve them? You may need to step out of your comfort zone to do this. Set yourself a regular reminder to assess your growth. In my work this tends to be quarterly, but set the system that works for you and push your own office to achieve this. Empower your team to do the same.
- Be an entrepreneur!
- Look at the big picture
- Have a growth mindset
- Add value to your customers outside of your own range of services
TransPerfect: a bunch of tools…
I think of sales in terms of two pillars. The first is the stereotypical mainstay of business development, which is mostly about prospecting in one form or another – emails, calls, lunches, etc. The second pillar is more marketing oriented in that it is about showing our own expertise and attracting customers to us. Both are essential for lasting success.
Where I suspect many of us fail is that we rely too much on our favorite tool (I will make calls no problem. On the other hand, it would be a miracle if I finished this article before the next sales conference) and ignore those we struggle with.
It’s short-sighted. A whole panoply of tools is at your disposal to increase your chances of success. For example, the value of our marketing team and how best to use them for RFPs, events and articles was highlighted in a particular seminar.
Do you involve your marketing team? Do you send small personal touches to important clients? One of mine got married last week – is there anything thoughtful I can send?
If you are a first pillar person, like me, push yourself to diversify. Can you write an informative article about your field before the end of the year? What events might you be able to organize that would be valuable to potential customers? The second pillar is to develop your own personal brand and demonstrate your value both internally and externally. Have you thought about your own personal brand and how have you cultivated it?
Many of the lawyers I know and work with occupy the other side of the coin. They will write articles. They will write books. More than one weighty tome bears their name. But asking them to pick up the phone and call a potential customer? They’d rather burn down the law library!
We all have tasks that we avoid doing. When used well, however, these tools can be incredibly powerful in helping us achieve that growth.
Finally, one of your greatest resources is your colleagues. Whatever field you work in, there are people around you and above you who have worked there for years. They can not only offer advice and expertise in your approach, but also, in many cases, work with clients you hope to contact. Who has consistently added new customers year after year? What is the most successful outreach and why? Who is advising the client you would like to work with – and can they do an introduction? Collaboration should be encouraged, and you’ll find that people are generally willing to do so if you’re informed, generous, and cooperative.
- Use all the tools:
- Figure out what you rely on too much
- Write articles
- Organize events
- Adjust and vary your reach
- Explore the possibilities with your colleagues – collaborate
It’s not about you
Liz Wisemans Impact Players (required reading for the conference) suggests that the most influential members of a team do the job that needs to be done as opposed to the job they are hired to do. I admit I felt a hint of cynicism when I read that (“So I’m gonna mop the floor and clean the bathroom floors, do I?’). However, the book then invited us to consider the goals, problems and strategies of our bosses. If you’re not working to mitigate them, then you’re actually not doing the work that needs to be done. Yet, perhaps understandably, meetings with bosses almost invariably focus on us rather than them.
During an email outreach seminar, a colleague also pointed out the tendency of people to focus on themselves when contacting potential clients.
‘How often do you use the word “I” or “we” in your emails? Too. You do everything for yourself – it has to be them.
Similarly, it is possible that during calls and meetings, I personally do a disproportionate part of the conversation. While I suppose that’s not unusual for sales professionals – we are, after all, business promoters – it’s still not an ideal approach.
Each of these examples suffers from the same misalignment. We tend to focus on ourselves. Our solution. Our value. Our excellency. The law firms and internal teams I work with, and certainly TransPerfect itself, have a legitimate claim to this excellence. But delivering it effectively requires an understanding of the client’s issues. By focusing more on your prospect’s needs in your approach, asking more questions and listening to the answers, you’re more likely to align your service with their needs. You can become a trusted resource rather than a pushy salesperson.
From your customer’s point of view – what is the work to be done? Can you, intrepid entrepreneur, clean the floor of their metaphorical (or even literal) bathroom?
- In short, it’s not about you – focus on your customer’s needs
My first TransPerfect conference was extremely valuable, especially for the opportunity to meet most of my colleagues for the first time. These are just a few of the principles discussed that can be applied, not only within TLS, but also by anyone growing their business or advancing their legal career. Unfortunately, a more detailed summary of all the valuable and insightful material shared would fill a modestly sized book. As I write this, however, Sir Richard will have us all living on the moon.