Recently, our CEO Lynn Foley spoke with Ashley Galston, Director Of Client Development at K&L Gates, about integrating the sales function into law firms. “Many lawyers are now seeing the benefit of a professional sales function as a ‘force multiplier,'” says Galston in the Legal Marketing Trends piece from earlier this year. “A key trend for 2019 will be the integration of these sales teams more strategically, broadly and deeply into firms’ operations.”
Experts from the “2019 Trends” Share Insights
This interview is part of a series of discussions we had at the 2019 LMA Annual Conference with contributors to the 2019 Legal Marketing Trends. Each interview focuses on an important development in the legal industry. This is the second of four videos which we will be sharing to our Insights library. Have a look at last week’s video, Creating Innovative Legal Products, here. Check in next week for video #3: an interview with Jennifer Whittier, President of ContactEase, on client relationship management (CRM) strategy.
Interview with Ashley Galston, K&L Gates
What trends are you seeing related to the sales function in law firms?
A few trends that I’m seeing within the legal marketing and business development community is sales and sales enablement roles playing a bigger part in driving revenue growth. And by sales and sales enablement, the true sales function, and then the team that supports sales in their go-to-market strategy.
What kind of reactions have you seen at your firm in relation to the word “sales”?
It has been an evolution within the past three years. I’ve seen an uptake in the adoption of that word. They know that there are other professional services firms doing it and doing it well. They also know that their clients are deploying sales teams, such as investment bankers and accounting firms. So for the lawyers that operate in that space, it has been an easier sell to get them to understand the model and then the others are coming along. So it is a coalition of the willing now, but we hope that at one point soon it will be integrated throughout the firm.
What are you seeing in relation to the sales compensation model?
That is a very good question. There has been a wide range of models that are being used currently. We did a deep dive into how different firms are attacking this issue because the salesperson is a bit different than business development and much different than some of the other support roles within a law firm. I think it’s a combination of a base salary, what you would traditionally hear of within a sales function, plus bonus. And that bonus is built on many different models, whether that’s sole sourcing a certain percentage of revenue, meaning you’re bringing that in yourself or you’re a part of a team that is bringing it in. One of the things that you always have to be cognizant of is you want to build a team culture and you have to adopt a model that’s going to support that mentality.
What would be your advice to a law firm trying to implement a sales team?
I would find a good group of salespeople, not necessarily those that have been in a sales function previously but those that have a knack for it and a willingness to want to do it. They have to be extremely organized and client facing. The Executive Management Committee should be brought into the process. That is the key. You can’t do it without that. Even better if you have select members of the management committee that are willing to participate and engage with the sales team and bring them along or be active participants when they’re sole sourcing opportunities.
What piece of advice would you give a salesperson new to legal?
A salesperson without a legal background is absolutely doable within a law firm and, in fact, they lend a fresh perspective to how to do it and what to do. Every law firm is different, so it’s really making sure you’re asking tough questions during the interview process and then once you’re onboard and integrated within the firm, making sure you understand who the key players are and how that aligns with your key clients as well as the target markets that you’re going after.
What would be your recommendation when a partner is resistant to working with a salesperson?
If you come across the partner that is unwilling to work with the sales team or the client development team, my recommendation would be to go find one that does.