Ep 010 – Build in a routine to make business development work as important as your client work

Alistair Marshall
Director
Professional Services Business Development
Alistair Marshall

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Show Notes

In this episode, Rob Patterson of Parkins Lane and Paul Evans of Toro Digital are joined by Alistair Marshall, Director at Professional Services Business Development.

We discuss:

  • Whether you’re an experienced practitioner or a lawyer starting out, how do you define your target market? 
    • As a starting point, Alistair recommends an audit on revenue and profit, work type, clients, sectors, geography, client issues. Passion and enjoyment should also be a factor as well as a drive to immerse yourself into your clients world, understand their business, industry, regulatory requirements, etc.
  • The 3 pillars to promote yourself as an expert in your area:
    • Speaking – including good speaker etiquette and a robust CTA/follow up plan
    • Writing
    • Networking (online and offline)
  • Don’t be shy about putting your questions on the table with a client/prospect, literally. Alistair discusses the importance of being prepared when heading into a warm meeting:
    • Do your homework and have questions prepared to guide/prompt the conversation.
    • What’s the objective of the meeting?
    • What’s your expectation? 
    • What’s your value-add? What are you offering that is unique, for example, research, insight, information, etc?
    • Don’t give a history lesson about you/the firm.
    • Let the client do most of the talking – this is a discovery meeting.
  • How to build a BD routine into your week:
    • 2 hours minimum
    • Block out time on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
    • Focus on and create strategy around:
      • 5 existing clients
      • 5 prospect clients that fit your ‘perfect’ client model
      • 5 referrers
  • Alistair’s top 3 poor uses of marketing & BD budget that have very poor ROI and engagement, especially for attracting new/prospective clients:
    • Brand advertising
    • Sponsorship
    • Hospitality events (private rooms at football, cricket, etc) 

 

Connect with Alistair  

On LinkedIn

Professional Service Business Development website

Email Alistair

 

Resources

To receive Alistair’ ebook, 10 immediate actions to generate revenue & cash, head to the footer on his website and sign up.

Transcription

Speaker 1:
Welcome to Professionally Challenged, war stories from leaders driving change in law firms. Your hosts are Rob Patterson of Parkins Lane Consulting Group and Paul Evans of Toro Digital.

Paul Evans:
Hi. Today, we’re talking with Alistair Marshall, the director of Professional Services BD. Alistair is a BD consultant professional as well as a keynote speaker. Prior to consulting, he worked as the head of marketing and BD at SCB group, a specialist workplace relations law firm. He was a partner at Julian Midwinter & Associates. For any of the listeners who listened to our past episode with Amy Burton-Bradley, you’ll know that she recommended that we have a chat with Alistair, and also a variety of executive sales roles across a range of industries. Welcome to the show, Alistair.

Alistair M.:
Thank you, gents. Good to be here.

Rob Patterson:
Welcome, Alistair. This is Rob.

Alistair M.:
Hi, Rob.

Rob Patterson:
We might just kick off with a few icebreakers. Alistair, tell me, what was your first ever job?

Alistair M.:
My first ever job? I have a confession. I was a banker.

Rob Patterson:
Oh, did you say banker?

Alistair M.:
I did. I went into banking for four years and realized probably after six weeks that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. But it took me four years for the escape committee to come up trumps before I got into business development. But, yes, banking was my first proper job when I left school.

Rob Patterson:
Very good. Well, then, the next question will be interesting. What was your first car? I’m now thinking BMW.

Alistair M.:
No, no, no. Nothing so grandiose. I learned to drive in my mother’s Nissan Stanza, which I famously drove into a wall on more than one occasion. The first car I owned… I never actually bought a car of my own. My first car in my name was my first company vehicle when I sold Fosters in the UK. And someone thought it was a good idea to buy me a Ford Fiesta with a one-liter engine. Unfortunately, when you put cases of beer in the boot, the front wheels almost came off the ground. And it did nought to one hundred kilometers an hour in about three days. So that was my first vehicle.

Rob Patterson:
That would have been useful on the motorways.

Alistair M.:
Not really. I did end up having a BMW when i sold beer later on, and I did have one in the UK before I left. But you’ll be glad to know now I don’t own a car at all.

Rob Patterson:
Goodness.

Alistair M.:
City living, yeah, among trains and Ubers and walk and things like that.

Paul Evans:
Very good. Very good. All right. So we’re here to talk about BD. What kicked off this chat was… Well, I guess we were talking about how everyone is limited by time, and lawyers are typically very busy people. I’ve always told lawyers that the benefits of BD professionals or coaches, those type of people, is that they help lawyers make the most out of their limited BD time.

Paul Evans:
As a trusted advisor to professionals in BD, you’ve helped lawyers ensure that they say the right things and do the right things and, I guess most importantly, focus on the right people. So let’s start with the right people. How do you suggest lawyers would start with defining that target market that are currently in that situation of, I guess, having everyone as their target?

Alistair M.:
Well, let me first of all try and get on the side with the audience and say that I have huge empathy with people in law firms who are asked to build a practice because you don’t learn this in law school. I’ve been trained for years both in the UK and Australia to get more things on the syllabus around business development. Eventually, someone moved the goal posts and said, “It’s not about technical ability anymore, but you actually need to go out and win some work.”

Alistair M.:
So in terms of defining your target market, the first thing to do, really, is do a revenue and profit audit if you’ve practiced for the last two or three years. Where did the money come from? What type of clients did that look like? Were they businesses? Were they individuals? What type of work was it? If it was business, what type of sectors was it in? What geography was it? What types of problems did people have? Have you got any really deep knowledge and understanding of an area? I’m always trying to get people to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, so instead of trying to dominate the market, try and dominate a market, which is a lot easier.

Alistair M.:
For anyone on the line who thinks I’m bonkers, consider the tens of thousands of lawyers who could potentially be listening to this today. If you’re a generalist, every other lawyer listening to this is potentially your competitor, whereas if you are Victoria’s go-to property lawyer for the dental industry, my guess is you’ve probably only got two or three competitors.

Paul Evans:
Correct.

Alistair M.:
If you want to get famous for something and have real deep knowledge, then you need to decide what you want to be famous for, although I will say that I meet a few people who play in the space, but when I scratch beneath the surface, I’m not sure how good they really are. For example, if you did want to be New South Wales or Victoria or Queensland or wherever’s go-to thing for a lawyer, you need to start by reading a few books on how you run a dental practice.

Alistair M.:
If I go back 10, 12 years when I decided law firms, God forbid, were going to be the future and I ended up reading two or three books on how to run a law firm because I had to have some credibility when I sat with a managing partner and understand this world and understand their world around finance and WIP and all those really exciting things that… I had to understand the position. So that would be the first place I would start, and then in terms of how you get perceived as an expert, most of it is around three pillars, which is speaking, writing, and networking. Happy to go into a few more of those if you wish, but we probably could put two podcasts on that topic, so I’ve got to be careful.

Rob Patterson:
Yeah. So, Alistair, I think that’s really interesting. There’s a couple of things that you said that I really liked. The first one is testing the voracity of the person’s area of specialty. I think often, people, as you say, might claim to have an area of specialty, but it may or may not be genuine. As part of that, one of the things I’ve often asked people is how passionate are they about the area. Do you think that’s important in terms of selecting an area to focus upon?

Alistair M.:
I absolutely do, and I’ve written down here, “What type of works or what type of clients do you enjoy?” Chances are you’ll feel much more rewarded in the role that you do if you work the types of clients and do the types of work that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy doing personal injury work, then don’t do it. Go find something else to do. It’s that simple.

Rob Patterson:
Yeah, absolutely.

Alistair M.:
So you need to decide, as I say, at a fairly early age. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change. I’ve changed direction twice. The most recently, I was 40 years of age when I decided I was going to be a specialist in law firms, slightly giving my age away there.

Rob Patterson:
So that was two weeks ago, was it?

Alistair M.:
Bless you for saying so. 53 in two months’ time, so thank you for your kind words. So it is possible, but in fairness, I sat away for probably six months and I digested information in books, in webinars. I digested a whole amount of information, as much as I possibly could. Realistically, I meet people who say they go the extra mile, but I’ve actually found the extra mile to be a really lonely place and I don’t actually see that many people going there.

Alistair M.:
If you wish to defend your prices or charge an expert’s fee, then focally you need to be doing things that other people aren’t prepared to do. People get busy and they start maybe not doing the things that they should do to be perceived as an expert in the field because they say they get busy.

Paul Evans:
Yeah. Right. One of the things that you touched on at the start was to look at your previous history, so what kind of clients you’ve been working with, whether it’s geography or industry, etc. What do you suggest, I guess, to quite junior lawyers… How do you suggest that they start with this, having a niche? It’s a question I get a lot. I coach junior lawyers in BD, and I get that question quite a lot. I always find that it’s a tricky one to-

Alistair M.:
Well, again, I would help that most people would have some idea of the type of work they would like to do. In terms of the ideal client, they would have to base some of it on their experience on the cases that they’ve worked on as a junior. So even if you’ve been in a large firm, you’ll have been exposed to certain types of casework, and you decide whether you like that or you don’t like that. The other thing people should be aware of is that people don’t choose lawyers or law firms based on longevity.

Alistair M.:
When I read people’s bios and I read, “I qualified 40 years ago from university and then I started a partnership in 1976 in Dubbo,” and I kind of go, “So what?” I’ve met some fantastic lawyers who were in their late 20s, early 30s, conversely have met some pretty ordinary ones who were in their 50s and 60s. I’ve seen very good people struggle to put a practice together financially, and yet I’ve seen very ordinary lawyers driving Ferraris.

Alistair M.:
So people need to understand that there’s more to this than actually being good at technical delivery. There’s more to it than that. To be successful financially, you need to really take on board some of the things we’re going to talk through in this session.

Paul Evans:
Yeah. All right. So let’s assume you’ve picked a target market. And before going straight to the flat whites, you obviously want to position yourself as an authority in that space. You’ve mentioned the speaking, writing, and networking. Do we focus on one?

Alistair M.:
Well, I’m a big fan of speaking. If I go back to my 20s when I first got involved in speaking, I was very, very nervous and I wasn’t sure whether it was the right thing for me. But I can assure you, if you really want to be perceived as an expert, there’s been no finer thing. And in terms of winning new work for me, public speaking at conferences and such would be way ahead of any other route to market for producing interest and leads and getting known.

Alistair M.:
The other thing, if you’re time poor… If I go to a conference and I speak to 200 people, it saves me having 200 flat whites.

Paul Evans:
Really good point.

Alistair M.:
I can deliver my message to a room full of people, and I don’t have to ring up 200 people and go, “Is that okay? Can we go for a coffee next week?” I don’t know how many old people will be listening to this, but here’s another example of getting the message out. I guess it’s leveraging. You’re not delivering a message one-to-one. You’re delivering a message one to many, and that saves you an awful lot of time. But you clearly need to have something to say and be prepared what to say when the opportunity arises.

Alistair M.:
Basic presentation skills can be learned. I help a number of people out on these things. But as long as you’re organized, you’d be surprised how good you can be. Having said that, if you do it badly, there’s no quicker way to ruin an individual, personal, or corporate brand than have the wrong people talk about the wrong things at the wrong event. We’ve all seen it happen.

Rob Patterson:
Yeah. Few classic examples of that.

Alistair M.:
And I’ll just add something quickly on that. As far as speaking and the written world and networking goes, every professional needs to be prepared, if that’s the right word, to answer the question that always comes up, “What is it that you do? What do you do for a living?” Whether you’re having a sausage sizzle with someone or whether you’re at a formal networking event in a chamber, that question’s going to come up. And how you answer that, you owe it to yourselves to give a decent answer.

Alistair M.:
It’s not dissimilar to a headline in a newspaper. If the headline’s a bit dull, I don’t really want to read the rest of the story. We all have tales of where we sat at a dinner event and someone introduced themselves and said, “Hello. What are you? I’m an accountant.” And you just went, “Wow. I can’t wait for the rest of this dinner.” Or, “I’m a tax accountant.” And you were just thrilled that, for the next three hours of your life, that you were going to sit next to a tax accountant.

Alistair M.:
So you need to be interested in the headline. It takes a little bit of work, but again, two or three sentences that essentially describes what you do, who the target audience is, and what the result is of what you do because people don’t buy legal services. They buy the result of those legal services.

Rob Patterson:
Yeah. Yeah. I’ve often seen that expressed as perhaps sort of three statements, which might be like, “When this happens, well, what I do is this, and the outcome is X.” So I guess you sort of put it in context for people.

Alistair M.:
Yeah, or, “I enjoy working with people who have such and such issues. This is what we do. This is the result.” So it’s conversational.

Rob Patterson:
Exactly right. Exactly right, so Alistair, with these speaking engagements, one of the things that often drives me to distraction is when I’ve teed up up someone to do a speaking engagement, and they turn up a minute before they have to speak and they rush out the door the minute they’re finished. Would you encourage people to turn up a bit earlier and network and then perhaps hang around a bit afterwards and just-

Alistair M.:
All of the above. Especially if people have paid you to be there, I think it looks pretty rude to fly in and fly out. I think if you go early you can be more relaxed, especially if you’re a nervous person. I think if you can get hold of a “who’s who in the zoo” list before you go, you can try and pick off a few key people in the audience, as in when they come into the room. I tend to find it relaxes your nerves when you actually meet one or two in the audience before you start speaking, and certainly after the event in terms of… You have to understand why you’re speaking. What’s the purpose? Why are you there?

Alistair M.:
Is it just to build a profile, or is it actually to try and get leads to do work together in the future? Most lawyers probably are speaking for that reason, to try and turn it into instructions. And that’s not really likely to happen unless you have a set way of ending the presentation and some follow-up actions that’s a call to action, gets people to engage and do something as a result of the talk. And because people don’t do that particularly well, lots of people do lots of talks but actually don’t find it turns into billable work, which is a miss.

Paul Evans:
Can I ask why do you think that is? Do you think it is that lack of follow-up, or do you think it’s just like a lack of confidence in actually asking for the latte, for the-

Alistair M.:
No. No, I think in fairness, it’s… And, again, I go back to my earlier comment about having huge empathy with people. No one’s ever been taught what to do. If I take a for-example… And I think that’s always a good way of illustrating is actually… Now, I would never ask people to do anything I’ve not done myself. If I go to speak at the Australian Legal Practice Managers Association, 200 people in the room, at the end of the conversation, there’s always a reason to come up and hand me your business card, whether that’s because I’m going to give a free session away, a free report away, a free webinar, a free video, a free e-book, whatever it is.

Alistair M.:
Out of an audience of 200, I probably get at least 50 to 75 people, assuming I’ve made a good impression, who’ll come and want something free because humans are inherently greedy. And then, funnily enough, I then have 75 more leads to put in a database, 75 people to connect with on LinkedIn, and then you can choose the follow-up that you want to do with which people. But if no one’s ever told them to do that, then why would they think of doing it?

Paul Evans:
Yeah. Makes sense. Okay. Let’s assume you’ve locked in the coffee. You’ve got that database and you’ve decided, “These are the few people I want to catch up with and have a coffee.” What would you say? Where would you start?

Alistair M.:
I think there always has to be… Before you go, there has to be an objective. What does success look like for both you and the person who you’re going to go meet? Because, in most cases, lawyers will be meeting with potential clients or referrers who will already have an incumbent lawyer. It’s pretty unlikely in most types of law, unless it’s pure litigation, which can be ad hoc… But for lots of commercial stuff, they’ll already have an ongoing person so need to understand what your expectation is. And don’t expect too much too soon.

Alistair M.:
But you need to bring value to every meeting. So what’s the sizzle in the meeting? Can you bring research? Can you bring something of value? I call people info printers. What’s the information you can provide that’s going to give people a reason to come to the flat white in the first place? Because if you-

Paul Evans:
Yeah. Something to actually talk about rather than just coffee for coffee’s sake.

Alistair M.:
Sure. Some years ago, I was involved with research, asking 150 law firms how… When you work, how much time they spent on it, how many dollars they spent on it. I haven’t met many people who I go, “I’ll meet you for a flat white and I’ll show you some of the results about what the winning firms do.” That’s a reason. There’s value in meeting me for a coffee. It’s not just coming to say, “Hello. How are you?” type of thing. There’s a value share that goes on there.

Alistair M.:
I certainly avoid the history lesson. It seems too many people go and give a history lesson. I’d much rather have a signature piece of content rather than a, “Hello. I’m so-and-so. I work at this firm. We’ve got so many partners and so many interstate offices. We’ve been around 100 years.” There’s just no value in that.

Paul Evans:
Yep. So do you think there’s a creating something that you can then have a discussion with for people, I think?

Alistair M.:
Yeah. Yeah. Put yourself in the shoes of the potential client. What do you know that they don’t know? People aren’t buying your time. They’re buying your intellectual property. So you owe it to yourself to put it into small nuggets that you can share with people in these types of meetings.

Paul Evans:
I read a book recently by a gentlemen called David C Baker, and that’s exactly his advice is to have that kind of nugget. The book’s called The Business of Expertise, for anyone who’s interested. But he’s like, as an expert, it’s the one thing that you can withhold is your expertise. So you need to develop whatever that expertise may be, so something that you can-

Alistair M.:
Yeah, and it might only be an opinion on a current matter or topic. But if you want to put yourself out there as an expert in the field, people will expect you to have an opinion on things. And it doesn’t always have to agree with the market.

Rob Patterson:
Yep. Totally. One of the tips that I quite like in terms of BD is challenge your sales. I think the point that they often make is that… And it’s along with what you’re saying, Alistair, is that at that meeting you need to have an opinion and perhaps even be prepared to have an opinion that’s in contrast to the person you’re meeting with.

Alistair M.:
Absolutely.

Rob Patterson:
Challenge them a bit around their view of the world and perhaps why they should be using you.

Alistair M.:
Yeah. In many cases, for lawyers, you have to generate the new instruction by taking people to a place in the future that perhaps they haven’t seen themselves. Especially if you’re litigators, i would have thought it’s key stuff. So talking about the future or a change in litigation or looking at trends in the market or any of those things would be a good place just to start.

Alistair M.:
The problem I’ve seen with too many lawyers is they do want to do all the talking. 30 minutes of a coffee meeting involves 22 minutes of them giving a lecture about how good they are and maybe eight minutes of the other person in a response, whereas the good guy… Sometimes people will say to me, “Alistair, you’ve got the gift of the gabber, but you’re good at this sales stuff.” And I kind of go, “Well, I’m okay. I can hold my own.”

Alistair M.:
But the reason I’m better is because I have a great set of questions ready, so I get better-quality answers. I’m not doing all the talking. I’m just guiding the conversation. But I’m doing it with an agenda of questions, which gets people talking. Once they start talking about their own issues, they then look fairly strange if they don’t take action to try and solve those issues.

Rob Patterson:
That’s true. Yeah. One of my early mentors said, “You’ve got two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in that proportion.”

Alistair M.:
And we’ve all met people who don’t.

Paul Evans:
For that first meeting, do you think there’s anything that lawyers should be bringing to it, to that meeting? Would it be the research? Possibly just bringing a business card?

Alistair M.:
Signature content, if they have such a thing. I personally always take a set of questions with me, and I usually put it on the table so people can actually see it, so there’s no secrets there.

Paul Evans:
Really?

Alistair M.:
Yeah. So it’s like an agenda because really, to me, there’s a few things that happen here. A lot of sales is mental, so initially testing the person. I’m taking this seriously. It’s not just a hello/catch-up meeting. It’s more important than that, and I’ve done some preparation. And, again, I might use phrases like, “In preparation for today’s meeting…” so it conveys to them this is a serious thing. We’re not just here to chat about the soccer game or what happened on last night’s Home and Away program. There’s more to it than that.

Alistair M.:
But, again, I might open it by changing it from a talk about general things to, here, it’s opening a business conversation. And then I’m into finding out the needs and wants of the client by asking a number of structured questions, which is not the Spanish Inquisition, but because it’s there, then I can make notes because the other thing is about being seen to be an active listener. One way I’m demonstrating that in the real world is being seen to make scribbles or notes, again, if you’re in the right environment. You don’t want to be stalking people and make it put a strange emphasis on it. But it’s a good habit to have.

Alistair M.:
Also, if you are nervous, it stops you forgetting things because you’ve made notes. So you have no reason to forget. It acts as an aid memoir, which is quite useful. So that’s kind of an easy thing to remember if you don’t do it now. I have a few questions that you think you want to ask before you get there.

Rob Patterson:
Alistair, please tell me you don’t ask them what their pain points are, though.

Alistair M.:
No, I don’t ask them what keeps them up at night.

Rob Patterson:
Hallelujah.

Alistair M.:
I’ve heard it said too many times. So no, leave the generic stuff at home.

Rob Patterson:
Beautiful. I really like that idea, though, of bringing a list of questions to a coffee-

Alistair M.:
I don’t ask them all.

Paul Evans:
No, you wouldn’t. No.

Alistair M.:
You’d be there forever, i’m sure.

Rob Patterson:
I also like the transparency of it by putting them on the table. I think that it says a lot. It says a lot about your confidence and that, yeah, you’re open and honest. What you see, is what you get.

Alistair M.:
Well, one of the things is I’m a big believer… And you read it a lot now in social media posts, is about the requirement in 2020 of authenticity. People buy real people. They don’t want the Jack Flash guy using promises and million dollars in goals. So if you’re just honest with people and you go, “Look, here are some things here which will help me to understand what your current issue is, how it’s affecting you, what it’s costing you, what you’re currently doing about it. What would it be like to affect you personally and all the wider business if we solved this, all these types of things?”

Alistair M.:
As I say, you don’t ask all of them. You just pick one or two, and then there’s subsequent questions such as, “Tell me more,” and, “Help me understand,” and all that. But, again, we’re talking now… We’re into, almost, sales training. That’s a rare commodity in a law firm. Lots of law firms have a challenge in that. Do they have a marketing problem or a sales problem? The bigger the firm and the well known the brand, they don’t have a marketing problem. They get lots of opportunities to sit in front of referrers and potential buyers. But the close rate at flat white meetings is poor because no one’s ever been taught what to say when they get there.

Paul Evans:
Interesting.

Alistair M.:
[crosstalk 00:25:46] to take another view, but that’s what people tell me.

Paul Evans:
No. Well, I agree with that. I think a lot of it is actually how do you seal that deal? One of the things that we’ve discussed before, and this kind of ties in nicely, is that marketing or sales isn’t rocket science, but a lot of it is about consistency in your approach. We’ve talked about building routines. What are, I guess, your recommendations for lawyers to build a routine or a process?

Alistair M.:
Okay. You’re right. I don’t think it’s rocket science. And how do I know that? Because I’ve worked with a lot of… I don’t know. I’ve probably done this exercise in over 100 firms in 10 years now, and I’ve seen very introverted people become very proficient at business development because we gave them a model and a framework to follow, and they just followed the process. But you don’t get it if you put no effort in.

Alistair M.:
So I’m going to say probably two hours a week is a minimum to start building the engine. Avoid Mondays and Fridays because there’s too many distractions. So Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Probably book it in between 12:00 and 2:00. The reason I say that is because if you do that, it allows you to get out from behind your desk. In the modern world, 75% of relationships are started online. But in reality, 75% of relationships are closed face-to-face. So, at some point, you have to make the transition from behind your desk to press the flesh to go out to close the deal.

Alistair M.:
If you build that two hours… So let’s just assume it’s every Tuesday between 12:00 and 2:00. You tell your EA. You tell your secretary, “Don’t book client time in that two-hour window every week if you can avoid it,” and it becomes as important as client time. You have to make that mental change. Instead of this being the last thing to do in my in-tray, every week when I go to bed on a Monday night, I know I’ve got two hours to doing of my BD list on a Tuesday. Some people get more done in three to six months than they have in the previous two to three years because they give it the focus it deserves.

Paul Evans:
Actually blocking out time to do it.

Alistair M.:
Yeah. So you could have an hour doing of writing a piece for LinkedIn or an article for the website or blogging on doing a webinar piece like we’re doing now in the second hour between 1:00 and 2:00. You’ve got time to go out and meet. So the follow-up question is, well, who do I go out and meet? The system that I advocate is five, five, five. So it’s five existing clients if you spent more time with you could get more referrals or work from, five prospective clients who meet the profile of the perfect client, which we talked about earlier, and five referring partners, which could be other lawyers, banks, accountants, whoever your referrers are.

Alistair M.:
I don’t think you should go beyond that because if you’re doing work, you haven’t got time to have more than 15 relationships. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. If you’re juggling those 15 balls at any one time, that’s more than enough. If one falls off because they’re not interested anymore, fine, replace them with someone else. But when I work with lawyers one-on-one, in the work we do, I always press this. “Okay. What’s your progress on these 15 relationships? How have you got better this month? What have you done in your two hours a week?” And it works. So anyone listening to this, there’s two pieces.

Paul Evans:
Yeah. I’ve read a bit about Dunbar’s number, which is the number of relationships that we can have with people at any given time. The number’s 150, but that includes, obviously, all your family, colleagues, friends, etc. So yeah. I advocate that sort of… I always call it a first 11, but yeah, 15 sounds about right as well.

Alistair M.:
Yeah. I guess it’s rugby union, it’s the first 15, right?

Paul Evans:
Yeah. Yeah, I’m a soccer fan. Can we call it soccer?

Alistair M.:
Yeah. To an Englishman, i’ll still call it football.

Paul Evans:
Yeah. Fair enough. All right. We’ve kind of mentioned this already, but I do want to cover it, I guess, in a different way. You’ve obviously worked with a lot of professionals in your career, including lawyers. I’m sure you’ve seen some really great examples of those excellent technicians and the poor marketers and vice versa. It’s a very, very loaded question, but who tends to be more successful? But I think more importantly, why?

Alistair M.:
Okay. I’m going to say this to you. I think when you leave law school, people say, “Do good work for good clients, and it will be enough.” If you work at Freehills or somewhere like you have in the past, that may be so, because the name above the door will help some of the work come in because no general counsel got sacked for hiring Freehills. That doesn’t work further down the food chain, if you’ll allow me to use the phrase.

Alistair M.:
In the last 10 years since the GFC, I think the goalposts have moved significantly. Usually, if I go into a firm and I go, “Okay. How’d you build your practice?” Word-of-mouth referrals is the number-one answer I get back. Even last week when I was running a strategy session in a boardroom, I went around the table and asked all the equity partners. I said, “How many clients have you asked for a referral from this calendar year, bearing in mind that we’re 11 months in?” Most of them, the answer was none.

Alistair M.:
I’m like, “Well, you’ll be waiting a long time to grow this practice based on referrals.” So I’m a big advocate of having up to 20 routes to market to generate leads and interest, and that goes across that speaking/writing network that we described before. And that’s based on the research of the 150 firms, so I’ve got a good idea what works and what doesn’t. The humorous thing is that the top three wastes of money are the top three expenditures in most marketing budgets at law firms in Australia.

Paul Evans:
Oh, what are they?

Alistair M.:
Well, I don’t think you’ll be surprised at number one. Brand advertising is number one.

Paul Evans:
Surprise, surprise.

Alistair M.:
Brand advertising is great for ego. Partners are on side. They love it. You’ll see an advert with the brand on there, but there’s no call to action. It’s very hard to measure, and it’s just a big no. Second one is sponsorships. That could be events. Lots of law firms do sporting teams on the jersey. You ask a question. Why every two years do the sponsors on the state of origin shirt change? It’s because the people realize they’ve had no value from it, so they change. So that’s why.

Alistair M.:
Similarly, every time I used to go up the escalator at Sydney Airport to the lounge, there’d be a law firm advertising a brand advert at the top of the escalator and before you went in the lounge. Funnily enough, that changes all the time. It’s not the same one anymore. Why is that? Because they realized that there’s no benefit from it. And the third one, which makes me very unpopular with managing partners and equity partners, is the hospitality at the footy, that type of thing.

Alistair M.:
Everyone has a box at the footy. It’s excellent for cementing existing relationships. But in the research in terms of how does it do in terms of onboarding brand-new relationships, the answer was really poor. And you know yourself, right? So you ask a load of people who are not well known to the firm to come to the football, and 48 hours before the event, the cry offs start to happen and you end up with Sally from account’s husband and her two kids in the box. And that’s very expensive.

Paul Evans:
Yeah. Literally seen exactly that. Yeah. Yeah.

Alistair M.:
That’s three key takeaways to avoid for those listening.

Paul Evans:
Well, Rob’s an accountant, so I think you’re speaking his language.

Alistair M.:
But, realistically, one of the other things, rarely are the BD guys and the accountants best of bedfellows. In terms of a budget, if every time Rob gave me a dollar I gave him $1.20 back, there wouldn’t be a budget. It’s just, historically, law firms spend it on the wrong things and so they either don’t measure accurately or they don’t show an ROI considered a cost rather than an investment. So it’s one of the first things that gets cut back if things aren’t going swell.

Rob Patterson:
Yeah. Absolutely. And if you are going to entertain, perhaps the message is do something that, actually, your target wants to do or something that’s a little bit novel or unusual. I think one of the best examples I ever heard of that was a partner at a law firm that took a prospective client, actually from overseas, and took them on a surfing lesson in Sydney. They still talk about it to this day. It was just novel, thoughtful. Yeah. It wasn’t just a, “I’ll take you to the footy.” It was, “What would this potential client really enjoy?” It was quite amazing.

Paul Evans:
My client… Sorry. If my accountant is listening, I was recently in Singapore for work and my accountant happened to be in Singapore at the exact same date. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a massive Liverpool fan, and he was actually at an event that he was hosting with the CEO of Liverpool in Singapore at the same time I was there. And I was like, “Oh, that would have been the perfect relationship marketing thing for me.” He missed that, and I’ve let him know. His name is also Paul Evans. So there you go.

Alistair M.:
I’m saying nothing as a Manchester City supporter who’s married to a Liverpool supporter.

Paul Evans:
Oh. You’ve had it good for a long time. All right. So I just had a couple of last questions before we get into the lightning round, and it was actually about your e-book which I downloaded, which is the 10 Immediate Actions to Generate Revenue and Cash. This is really just something I think is really valuable, so I want to hit you up about it. And that was action nine, and it was about writing compelling copy, whether that’s for websites or tenders, even simple stuff like social media.

Paul Evans:
I 100% agree that good copywriters are worth their weight in gold, which is something I think that you mention in the book. But where have you found really good writers from? Because I think one of the things I’ve found, particularly for lawyers and copywriters, is that what they’re writing about is often quite technical, so finding the right people can be quite hard.

Alistair M.:
It depends on the size of the task and what you want them to do. If it’s straight tenders, it could be someone like Amy Burton-Bradley from JMA, who you’ve had on before. If it’s copywriting for more general stuff like web copy, I always used another pommy lady called Elizabeth Wilson Copywriting, who’s based on the North Shore in Sydney, although in Lizzy’s defense she’s about to give birth in the next month. So she might not thank me for passing that lead on, but she’s excellent at what she does there.

Alistair M.:
There’s another guy called Ralph Grayden from Antelope Media. I think he gets involved in quite a lot of copywriting as well. So there’s two or three. But I think as lawyers, though, you must accept that the first draft is likely to be required to be done by yourselves. Copywriters don’t know the law, and it has to be legally proficient. So the first draft is always likely to be required before they can make it better, if that’s the right phrase.

Paul Evans:
Yeah. Yeah. In my experience, I tend to use an editor rather than a writer for that exact reason. But yeah, getting the lawyers to write the first draft of the copy is always a challenge, and that time poorness.

Alistair M.:
Yeah, and they make all the classic mistakes of every sentence or paragraph starting with “we,” “us,” “our,” or the name of the law firm. And they talk about holistic solutions and all this kind of nonsense that they’ve read in marketing directory. “We are a partner-led, client-focused firm offering holistic solutions.” Not really that interesting.

Rob Patterson:
“Top-tier service at mid-tier prices” comes to mind as a classic.

Paul Evans:
All right. Rob, shall we kick off the lightning round?

Rob Patterson:
Yeah. Before we do, I’m going to do something novel. There’s a lot of things that Alistair said today that really resonate with me and I think are gold, but I reckon one of them is just his comment about routine. I really like that because I’ve seen a lot of people try BD relationship marketing and failed, and I think he’s hit the nail on the head. Routine is such a critical part of that process. So thank you, Alistair.

Alistair M.:
You’re welcome. Some people ask me, “Now, why are the big four accountants more successful than everyone else?” The answer, in many cases, is just that they’re more disciplined at doing this stuff than everyone else.

Rob Patterson:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s great advice. The sad thing is that even after listening to this, most people won’t do it. But yeah. I think if you do it, it’s-

Alistair M.:
Well, one of the things… It’s like sales pitch, is having an outsider come and put the size nine up you once a month is that it gets you over the line where perhaps you haven’t been able to do it before and make yourself accountable to someone else.

Rob Patterson:
Correct. All right. Lightning round. What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received, Alistair?

Alistair M.:
I found this pretty tough. I thought of a few. The first one that came to me was get up, dress up, and show up, which… It kind of came from a wife who’s in the luxury retail business. I love the idea of getting a niche, which goes back donkey’s years to Seth Godin when he wrote The Purple Cow. And I do like the eat the frog idea. Do the hard thing in your day first because, otherwise, it will ruin the rest of the day because you’re thinking about it all day while you’re putting it off. I’m a big believer in do the hard stuff early in the morning and get it done.

Rob Patterson:
Well, I haven’t heard “eat the frog” before, but I like the concept.

Alistair M.:
I’ve never ate a frog, but I hope that people understand what I’m referring to.

Rob Patterson:
Okay. If someone knew you really well, what is the one thing they’d know that others may not?

Alistair M.:
I thought this was really tough. People who are really close to me would know I’m incredibly loyal. And I’m a big believer in fate. Anyone who’s helped out me, I go out of my way to make sure I try and do something good for them. I’m a big believer in treating people as they treat you, and if someone does something good for me, then I’ll absolutely go do everything and move heaven and earth to make sure I can try and repay that.

Rob Patterson:
That’s tremendous. Can you nominate another legal industry leader that you hold in great respect that you think that Paul and I should talk to as part of the podcast?

Alistair M.:
Yeah. There’s a couple of guys came to mind with this one. Kyle White, who does CX in law, does a lot of the client service and client experience stuff in law firms. I think he’d be great to get on, and a guy called George Hower, who runs a business called The Tension Experts, which is a social media agency. Most law firms have no idea how to do social media properly, and George’s expertise is around how you turn social media into dollars, which is definitely not their skill set. So George is a pretty entertaining guy. I think that would be an interesting session to have him on.

Rob Patterson:
Brilliant. Thank you. If you could lead any company in the world other than your own, which would that be?

Alistair M.:
Well, that’s a much easier question. I chose Treasury Wine Estates. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I sold alcohol for eight years. I sold beer. But my dream job would actually be in wine, so a brand that owns Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Wynns Coonawarra, which are three of my favorite wine brands, yeah. Go home and have a drop of grange in the evening. That I could just about cope. Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind doing Cricket Australia so I could tour the world watching cricket in the sunshine, if you pushed me to be something sensible and then I’d go with the Law Society to see if I could get business development on the syllabus of the practice management course more than it is now.

Rob Patterson:
Yeah. Great.

Paul Evans:
I don’t know. I kind of see Cricket Australia hiring someone with an English accent, not after all the shit that we’ve gone through.

Alistair M.:
We were pretty kind to you last time. We rolled over and let you tickle our bellies.

Rob Patterson:
The New Zealander’s might have something to say about that as well. Okay. And, finally, if listeners want to connect with you, what’s the best way to get in touch, Alistair?

Alistair M.:
Well, website, I guess, is the easiest thing. If people go to professionalservicesbd.com.au, there’s tons of blogs and articles you can engage with there. And you can obviously connect with me through the website, or you can email me at apm@professionalservicesbd.com.au, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Rob Patterson:
Brilliant. Brilliant. Well, thank you very much again.

Paul Evans:
Thank you very much. Yeah. For any lawyers that are listening, I’d recommend reading Alistair’s ebook, which can be downloaded from that website, and we’ll put a link to that in the show notes. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Alistair M.:
That flew by.

Rob Patterson:
Brilliant.

Paul Evans:
Thanks.

Alistair M.:
All good. See you guys.

Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to Professionally Challenged. Visit our website at www.professionallychallenged.com, and please leave us a review on iTunes. Until next time, bye for now.