Last month, TransPerfect held its annual internal conference which made a pleasant change of pace from my attic confines of the last two years. The event was as intense, thought-provoking and instructive an experience as I’ve had in a professional workplace. The key themes outlined below are of value not just to the TransPerfect team but also to our clients – legal professionals working in competitive markets trying to grow their businesses.
The conference strongly emphasised the principle that to be successful we must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. It can be easy for each of us to become single-minded about our individual responsibilities. Are you in litigation or funds and advising about nothing else? Or are you looking to grow your book of business by exploring how else you might add value to your clients?
Take a step back and look at the big picture. How can you diversify your own portfolio of work? Does your company offer other service lines which might be of value to your clients? What problems are your clients facing on a day-to-day basis? TransPerfect encouraged everyone to look for opportunities to deepen our relationships with our clients by taking a broad view of their needs.
The keynote speaker at Elevate was Sir Richard Branson – you may have heard of him. Apparently, he entrepreneurs from time to time. His ventures have almost always been characterised by looking for problems that he felt he could address and innovation he could add – whether it be music, air travel or commercial space travel. Similarly, our CEO, Phil Shawe, began TransPerfect in a dorm room. There’s nothing to prevent you from taking the same approach. Identify areas where you can add value for your clients irrespective of whether it’s ‘your job.’
Studying law tends to give legal practitioners (including myself) a somewhat jaundiced view of sales. At the end of the day, however, we all work for commercial enterprises. If we’re not actively looking for ways to grow, we could soon find ourselves firefighting (particularly with all the new entrants in the Irish legal market).
This ‘growth mindset’ was specifically and implicitly emphasised over the four days in Amsterdam – whether it’s growing our relationships with our individual clients, growing our service offering through innovative business ideas or growing our own client base. Phil Shawe, unsurprisingly, has a growth mindset. Not happy settling for $1 billion, he now wants all of the billions. What struck me, though, in conversations with various colleagues, is how much this has filtered down through the organisation.
This begs the question – have you a growth mindset for your own desk, team or practice? What objectives have you set and how do plan to achieve them? You may have to step outside your comfort zone to do so. Set yourself a regular reminder to assess your growth. In my line of work, this tends to be quarterly, but set the system that works for you and push your own desk to achieve that target. Empower your team to do the same.
- Be entrepreneurial!
- Look at the big picture
- Have a growth mindset
- Add value to your clients outside your own service line
TransPerfect: A Bunch of Tools…
I think of sales in terms of two pillars. The first is the stereotypical business development pillar, which is mostly prospecting of one sort or another – emails, calls, lunches etc. The second pillar is more marketing driven in that it is about showing off our own expertise and drawing clients to us. Both are essential for sustained success.
Where I suspect many of us fall down is that we rely too heavily on our preferred tool (I’ll make calls no problem. By contrast, it’ll be a miracle if I finish this article before the next sales conference rolls round) and ignore the ones we struggle with.
This is short sighted. There is a whole range of tools available to you to improve your chances of success. For example, the value of our marketing team and how best to make use of them for RFPs, events and articles was emphasised in one particular seminar.
Are you making use of your marketing team? Are you sending small personal touches to valued clients? One of mine got married last week – is there something thoughtful I can send?
If you’re a first pillar kind of person, like me, push yourself to branch out. Can you write one informative piece on your field before the end of the year? What events might you be able to hold that would be valuable to potential clients? The second pillar is all about developing your own personal brand and demonstrating your value both internally and externally. Have you considered your own personal brand, and how have you cultivated it?
Many of the lawyers I know and work with occupy the opposite side of that coin. They'll write articles. They’ll write books. Many a weighty tome bears their name. But ask them to pick up the phone and call a potential client? They’d rather burn down the law library!
We all have tasks we avoid doing. When used well, however, these tools can be incredibly powerful in helping us to deliver that growth.
Lastly, one of the greatest resources you have is your colleagues. In whichever field you work, there are those around and above you who have been working in it for years. They can not only offer guidance and expertise in your approach but also, in many cases, may be working with clients you're hoping to contact. Who has consistently added new clients year after year? Whose outreach is most successful and why? Who is advising that client you’d love to be working with – and can they make an introduction? Collaboration should be encouraged, and you’ll find people are generally willing to do so if you’re informed, generous and cooperative.
- Use all the tools:
- Figure out what you over-rely on
- Write articles
- Hold events
- Adjust and vary your outreach
- Explore possibilities with your colleagues – collaborate
It’s Not About You
Liz Wisemans Impact Players (required reading for the conference) suggests that the most impactful members of a team do the job that needs to be done as opposed to strictly the one they’re hired for. I will confess to feeling a soupçon of cynicism when I read that (‘So I’ll just pop in and mop the bathroom floors then, shall I?’). However, the book then invited us to consider our bosses’ objectives, problems and strategies. If you’re not working to alleviate those, then in fact you’re not doing the job that needs to be done. Yet, perhaps understandably, meetings with bosses almost invariably focus on us rather than them.
During a seminar covering email outreach, a colleague similarly pointed out people’s tendency to focus on themselves when contacting potential clients.
‘How many times do you use the word “I” or “We” in your emails? Too many. You're making it all about you – it needs to be about them.’
Likewise, it’s possible that on calls and in meetings I personally do a disproportionate amount of the talking. Although my guess is this isn’t unusual for sales professionals – we are, after all, pitching for business – 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 excellence. The law firms and in-house teams I work with, and certainly TransPerfect itself, have a justifiable claim to that excellence. But delivering it effectively requires an understanding of the client’s issues. By focusing on your prospect’s needs to a greater degree in your outreach, and by asking more questions and listening to the answers, you stand a greater chance of aligning your service with their needs. You can become a trusted resource rather than a pushy salesperson.
From your client’s viewpoint – what is the job that needs to be done? Can you, intrepid entrepreneur, mop their metaphorical (or indeed literal) bathroom floor?
- In short, it’s not about you – focus on your client’s needs
My first TransPerfect conference was incredibly valuable, not least for the opportunity to meet most of my colleagues for the first time. These are just some of the principles discussed which can be applied, not just within TLS, but also by anyone growing their business or advancing their legal career. Unfortunately, a more detailed synopsis of all the valuable, insightful material shared would fill a modestly sized book. By the time I write it, however, Sir Richard will have us all living on the moon.