This article by Naseeha Machingal, Lead – Client Success & Partnerships, LegalEase Solutions, was published on October 13, 2021 on Lawsites Blog, a blog written by Robert Ambrogi
A recent LegalTech News article quoted several in-house counsel who expressed deep dissatisfaction with the sales approach taken by some legal tech vendors. They even went as far as calling it “aggressive” and “demeaning.”
This year has been the biggest year for legal tech funding, with $4.16 billion raised across 178 deals as of August 11. As a result of this increased venture capital (VC) funding, one can imagine the pressure investors and boards are placing on the executive and sales teams of these legal tech companies to continue to sell and bring in top-line revenue.
But do all legal tech sales need to be aggressive with every sales development representative (SDR) and account executive (AE) working towards meeting a sales quota and CRUSHING quarter-end goals that are then reported back to these VCs? What happens when the general counsel (GC) buyer has not been engaged, has no understanding of the tool, and may not be willing to even renew their contract in a year?
Sales approaches that leave a poor impression of the legal tech industry demonstrate a lack of client-centered empathy and design thinking. Today more than ever, legal tech and legal services companies should be a general counsel’s ally in sorting out the hype from reality as technology transforms the industry.
So, what can the sales team do differently to meet the expectations of VCs and crush sales targets while serving the needs of a satisfied customer?
1. Remember, your GC is also a human: Empathize with design thinking
With the emergence of automated sales tools and cadence structures that mandate a sequence for an SDR to follow, one can easily forget the basics that a buyer is a human who has emotions and with whom you need to empathize and whose problems need to be heard and understood
This is where design thinking comes into play. This is a human-centered approach to legal tech implementation that prioritizes the very nuanced needs of clients over anything else. For a successful sale, you need to put yourself in the skin of your customer and assess where the customer is in the legal transformation journey before even making a pitch.
The core steps involved in design thinking are:
- Empathize with the client. Empathy is at the heart of design thinking and its importance in the sales cycle and building relationships cannot be overstated. It is only when you can empathize with your client that they will start sharing information. This builds a level of trust and creates a positive sales experience as you have now listened to your GCs needs rather than telling them about your product and why it is different from others in the market
- Research. It’s crucial to spend adequate time researching the GC and their company to gain an understanding of what they do and what their challenges may be
- Define the problem. Use the information you gather in the empathy stage of design thinking to identify the specific issues the customer faces.
- Respond. Show why other clients in a similar situation to the GC have chosen your product or service. This gives you a chance to connect with the customer emotionally.
- Personalize your pitch. Pick examples, testimonials and other proof points that match up with the buyer’s journey. Do not simply employ a standard deck that you use for every prospect. It’s the little things that count, such as using the prospective customer’s logo in emails and collateral and including a short recap of what you’ve heard from them so far as to their needs.
- Offer a pilot. This is a great way to show a prospective customer why and how your product and service is suited to their specific problem. It lets them see you in action handling their day-to-day requirements.
2. Start with checklists and scorecards
The legal tech sales process should begin with customer-centered checklists and scorecards that gather key information during the design thinking process. These are great tools for understanding where the legal department is in its legal transformation journey. A checklist that not only has features of your legal tech tool but also what the industry offers will make the GC realize that you have their best interests in mind and understand their needs. A comparison chart is also a great addition to a sales deck for the GC to know the legal tech landscape.
3. Process visualization: Educate your GC
Employing process visualization or process mapping gives important insights into whether your product is a good fit for a GC and will help reveal whether or not this will be a value-add for them. It involves fleshing out and visualizing the process, and is something that many in-house legal departments do not always do before embarking on legal transformation.
SDRs and AEs should take the information gleaned from engaging in design thinking with the GC and convey those findings through a process-mapping chart. Done right, it’s a collaborative step that helps the potential client visualize where their processes are broken and could use some help. GCs often come out of this step with a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their processes and an increased appreciation for the legal tech or services vendor who initiated the session.
Sometimes, this might lead a particular GC to realize they need to take a step back and examine current workflow to assess their exact needs before making a purchase. They might even need a service that will do that for them before they can purchase a product. While an SDR or AE looking to meet their quarterly KPIs might see this as a setback, someone focused on the real requirements of their customer will not. If and when a sale does happen it is more likely to secure not only a satisfied customer but also aid in retention. Doing the hard work up front and waiting will pay off in the long run.
4. Walk away and earn a potential future sale
A good SDR or AE knows how to read the signs that it’s time to walk away from a potential sale. Through design thinking and process mapping it will become obvious as to whether or not their product meets the needs of a particular GC. It might also reveal that the legal department is just not ready for this next step, or that retaining that customer will be difficult.
It should never be a problem to let a prospect go if the relationship will not be fruitful for both sides. In fact, communicating clearly to a GC why you think your product is not a fit for them right now will go a long way to earning their respect and trust. By all means keep the lines of communication open and answer any questions the GC might have as they navigate what change looks like for their department. Being helpful and focused on what the GC needs will likely secure not only a new professional relationship, but also potential sales down the road.
Putting humanity back into the legal tech sales process
What this industry needs right now is a human-centered approach to sales. We design products and services for our clients with the goal of making their lives easier, and that should extend to the sales process. Tone-deaf sales tactics that focus on volume rather than quality do not lead to satisfied, long-term clients. Meeting quarterly goals is not going to help a company’s bottom line — or its VCs — if those new customers leave as fast as new ones sign up.
Using design thinking, process mapping and empathy will not only change the reputation of legal tech sales but also result in faster adoption and true legal transformation. After all, isn’t that why we are all doing this?
Naseeha Machingal is Lead for Client Success and Partnerships at LegalEase Solutions, an ALSP that works with a variety of legal technology and services companies to customize solutions for in-house corporate legal departments.