Official Magazine of the Denver Bar Association

Matching Lawyers’ Business Development Efforts to Personality Traits


Lawyers are smart people.

Many lawyers have attended presentations on how to develop new business and enhance their practices. As a result, most of them clearly understand the theory behind business development. Most of them sincerely want to increase the quantity and quality of work.

So, why do most lawyers fail to achieve their business development goals?

The two primary obstacles are fear and lack of time. Fear is generated when lawyers are asked to step outside of their comfort zones and engage in new activities. Lack of time causes lawyers to push business development to the back burner, never giving it the chance to mature into habit.

“The best way to overcome these obstacles is to develop a customized marketing plan and tactics that fit a lawyer’s unique personality (thus overcoming fear),” said Craig Brown, “and to develop good business development habits (using a pipeline) that keep these activities front-and-center.”

Brown discussed how to motivate lawyers to engage in business development at an educational meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. Brown is a former lawyer and principal consultant with LawVision, as well as founder of the Motivera Group and Modena Seminars.

“Lawyers will be successful when they are comfortable with and get satisfaction from business development, and when they develop the habit of regular engagement in business development activities,” said Brown.

Lawyers Are Not “Designed” to Sell

The average lawyer who is asked to sell something differs from the average sales professional in many important ways. In a well-known study, Dr. Larry Richards used the Caliper Profile to discover the personality traits common to various successful professionals, including lawyers.

Richards uncovered certain personality traits that set lawyers apart from non-lawyers. Lawyers score high on abstract reasoning (82%), which is no surprise.

Richards found that lawyers score high on skepticism (90%), autonomy (89%) and urgency (71%). “The skeptical lawyer will question everything; the autonomous lawyer will resist being managed; and the urgent lawyer will be impatient and want to see immediate results,” said Brown. “None of these qualities is particularly helpful when it comes to business development.”

Richards also found that lawyers score low on sociability (7%) and resilience (30%). “Lawyers with low sociability scores are reluctant to open up their personal lives to others,” said Brown. “They play it close to the vest. The less-resilient lawyer is unable to bounce back easily from criticism or rejection. These qualities hinder legal efforts at business development.”

In a related study, Richards focused solely on lawyers—comparing a group of lawyers, all rated as excellent lawyers by their peers, who differed only in their business development skills.

“The biggest differentiators between the rainmakers and less successful lawyers were ‘ego drive’ and ‘resilience,’” said Brown. “Ego drive is the desire to persuade others for the sheer joy of getting someone else to agree with them.”

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from criticism or rejection. When a prospect says ‘no,’ a lawyer with low resilience takes the rejection personally and wants to quit. A lawyer with strong resilience feels challenged and just wants to try harder.

“Lawyers as a group differ from other professionals in their personality traits,” said Brown. “Plus, lawyers who are successful rainmakers differ considerably from lawyers who are not. This does not mean that lawyers as a group cannot be effective rainmakers. They need to be aware of their natural tendencies, discover what works for them, and then work harder at it.”

No “One Size Fits All”

“Business developers who work in roles that are consistent with their personality, values and interpersonal characteristics are more likely to outperform those who are less well-matched,” said Brown. “It is important to match lawyers with business development activities that fall within their comfort zones.”

To do this, Brown developed a tool called the Lawyer Behavior Profile. “This tool is a personal GPS for building a lawyer’s practice,” said Brown. “It is objective, designed specifically for lawyers and focused on business development traits. Its goal is to help lawyers best deploy their strengths and work around their weaknesses in the business development process.”

The Lawyer Behavior Profile is a deep-dive assessment that Brown’s company administers to its clients.

In addition, Brown shared a shorthand tool devised for quickly understanding and categorizing the personalities of prospects.

This tool charts each person on two characteristics—orientation and speed. A person’s orientation can be toward tasks or toward people, or somewhere in between. A person’s speed can be methodical or quick, or somewhere in between. Plotting these elements on two axes generates four quadrants and four distinct personality types.

Magnifine-Glass1Analyzers: People who are methodical and task-oriented are “analyzers.” To analyzers, it is important to “get it right.” They pay attention to details, are systematic and analytical, and are problem solvers. Common career choices for analyzers are scientist, engineer, accountant, ERISA attorney or IP attorney.

“When trying to persuade an analyzer to engage in business development activities,” said Brown, “use facts, numbers and information. When trying to get an analyzer to do business development, use information to persuade. Research projects and articles that can be shared with clients and potential clients are good activities for analyzers.”

Business handshake to seal a dealRelators: People who are methodical and people-oriented are relators. To relators, it is important to “get along.” They are agreeable, need to be liked, interested in others and often serve as peace-keepers. Common career choices for relators are counselors, teachers, ministers, social workers and arbitrators.

“When trying to persuade a relator to engage in business development activities,” said Brown, “emphasize activities that maximize interaction—events where they can meet people and create relationships. Networking (including social networking) is a good business development activity for relators.”

megaphoneDirectors: People who are quick and task-oriented are directors. To directors, it is important to “get it done.” They are focused, direct and blunt. They need to be in control. Common career choices for directors are CEO, drill sergeant, coach and managing partner.

“When trying to persuade a director to engage in business development activities,” said Brown, “emphasize activities where they can be in control. Board leadership or organizing a seminar (but not necessarily speaking at the seminar) is a good business development activity for a director.”

MicrophonePerformers: People who are quick and people-oriented are performers. To performers, it is important to “get appreciation.” They are creative individuals who see the “big picture” rather than the details. They enjoy opportunities to socialize and be recognized. Common career choices for performers are sales person, entertainer, social director, advertising executive and trial lawyer.

“When trying to persuade a performer to engage in business development activities,” said Brown, “emphasize activities that allow them to be creative in public. Giving speeches and making presentations at a beauty contest are good business development activities for performers.”

Build Habits Using a Pipeline

Once you have found the best match between a lawyer’s personality and business development activities, the challenge becomes time. The best way to overcome the obstacle of time is to develop solid habits that become part of a lawyer’s regular routine.

“The best tool to accomplish this goal is the pipeline,” said Brown. “Pipelines provide organization, prompt next steps, track conversations, analyze networks, and help lawyers move from credibility and awareness (lower-level goals) to relationships (higher-level goals). Many lawyers like the analytical approach and structure of a pipeline.”

A pipeline is simply a list of qualified prospects that a lawyer would like to transform into clients—and a system that tracks exactly where a lawyer is in the process and the next step that needs to be taken. A sales pipeline is a system to organize, motivate and direct a lawyer’s sales activities—in the shortest amount of time.

An important part of the pipeline is the stage of the relationship. There are seven stages: (1) target identified, (2) initial communication made, (3) steps taken to build relationship, (4) meeting held to assess legal needs, (5) steps taken to build trust, (6) agreement to hire and (7) file opened.

Analyze Pipeline Stages

“Ideally, to keep a pipeline flowing, a third of these targeted contacts should be in the first few stages, a third in the middle stages and a third in the final stages,” said Brown.

“A lawyer with a lot of targets in the first stages is good at meeting people, but needs to concentrate on transforming awareness into productive relationships,” said Brown. “A lawyer with most targets in the middle stages needs to learn about closing the deal. A lawyer with most targets in the final stages needs to worry about the pipeline running dry once that work is done.”

“At stages three and five (building relationships and building trust), pursue activities that include your targets,” said Brown. If you are giving a presentation or a seminar, for example, ask your target to be a co-presenter. If you are writing an article, ask your target to be co-author, or send your targets a copy with a nice note. If you are hosting an event, invite your targets to attend.

“Finally, when meeting with a target, a lawyer should try to discover the target’s personality type and modify his or her approach to better match the client’s personality,” said Brown. “Use a Google search to learn more about the target. Do a LinkedIn exercise to discover common connections.”

“Check out the target’s office space,” said Brown. “Analyzers will be surrounded by stacks of documents and magazines. Relators often will have a lot of pictures of family, friends and colleagues in their offices. The offices of directors will usually be Spartan. Performers will entertain interruptions, like phone calls and text messages, during your meeting. They will prominently display any awards.”

Once you understand a lawyer’s unique personality type, you can decrease their fear of marketing by coming up with a plan and tactics that meet their comfort level. Once they are comfortable with the tactics, you can address a lawyer’s perceived lack of time by devising a pipeline. Spending just 30 to 60 minutes a week on pipeline activities can develop the essential habit of business development.


By Janet Ellen Raasch, a writer, ghostwriter, copyeditor for lawyers, law firms and consultants to the legal industry and blogger at Constant Content Blog. She can be reached at jeraasch@msn.com.

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