Official Magazine of the Denver Bar Association

The Sales-Phobic Attorney: End the “I Hate Selling” Mantra


If you’re like most attorneys, you probably can’t stand—or even hate—selling. But without consistent business development efforts, your practice has no chance of thriving.

New business is the lifeblood of every business. The success of your practice is directly related to how well you sell.

I regularly encounter lawyers who believe that providing excellent service by representing their clients is enough to create a thriving practice. They dig in their heels and refuse to believe they have to sell their expertise and the value of their practice. Their mindset and beliefs about what selling means to them is holding them back. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in sales; there’s only something wrong with your perception of it.

Some attorneys approach sales with a pessimistic attitude, largely because they possess a skewed perception of what it means to be in sales. They think that selling means turning on the sleaze-o-meter and using a bunch of slick sales talk. They mistakenly believe selling involves manipulating clients and acting pushy or aggressive. That fixed mindset causes lawyers to dislike, or even hate, the process of selling. If you think you have to manipulate people to hire you, then you are going about it the wrong way.

I have never met an attorney who told me they get excited about business development. Typically, they tell me that law school didn’t prepare them to sell.

It’s not surprising that so many attorneys feel resistance when it comes to business development.

Many attorneys I work with have a “love–hate” relationship with business development and sales. They love what a new client means for their practice but “hate” the process of what it takes to retain a new client. These reluctant rainmakers love the law but dislike what it takes to attract and close new business.

A paradigm shift is in the making, however. Attorneys are finally waking up to the fact that they have to sell. The effort put into sales and business development will feed the lifeblood of your practice. Clients and new business are the only way to keep your practice sustainable.

Many attorneys ask me if I could teach them how to “sell without selling.” Not possible! I believe that you can sell without being pushy, manipulative and salesy. I believe you can sell without using high-pressure and old-school techniques. I don’t believe you can sell without selling. It would be the same as attempting to go swimming without getting wet.

You must be actively involved in business development to succeed. I can’t think of a single exception to the rule. The old adage states that in life, nobody gets out alive. In law, no practice survives without new business. You don’t have to be in love with selling; you just have to do it. I don’t love accounting, but I know I have to do it!

Successful business development and sales is not about “closing” people. It is about helping clients close themselves. Create an atmosphere and experience that makes clients want to do business with you over your competition.

Technical legal skill will not suffice in today’s economy. Sales and communication skills are no longer just nice to have, they are a must-have. You will never grow your practice if you are waiting for referrals or for the phone to ring. You must put yourself out there.

The best way to grow your practice is by creating a comprehensive business development plan.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. You create your own rainmaking plan based on your practice and professional goals—a plan that leads to a successful, satisfying and sustainable practice.

Is it time to evolve your skills? Are you ready to differentiate your firm from the competitors? Attorneys who know how to sell attract more clients. They generate more referrals. They create more revenue.
Your next move will determine your success. Don’t let your love–hate relationship with sales and selling stifle your income and success.


liz-new-headshot-white-bgroundBy Liz Wendling, a business consultant, sales expert and emotional intelligence coach. She can be contacted at liz@lizwendling.com.

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