Editor’s Note: The author of this post leads the legal support function to Microsoft’s U.S. Central Region Enterprise & Partner Group and is based in Chicago.
By Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation
I recently attended a legal industry conference and had the privilege to serve as a judge alongside other in-house lawyers from various leading companies to evaluate fifteen-minute PowerPoint-based “pitches” made by several law firms regarding their firm’s capabilities in providing legal services to potential clients. It was a great learning opportunity for me to watch many excellent lawyers make their case as to why their law firm should be chosen as outside counsel.
Here’s my observations from this experience – some of which are also relevant to in-house counsel trying to “sell” themselves to their business clients and senior legal department leaders.
Make sure to capture the hearts and minds of in-house counsel at the very beginning of your pitch. If you do not generate a high level of enthusiasm, energy and compelling reason for in-house counsel to focus on your message early on in your presentation, you will not command their attention and they will lose interest.
Know Your Audience
Find out who will be attending your pitch session and do your homework in understanding their backgrounds, their company, their company’s competitors and your likely competitors for legal work. To be an effective seller of legal services you need to step into the shoes of your potential buyer. Nowadays there are so many online resources available – such as LinkedIn – to help you understand a customer and become more “customer obsessed.” In addition, do not assume that you can simply cut and paste from a previous sales pitch as each presentation to a legal department should be appropriately custom-made.
Keep It Simple
Avoid over-engineering your value-proposition messaging to potential clients. Since many lawyers can be verbose, be sure to keep your pitch to in-house counsel straightforward, clear, economical and repeat key takeaways or “anchor points” that you want to leave in the minds of in-house counsel.
Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate
Since the legal services marketplace is more competitive than ever before, make sure you clearly articulate the reasons why an in-house legal team should partner with your law firm over so many others. In this buyer’s market for legal services, ask yourself what are the “special sauce(s)” that your law firm can offer to in-house legal teams that other firms cannot provide and highlight them.
The Technology Factor
As you plan your pitch – and depending upon your in-house counsel audience – determine whether it makes sense to leverage technology-related aids like PowerPoint slides, videos, etc…or not. If you use PowerPoint slides remember that they should serve to help guide your pitch and not be a substitute for your pitch. Be careful about having too many words/text on your slides as your audience may focus on those words/text instead of you and your law firm’s message. Consider developing slides that contain compelling visuals that support your pitch. In addition, if you law firm is leveraging leading technology in a way that makes its delivery of legal services faster, more collaborative, efficient and less costly, be sure to weave that into your firm’s pitch.
Highlight Client References
During your pitch, do not be shy in showcasing the names of your various representative clients since that provides your law firm with credibility – assuming you have received approval to do so. In addition, do not wait to highlight such clients until the end of your pitch.
Don’t Forget Cybersecurity
The number of data loss incidents involving organizations across all industries are not subsiding and law firms are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals because of the highly sensitive data they are entrusted with from their clients. Since every company is a data company and cybersecurity is a top of mind issue for all in-house counsel, during your presentation to in-house counsel be transparent about the steps your law firm takes to properly safeguard client information – like using a highly trustworthy and reliable cloud services provider that protects information with state-of-the-art security practices and procedures.
Post Pitch Activity
Law firms need to take a long-term view in developing relationships with potential clients. After your law firm’s pitch consider sending a handwritten and personal thank you note to each attendee. Make sure to embrace a “growth mindset” by actively seeking constructive feedback about your presentation from the attendees. Also connect with attendees via LinkedIn and devise a strategy to sustain and deepen that connection on a go-forward basis.