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Seven common deal-ending mistakes

Over the years, I have observed the mistakes attorneys, and many professionals, make in their business development process. Although the actual approaches may vary, there are many common pitfalls. Here are seven:

“Sell” is a four-letter word to them.

Attorneys, like many professionals, view the word “sell” with distaste. I hear often from attorneys that I have coached and trained, “I’m a lawyer, not a salesperson.” My reply is, “I have degrees in sciences and water resource engineering, but to have clients to serve, I had to learn how to sell. Who cares how good I am if I don’t have clients?”  Are your self-limiting beliefs about the word “sell” interfering with you growing your practice?

They prefer “MAYBE” rather than getting to “NO”.

Potential clients often end the first exploratory meeting with the ever-so-prevalent “think it over” line. Attorneys often accept this decision and even sympathize with the potential client.  Why? It’s easier to hope they might engage your services, rather than saying to yourself this potential client is not a candidate for your service. Tell the potential client right up front at the start of the meeting, “It’s okay to say no to me if we are not a fit. I don’t take no personally and maybes and think-it-overs are usually a no in my world.”


Too many attorneys try to tell the potential client the solution before they understand the problem. Ask your potential client right up front, “Can I ask you questions to determine if (1) I can or can’t help you, and (2) whether there would be a fit there or not for both of us?"


When a potential client makes a statement such as, “Your fees are too high," some attorneys’ I see will go automatically into a defensive mode.  Often they begin a speech on quality or value. “Your price is too high” is not a question. Do not go into “destify” mode. (defend and justify). Ask them what they mean by high and whether it means we won’t be working together. High doesn’t always mean they won't buy. It could be a ploy to test you to see if you will cave to this pressure. Remember, potential client school teaches them to say this to you.

They fail to get the potential client to REVEAL BUDGET up front.

How can the attorney possibly propose a solution without knowing the potential client’s priority on a problem?  The amount of money that the he/she sees investing to solve a problem will help you determine whether a solution is feasible, and if so, what approach will match the his/her ability to pay. Too many attorneys never what budget they are prepared to pursue to solve a problem. Then the attorney quotes their fees and the potential client says “too high, no budget, etc.” Have a casual but straightforward discussion about money before you present solutions, not after. That’s when you find out too late they have no intention of writing a check for any amount.

They fail to get a COMMITMENT TO PURCHASE before doing a demonstration.

Many professionals are too willing to jump at the opportunity to show their product or service. They miss their true goal in making a sale and become “unpaid consultants”, often to merely teach their prospect enough to help them buy it from a competitor. Ask your prospects before you present, “What’s going to happen after I present if you like what you see or hear?” This will require them to give you an answer or commitment of some sort. By the way, even if it were a no from them, wouldn’t you prefer that than chasing?

They work without a SYSTEMATIC APPROACH to selling.

Attorneys and all professional service providers that I have trained/coached, find themselves ad-libbing or “going with the flow” to make the sale. Therefore, the attorney often leaves the first meeting without knowing where they are because they don’t know where they’ve been and what next step is required. They go straight to what I call hope-a-hope-a land.

This wastes time. Find yourself a more powerful professional development /selling system that puts you in the control of these seven areas and it will take you to the bank. Potential clients have a systematic system to deal with you. It’s called the Buyer-Seller Dance, and they are controlling that dance. Learn a more powerful system than their system, and you control the dance – all the way to the bank.

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Gary Harvey

Gary Harvey is the founder and president of Achievement Dynamics, LLC, a high performance sales training, coaching and development company for sales professionals, managers and business owners. His firm is consistently rated by the Sandler Training as one of the top 10 training centers in the world. He can be reached at 303-741-5200, or gary.harvey@sandler.com.


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