In episode 4, Graham Seldon interviews leading sales coach, Keith Dugdale.
Through is work as a consultant to firms globally Keith has noticed:
- Firms getting squeezed on price
- Clients being less loyal to one firm
- Services being commoditised through AI (particularly in the USA)
- Firms tendering for business when there is no existing relationship
To help firms and BD teams address these challenges, Keith and Graham discuss:
- Why it is absolutely critical that law firms invest in trained business development experts to coach fee earners
- How to add more value to justify the price
- How BD and marketing professionals can use basic account management processes on lawyers, not just clients
This is quite a long discussion (40 mins) but Keith has a wealth of experience for you to tap into.
We hope you enjoy listening.
About our guest, Keith Dugdale
Keith Dugdale is a leading sales coach who has worked with professional services firms for 25 years. He is co-Founder of the Academy of Trust and Founder & Managing Director of the Business of Trust. Keith is also a speaker, co-author of the best-selling Smarter Selling: How to grow sales by building trusted relationships, a certified trainer of Think on Your Feet, and a member of the Sales Masterminds Australasia group.
Want to learn more?
- In the podcast, Keith referred to this article: Is ‘AQ’ more important than intelligence?
- Keith also references the Treacy and Wiersema Strategy
TRANSCRIPT – A Legal High with guest, Keith Dugdale
Graham Seldon: [00:00:44]
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting down with one of Australia’s leading sales coaches, Keith Dugdale, author of Smarter Selling and consultant to some of the world’s most successful professional services firms. Keith was incredibly insightful and shared his views on why law firms need sales experts now more than ever, why law firms leaders have a short term view on sales and account management, and how BD and marketing professionals can use basic account management processes on lawyers, not just clients. Take a listen and take some notes.
Graham Seldon: [00:01:18]
It’s great to get you on the podcast and speak specifically about the legal industry. For our listeners who may not be as familiar with your work at the Business of Trust, can you share with us your story of how you came to be one of the most revered sales consultants globally, especially in professional services?
Keith Dugdale: [00:01:34]
I guess it came through frustration of having worked in professional services firms for 25 years around the world, literally around the world, and seeing where you knew there were people who were brilliant at building client relationships and those who weren’t brilliant at building relationships. And the best advice you ever saw people give someone was, well, go and watch what he or she does. But that’s impossible, you can’t, because you don’t know what that magic is that they’ve got that creates that relationship. And so after a few years of great frustration with that, I decided to have a go on my own.
Keith Dugdale: [00:02:10]
So me and my mate and business partner, David, (who I’d recruited to Hong Kong – I was now in Australia) set the business up, wrote a book, got very lucky, got the book published. And because we knew professional services very well, that was the obvious sweet spot for us to get into. And probably the best feedback we got from the book was we had coded the behaviour that helps you build a trusted relationship. Once you’ve coded it, you can train it. Until you have coded it, you can’t train. And as we all know in Professional services, which as I say was our sweet spot, the word d is a four letter word. And it certainly was in those days, as I’m talking about, 17, 18 years ago now. And so it was about getting professionals to understand it wasn’t about selling, it was about creating an environment where the client wanted to buy, but not from a basis of purely or technical expertise. And to a certain extent, I think the economy is kind of caught up with us in a way, because when we were out there kind of talking about this, most economies were on fire. So most not needed in professional services needed sales training.
Graham Seldon: [00:03:21]
Keith Dugdale: [00:03:22]
But now they do.
Graham Seldon: [00:03:23]
Why do you think they do now? Because most of the firms that you and I both work with, the law firms, they are highly profitable. By any stretch of imagination, these businesses are already successful. So why do they need sales coaching.
Keith Dugdale: [00:03:37]
Whilst they’re very successful, I think there are a lot of signs hidden in the background that things are not going to be sweet for much longer if they carry on. So yes, you see an awful lot increase in buying, tendering, tendering where there is no relationship. You’re seeing a lot of pressure on price. You know, wherever we go, you know, what’s your biggest issue facing? The businesses says we’re getting creamed on price. And so there’s a recognition that they’re either going to cut their costs or they’re going to have to do something differently – add more value to justify the price. And, you know, if you look at the Treacy and Wiersema Strategy piece, they talk about there’s only three things that you can do if you really want to succeed as an organisation. And that’s (I’ve got the wording wrong), which essentially is be the most innovative in your industry or be the most efficient or have the best relationships with you clients. The first two really hard to do in a legal profession and maintain. Therefore, we’ve only got one place to run. And so I think that the appetite is increasing. But what we’re also seeing is the reluctance for the long term play and the reluctance for a really deep investment. And that’s not an investment in us, that’s an investment in change, is not always there in a partnership, because in a partnership, it’s very easy to find lots of people say no to change. It’s very hard to find someone who has the authority to say yes.
Graham Seldon: [00:05:08]
So when law firms hire you as a particular type of law firm that would hire you, or is there a particular time in that sort of crisis that they hire you?
Keith Dugdale: [00:05:19]
Great question. So in terms of, if you like, the economics, that cycle or sine curve is the best time is as they are at the peak and seeing that there’s are going to be a drop off. The challenge comes in if they wait till the drop off has happened, but then they’re scrabbling for funds to invest in it.
Keith Dugdale: [00:05:41]
And they’re also typically by then in that incredibly busy phase because everyone’s running around like a headless chook just trying to win work. And that’s where I think is real danger signs when you start to see the number of bids you’re issuing is increasing, that is a really dangerous sign.
Graham Seldon: [00:05:57]
Well, can I ask you about that? Did you think this reason a lot of law firms are investing now in sales, account management, business development, (we see that certainly). Is it because tendering is in increasing and clients are becoming a lot less loyal to the law firms that they had they used to engage with. So the procurement process has become a lot more competitive than it used to be. And then also we’ve seen all of this new law coming in and technology coming in. But firms are still profitable. So my question, rather long winded question is, is it a reality that firms are losing more money and are really genuinely concerned or does it just feel like that because competition is fierce?
Keith Dugdale: [00:06:43]
No, I think I think they absolutely are. This is interesting, you know, if you look at into it from just legal to professional services in every market, there are one or two outliers in each industry who are hyper profitable compared to the competition.
Graham Seldon: [00:07:02]
Keith Dugdale: [00:07:03]
And when you dig under what they’re doing, that makes them hyper, hyper profitable and wherever else would like to be, there’s some very simple things.
Graham Seldon: [00:07:11]
Keith Dugdale: [00:07:11]
And I can cite a specific example actually in New Zealand about two years ago, we’ve been looking for a firm for probably two years at that stage. And it’s not down to what we’re doing. It was down to their mindset around the change (what they’re trying to do in the market) and we saw three law firms that day. The other two first (who we weren’t working with) both said they had never seen the market as tough as it was at that stage. And they were in a state of some strife. And then walked into the one we’ve been working with for a couple of years and they said, oh, we just increase our marketshare by 30 percent in the last 12 months. And so there might be a lot of firms might still be very profitable, but their leases aren’t going down in cost. Their salaries aren’t going down, although one of the big firms has just taken an average 7 percent cut in pay across all partners.
Graham Seldon: [00:08:01]
Keith Dugdale: [00:08:02]
So, yeah, they can see it’s coming. Yeah, to a certain extent. I think Australia’s been protected from artificial intelligence in the legal sector more than the States has invested because there isn’t the critical mass to develop it. That’s coming though. And so I think smart leaders in legal firms can now see. Right. Okay, we might be okay now.
Graham Seldon: [00:08:25]
Do you think that in your books and in some of your previous podcasts you talk about pipeline, the sales pipeline, and how people can pay lip service to that. You know, they can talk about pipeline and pipeline isn’t actually a genuine pipeline. Do you get a sense when you go into these organisations, these law firms, that they truly understand what real pipeline looks like? Because that would help them feel more confident about what the future is looking like in the next two years.
Keith Dugdale: [00:08:52]
I take it even broader than that. I think sadly, if I walked into 10 law firms randomly, eight of them wouldn’t have a key client program, let alone a pipeline program.
Graham Seldon: [00:09:05]
Keith Dugdale: [00:09:06]
And so if you don’t know who the clients are. And when I say key client program, I’m still amazed how many organisations tell me, are we know who are key clients are. And I say, no, no, no. A key client program is who do we want to be our clients three years down the track. Because unless you’ve got something to aim at (and that will change, it’s a rolling target) But they don’t do it. And so there’s nothing to aim at. And so everything is about the now and it’s all reactive. Then you come to the pipeline. If you’ve got a proper, proper key client program, your pipeline is aligned to that completely. So, you know, these are the 50 clients we want to have. Some will be current clients. Some won’t be. Yeah. This is the sort of what we want. Here are the relationships we want to have. And then you track how the relationships are progressing way before anything is in the market.
Keith Dugdale: [00:09:50]
That in itself is a very strange notion to an awful lot of law firms. And then you come down to the detail of the actual pipeline within that. Because you’ve got the relationship (because you builds it when there’s no project). You know, there’s a project coming in two years and you can start to guesstimate when it’ll come out, what your chance of winning it is, what your chances of winning is any specific month because you’re aligning your relationships to projects, to clients. Most firms, when they implement a pipeline (and I’m still staggered how few have any have no CRM of any sort. I’m talking right at the big end here). Even if I have, the danger is they move from just measuring utilization to now measuring utilization and pipeline. If those are the only two things I’m measuring, what we see in the pipeline, as you allude to comments I’ve made before, is people just put numbers in. Some of them might be real projects that are coming. But there isn’t the basis on which they decide their chance of winning is completely flawed.
Graham Seldon: [00:10:48]
Why do you think this is it? Is it a resource issue? Because this sounds like quite a lot of work you need to be thinking about all these conversations with clients, tracking all the information, putting it into a pipeline document, analyzing it, spewing out reports. This is a lot of work. So is it because they just don’t have the right resources in place?
Keith Dugdale: [00:11:08]
There’s an element of not having the right systems. But, you know, I’m amazed how many of our clients use Excel spreadsheet relationship tracker. Because it’s simple, stupid, but works. Yeah, and they don’t have a high tech version that would do the same thing. So what we’re tundras going to measure the relationship capital on an ongoing basis against the clients you want to have against the pipeline you want to have.
Graham Seldon: [00:11:31]
Keith Dugdale: [00:11:32]
Because then you can report on how the relationships tracking as well as the pipeline if we can only report on the numbers, people put numbers in there.
Graham Seldon: [00:11:37]
Keith Dugdale: [00:11:38]
I think the main issue (honestly this is gonna sound quite harsh) is and in many firms (it’s not all firms), there is a lack of a long term view from leadership.
Graham Seldon: [00:11:50]
Is that because managing partners change every two to four years?
Keith Dugdale: [00:11:52]
No, I think it’s because the typical make up of lawyers is fairly analytical, relatively risk averse, and they’ve got to deal with the here and now. If you try to apply that mindset to what we’re talking about here, it’s really hard. And so and that’s why you saw some of the law firms bring people in from other industries to run them for a while. Just to give it a kick. You know what? They come from the big consulting firms where they’ve come from. An engineering firm is one of them did. They come from a construction firm? Someone who’s got a long term horizon. And you know, that reminds me of a quote from an author around strategy years ago who said that the length of one’s horizon determines their value they are to that organisation.And this is exactly the same. Unless you can look to the future and you have that big picture strategic view, because if you can’t, you’re never going to come up with a business plan and then a three year aligned strategy and then all the other pieces. If those aren’t in place, I don’t think it matters what technology put in place, who you recruit.
Graham Seldon: [00:13:04]
It’s because law firms are cyclical and because also they’ve always been about in a reactive market. I mean people go to law firms when they have an issue, whereas in the Big 4 for instance or in engineering you can project plan for years ahead. You know, you’re going to get that order. You’re not going to get there. You know, you gonna get that. So, I mean, that plays a part probably in the psychology of that long term play.
Keith Dugdale: [00:13:26]
It does play a part. But what’s interesting to me is when I when you start challenging some of the lawyers. So corporate law M&A, that’s more like a predictable revenue stream. And typically in the larger law firms, they’re the ones who would first go for this change because they kind of get that. But when you challenge those from other parts of the firm, they might say, we’re project based. It depends on what was going on. So, okay, so could you tell me over the next three years where 80 percent of the projects will be done in, let’s say, Melbourne? They said, oh, yeah. I say, and who feeds you this work? Oh, it’s the banks. So if you had the right relationships with the right people in these banks and you maintain them when there are no projects, would that have a big impact on your revenue and profitability. Oh, yeah. But they don’t have that thinking without someone challenging it. Because there’s no one or very few people in those organisations to challenge it. And so I think that’s it. So that’s why we will always push you. Don’t do your training courses, don’t go back systems until you know exactly what this changes.
Graham Seldon: [00:14:34]
I mean, what’s the low hanging fruit that a managing partner could do immediately to improve sales or increase profit in your experience?
Keith Dugdale: [00:14:43]
When you say low hanging, do you mean quick wins?
Graham Seldon: [00:14:48]
If you go to the law firm and they haven’t got the time or effort or inclination to put in the most amazing CRM system and hire 20 people through Seldon Rosser to do that, what are you going to suggest they do quickly that can start to make them feel as though they’re going in the right direction?
Keith Dugdale: [00:15:08]
Let me give you an example, rather than a suggestion (I can’t betray the name). This is a firm in Queensland. And things were going really well. Things are fine. And refurbish the office. Everything’s nice. There was interesting conversation. As they were debating what they could afford to use me, the office managing partner was questioning it, one of the other partners turned around and said ‘we’ve just spent more than that on painting and reception.’ And he went, ‘oh yeah’. And then there it is again. For me it’s not always about more money, it’s how we spend it. Anyway, they said right let’s just focus on the 13 clients and non clients, the 13 entities where we think there’s the biggest potential for growth.
Keith Dugdale: [00:15:57]
Let’s just work on those. And they only had one part time BD person. Marketing was done in Sydney. And so essentially they outsourced the BD strategy role to me. And I worked with those 13 accounts.
Keith Dugdale: [00:16:20]
An interesting conversation. I said I’ll do this if you allow me to sack from the role. Any of the lead client partners I deem not to be appropriate. There was this kind of sudden definitely silence.
Keith Dugdale: [00:16:32]
Why would I let you do that as well? You want me to take accountability for helping you grow these 13 accounts? If you’ve got the wrong person leading the account, you’re immediately put in the biggest block you can put in place? OK. Yes. And I promptly fired him from his role. Absolutely true. We grew the bottom line of the entire business by 40 percent in 18 months. By focusing strategically on the 13 accounts of those potential.
Graham Seldon: [00:16:57]
And because they had you as as a very experienced sales professional.
Keith Dugdale: [00:17:02]
I don’t think it’s necessarily that. I think it’s that they have somebody who is prepared to call it when it needs to be called and is seen as independent on that. So. Yeah. Okay. I’ve got those attributes – you are very kind.
Your attributes are very impressive. Your sales methodology, your sales process, your understanding of account management is why you’ve got a very successful business. So, what I’m trying to say to you is that they only managed to do that because they had they had invested in a sales professional to help navigate that, and to grow those accounts, say. So in your opinion, are law firms investing enough in training sales professionals. And how important do you think it is that law firms have trained sales people like you in the business or at least working with them
Keith Dugdale: [00:17:55]
I think it’s absolutely critical. To me, the most critical roles I need to have are extremely experienced people who can go head to head with a partner, who is seen as a peer by a partner, not a subordinate, and whose role is ultimately to coach the partners, directors, senior associates, all the way through the organization to coach them to be better at doing that themselves.
Keith Dugdale: [00:18:34]
I think one of most dangerous things you can do is outsource the relationship and the BD to somebody in time. So I never saw a client. I was sitting behind, coaching before they went to meetings, coaching after the meetings. Some law firms are happy for their BD people to go to clients and the vast majority aren’t because they don’t want is not a lawyer.
Graham Seldon: [00:18:53]
This is interesting because we’ve had I’m putting in because not because it talks to previous podcast where we all sort of been very rah rah about BD people meeting clients and certainly a lot of BD people want to meet clients. And I believe they add value in a market where we’re sort of haven’t actually really now got enough sales capability within the legal skill set. But given that your business is called the Business of Trust, I’m interested to know from you how you think clients perceive building relationship with a BD person as opposed to building a relationship with a lawyer?
Keith Dugdale: [00:19:28]
Okay. The reason I think that I was not given access to clients in that situation because I was external. I was an external contractor. I think internally I think BD people should be partnered with the lawyer. Because it’s only when they go together that they can coach the lawyers before and after on how they need to change. If you look at sales coaching outside of this industry works with people to help them improve in the skills. As a coach, by definition, moves off once they got to the level they need to be. If you outsource it to a BD person (and we saw that with I think it was a law firm in Brisbane, the BD person had been there for probably 10 years and was worldclass. Built all these fantastic relationships across the market, brought all this work in and then quit).
Graham Seldon: [00:20:19]
Keith Dugdale: [00:20:20]
And it was like falling off a cliff. I got this call saying ‘what do we do’? Literally all my relationships have just walked out the door. And they admitted it’s because it was easy for them. Let me sit in my office. And so to my mind, yes, the BD people should be going out to see clients, but with the lawyers to help coach. Some are already brilliant at it. Coach those who aren’t. But then this also now has to go back down to the recruitment and graduation. This is certainly where you come in. Is they’ve got to recruit a different type of person?
Graham Seldon: [00:20:53]
Keith Dugdale: [00:20:54]
And this is where I think the law firms generally are way behind some of the engineering firms. To cite a a firm in Melbourne, they only recruit (this is engineering firm) graduates who have had a face to face catering role all the way through uni.
Graham Seldon: [00:21:13]
Keith Dugdale: [00:21:13]
So immediately they know getting someone who could hold a conversation. I know that sounds really basic. And when I was in the UK back in the 80s, if you hadn’t taken a gap year, you were not recruited. Yeah. Didn’t know about anything else.
Graham Seldon: [00:21:32]
Keith Dugdale: [00:21:32]
Because you could see night and day by someone just taking a year off and it didn’t matter what they did. And so we’re seeing that coming increasingly now where you’re looking much more at quality of person and quality of dialogue skills, assuming they’ve already got the technical qualification.
Graham Seldon: [00:22:07]
Do you think, I mean, in your experience of working with BD professionals in the legal industry, are you happy to comment on what you think that overall quality is of those as coaches and sales professionals?
Keith Dugdale: [00:22:22]
I think like everything else, it’s very mixed. I think there’s some world class people I’ve met in that role in the legal industry. The challenge, I think, is to find where that exists, where they are in a firm that allows them to be what they can be. It is getting that marriage because I’ve seen some fantastic ones recruited, ones I know before they go in there. And then they’re just they’re not given a seat at the top table. There isn’t actually a BD seat at the top table. And so they have got two choices. And now either just complying and some of them do, they just comply. So this is easy. Either that or they quit. And so then you end up with the wrong people in the firm. Then they sometimes then the respray the marketing person. Because they’ll do what they’re told more often.
Keith Dugdale: [00:23:11]
The marketing person is given this new BD / marketing role.
Graham Seldon: [00:23:15]
Which actually then affects the brand of BD and law firms because if you’ve got somebody who is not a sales professional doing a BD role, then the partners or the fee earners assume that’s what business development looks like.
Keith Dugdale: [00:23:28]
Graham Seldon: [00:23:29]
Keith Dugdale: [00:23:29]
And then they won’t pay them because they’re not getting the value they want. And I think this is another issue. Certainly if you look at the the big consulting firms, they have been very happy to pay top dollar for really good BD people for years.
Graham Seldon: [00:23:44]
I don’t think law firms underpay I think law firms pay very well for BD people. I just don’t think they utilize them like you’re saying.
Graham Seldon: [00:23:53]
I think and I think when they hire really amazing ones who are coming out Big Four engineering firms or sales consulting firms there are very few firms who actually have the systems and processes and culture in place to actually get the best value out of them.
Keith Dugdale: [00:24:06]
I certainly had this comment from a few of my friends who I put up there as being excellent BD people who are generally working for an engineering firm or a consulting firm. When they come and talk to me about their careers (which for some reason they do), the thought to them of joining the legal profession is not a very appealing one because of the general reputation of working in legal firm. You know why would I want to move from what you know, engineers, if I’m leaving engineering to go and work with lawyers. And so that there is that cynicism.
Graham Seldon: [00:24:48]
So if you’re a sales professional, I would imagine going to an industry that needs you more than an industry that doesn’t is better, is it not?
Keith Dugdale: [00:24:57]
And this is why I think this is one area that a lot of organizations are struggling with. They don’t understand in the same way that when they’re selling they often don’t understand that the client knows more about them than they do. Yeah. When you’re recruiting as well, you know, the Internet has been fantastic. Whether you’re recruiting graduates, you’re recruiting BD people naturally. The BD people know as much about your firm as you do. They’ll be speaking to everyone in their network, and true with graduates as well. And so it I think it is sometimes harder. You know, if the reputation of a certain firm is that they don’t have a CRM system, they don’t have a key client plan yet. The overly optimistic person like me thinks I can change it. But if the last person failed to change it?
Graham Seldon: [00:25:46]
Well, I think it’s possibly because they are hiring one BD person for a sector or a practice group of maybe 30 to 50 partners in Australia. It’s a lot of work for one BD person to do if they are expected to be able to have really have encyclopedic knowledge of one particular client in one particular sector. And so you know, a lot of sales methodology and things that you talk about are all about know your customer as well as you possibly can. Know the industry is as far as you can. But in a lean organization that’s really impossible to do that. So what do you recommend they do as a sort of stopgap?
Keith Dugdale: [00:26:26]
Well, that’s almost why I think the coaching has to take place. Because you’ve got to coach them to be able to do it. You know, I still see a lot of firms where the marketing role is too much still centred on websites and events as opposed to the marketing role being largely around get in, bring industry knowledge in and bring it, you know, that kind of side of the marketing.
Graham Seldon: [00:26:50]
Keith Dugdale: [00:26:52]
And so you end up with an amazing number of firms still don’t have a sector organization. If I was working for a firm, I’d want one of the lawyers, whether they’re going out to meet, I don’t a dentist to be able to tap into dentistry knowledge within the organization. What’s happening in that industry so they can have a commercial conversation with the other side but they don’t. How do you that a lean organization? I think I’d go back to the example I cited before. Don’t try and do it across the firm from a standing start. Pick a part of the firm who you know have got appetite for change in difficult decisions and work with that. Pick two or three clients within that, put the BD person into that. And then as that starts to succeed, they will not have to fight to get resources for other parts of firm. You know, I remember when we did this for one, it was one big consulting firms out of Zurich, the first time they tried to run a program, as they called it, smarter selling and no one registered. Surprise, surprise. The second time they called it winning client conversations and there was a lineup of people at the door wanting to talk about it. This is that kind of stuff. As soon as we started getting success with one of the groups, suddenly all the other groups are saying, well, I know I said it didn’t want to do this, but look what it’s actually about. Fear of missing out kicks in. So that’s what I’d say if you’re going to run things lean.
Graham Seldon: [00:28:16]
Do you think it’s do you think if you’ve talked about before you talked about engineering firms, accounting firms generally. Do you think that accountants and engineers are better at business development than lawyers?
Keith Dugdale: [00:28:27]
Graham Seldon: [00:28:28]
Okay. So then why do we have this gap? This issue is the skills gap.
Keith Dugdale: [00:28:33]
I think law lawyers (and I hope I’m going to get shot by any lawyers), they tend to hold onto their technical expertise as being the definition of who they are more than an engineer or a consultant. And so for them to let go of that is often a painful thing because it’s held them personally and their organisations in good stead for so long. If you look at the consulting houses, there’s a big mishmash in there where though they came from audit background or tax background or genuine consulting or advisory, and they’ve often had lots of different careers within that. They rarely have the same one all the way through. And engineers, it’s so obvious in engineering and it has been for so long, that what they’ve got is almost commoditized anyway because technology’s already all over them. I’m not saying they’re already all the engineering firms are right at the front edge of what we’e talked about by a long shot. But the technical knowledge they know it can be easily replicated. It’s maths basically. The lawyers still hold onto that, ‘but they can’t replicate my knowledge’. And so I think it’s harder for them to get their head around this change. It’s not going to happen. This change is happening. It’s just a case of how fast it’s happening in law.
Graham Seldon: [00:29:47]
What is your advice to somebody who is listening to this? They’re a BD / marketing personal law firms have been for a while and then nodding their heads saying, you know, that’s my story. You know, this isn’t news to me, I can’t get a seat at the table. What is your advice to them?
Keith Dugdale: [00:30:03]
Okay. Nothing frustrates me more than really good people in any role, not just marketing & BD rolling over. And it’s gonna sound very ‘kumbaya-ish’ not sticking to what they know is right. Yeah, there are diplomatic ways to have conversations with people and get your message over. But I see too many become almost enabling the way they are treated.
Keith Dugdale: [00:30:31]
And so it genuinely is to me, it’s if you want to succeed in these organizations, you have to build a relationship internally that is way bigger and broader and deeper than just a technical relationship. You don’t want the lead partners to see you as the marketing person. You want the lead partner to see you as the most important person who is going to help that lead partner achieve their strategy. So exactly the same advice as we will give the partner when he’s talking with a client is what we give the internal people. But they don’t see that. They mark themselves into this marketing or business development role and that’s how we behave.
Graham Seldon: [00:31:11]
Is it confidence or is it just fear of being pushed out?
Keith Dugdale: [00:31:14]
I think it’s partly confidence as well, because, you know, if you’ve always worked in that environment and you are definitely seen as at best 90 degrees to the business strategy, if not 180-degree sometimes (which side of the balance sheet are you on?). If that’s always been the case, having the bravery to go up against these people. And I remember the first ever meeting.
Keith Dugdale: [00:31:34]
So when I came to Australia, I was working with one of the Big Four and I was brought in to that tax function to build up a tax training function, a training resource for the tax part of the businesses, large brothers. And I remember my first ever meeting with the two gentlemen who were running who are both fantastic people. I sat down and they said, right, we want this, this, this, this, this, this, this. I sat there and I thought this is how they are used to talking to internal firm people. And I stopped the conversation and said, so this is kind of a way of answering your question. I guess I said, before we go any further, can you tell me why, you know, 12 months from now, what do you want to achieve for the business? They can look each other in shock, partly. How dare you? So why not just do what we told you to do. Partly, that’s a good question. So they chatted to each other for a couple of minutes and said, okay, yeah, in 12 months from now we want this. So if there’s one thing you wanted to point to that would make the biggest difference from where the tax business is now to where the tax business is going to be, what is that one thing? And they said we’ve got a better client relationship. I said, so if we forget everything, you just put on your list of things you want. By the way, none of which is going to achieve anything other than happy sheets. Put all that to one side and an all I do is help you get your people better building client relationships. Is that a good outcome? And they went ‘hell, yes’. And immediately I wasn’t seen as the training guy. I was a person trying to help. And I think that’s why a lot of the BD & marketing people fall down. They are treated like and then behave like they are almost subservient.
Graham Seldon: [00:33:08]
They become order takers.
Keith Dugdale: [00:33:10]
Yeah, they are. And they’re subservient to the bosses. And if you behave like that that’s how you gonna get treated.
Graham Seldon: [00:33:15]
It’s a difficult place to be though if you’re not, you know, senior, experienced, conferent and mature, you know if you’re in a situation where you might only have five years experience and you’re in front of litigators who, you know do this for a living and it’s hard to stand up and say what it is you actually.
Keith Dugdale: [00:33:36]
But the difference it makes.
Graham Seldon: [00:33:38]
Yeah, yeah. Oh, I’m with you. It’s just about empowering people to have the confidence to do it, I suppose.
Keith Dugdale: [00:33:43]
It is. But I think it’s also a mindset thing. And in the same way as I touched on, that I’d say with a lawyer, with their client, When you’re a lawyer, and you go to see a client, do you go into the mindset of a brain surgeon, an expert or the mindset of general practitioners who’s there to triage. And what if you go in as a brain surgeon and the client says, my brain’s fine, but my knees are stuffed. What do most lawyers do? Well, they run away because they don’t know about it. It’s not my job. No, your job is now to help you find somebody could fix the knee. It is the same for the BD person internally. You don’t go into the partner thinking ‘I am this’. But you can train that in people.
Graham Seldon: [00:34:26]
Well, I mean, we’ve talked about this before about the concierge mindset. And interestingly, you mentioning that organisations hiring people who’d had catering roles and things like that. And we’ve talked about on previous podcasts, it’s concierge mindset. Where, if you are the concierge of a five star hotel, and the customer asks you to do something, you wouldn’t say no. You’d say, leave it with me. I’ll see if I can get some help you with that. And even if it’s just to buy time to then go back and say, actually, we can’t do that, then then that’s a good thing to be able to bridge the gap and to at least start a conversation in a positive way.
Keith Dugdale: [00:35:06]
No, absolutely. And if you add to that nowadays with the Internet, how long and how hard is it to find anyone to help?
Graham Seldon: [00:35:13]
No, this is true.
Keith Dugdale: [00:35:14]
And I think that’s a mindset. So, you know, from a psychobabble point of view and we talk about this a lot in the programs and I think it applies exactly the same with your marketing (and to a certain extent BD guys) people get that Linus blanket, the thing that makes it feel safe from a combination of three things and three things on presence. Presence is physical. I know I look good eye contact posture and the like and that makes me feel safe in any given situation. The second one is authority where I get my comfort, my confidence from what I know, which is brain, expertise, experience. The third one is impact, where I get my comfort confidence from the way I interact. Great questioning and great structure. We all lean on one of those three more than the other two. And in expert industries, it’s nearly always authority. So anyone who gets their comfort and confidence from knowing things. The biggest fear in life is any situation we might not know. So for a lawyer, it might be I’m quite happy to talk to legal counsel or general counsel, but I’m not going to talk to the CEO because they’ll know stuff I know nothing about, I’ll look stupid.
Keith Dugdale: [00:36:14]
For the marketing person going to the partner, the “I know” is “I know marketing”. Why go talk to the lead partner is first place? He’s going to scare the life out of me because he knows all this other stuff. And this goes, you know, to your technical expertise. To me, this goes to our education system from school through uni. We teach people, find a problem, fix it, become really good at fixing a certain type of problem, lawyer or marketing or BD. And it’s so narrow. And so we’ve been actually trying to work with the universities to get them to change or add to their curriculum and to give people that comfort and confidence, not just in knowledge, but also an impact to teach people at the age of 10, 15, 18. How do you ask a question which going to really engage?
Graham Seldon: [00:36:58]
And I think what’s interesting about where this conversation is going and making me think about some of the previous conversations I’ve had on A Legal High is that we talk about the client as being the external client. And that’s part of your business is talk about growing accounts externally. But actually from a business development marketing manager’s perspective, the client is the internal client and say some of the things that you have templated for law firms/ lawyers to have and to build better relationships with their external clients can just as well be used internally.
Graham Seldon: [00:37:31]
And there is that fantastic free template on your website, that business of trust, which is boft.com, which is this questions to ask external clients. But actually looking at them now, they’re all questions that any BD person should be asking the lawyers. And if they ask these questions, they probably have a much better meeting.
Keith Dugdale: [00:37:50]
Absolutely. When we were a program called Stakeholders aimed specific specifically at that. But one of the beautiful things I love watching from work with a law firm is we’ll usually have, let’s say, 12 lawyers in the room and we might have two BD in a marketing person and the BD and Mmrketing people come into the room expecting the lawyers to be basically told off for two days and told this is how you should do it. And they realize very quickly on day one, they’re gonna be told off as well because they’re not doing it with their people. It’s disingenuous of them to behave one way with the partner, expect the partner to behave differently over the client. And it’s about people.
Graham Seldon: [00:38:22]
And marketing people are supposed to be in business because they like people. Right. That’s why they marketing. I can talk to you all day for saying we can’t. I want to end with a question. I’m just interested and I ask this of some guests. You know, where do you think the legal industry is going? What’s your view on the future of law firms?
Keith Dugdale: [00:38:42]
I think law firms have a fantastic future if they can get their head around the fact they need to really change. And I think of one partner who is the partner in charge of a moderately sized independent office in Brisbane. He said that what really happened enough to probably working with us for three years. He said the all skills piece was great, he said, but the main thing was completely change their mindset. And I think if a law firm can get their mindset entirely across the organisation, that everyone basically has two jobs within the organisation. One is to help clients succeed. And the second is to be an advocate for the firm.
Keith Dugdale: [00:39:25]
And if you have those as your two prime drivers, you will succeed. Unfortunately, there’s an awful lot systems and mechanisms and what have you within firms which actually sadly get in the way of that. So I think they have a really, really rosy future. Having read an HBR paper in the last six hours, what that was saying was essentially the same thing, but what they were also saying was that law firms and they were specifically talking about law firms need to develop the ability to change and adapt.
Keith Dugdale: [00:40:02]
And if they don’t, the 30 percent of people or the 30 percent of time, that will not be needed in the future, largely because of technology that is coming, what are they going to do with that 30 per cent? The same is and I agree totally. They get that 30 percent right, and they reinvested elsewhere – the skills, the attitude, the behaviors and systems and everything else – there’s a massive future.
Keith Dugdale: [00:40:22]
Because not for every law firm.
Graham Seldon: [00:40:24]
Keith Dugdale: [00:40:25]
Because there always be some who don’t.
Graham Seldon: [00:40:27]
Keith Dugdale: [00:40:27]
But the opportunity for those who get it right is genuinely unlimited. Because every piece of research from the market (and you’ll see this as well across your client base) is saying this is what we want from our professional services providers. Everyone is saying the same thing But very few are adapting to it. So okay, grab the opportunity there, they’re telling you.
Graham Seldon: [00:40:48]
A genuinely unlimited opportunity. I love that. That’s a great way to close. Thank you so much for coming on to A Legal High. It’s been fantastic. If anybody wants to hear more from Keith or to read his book, or even some of the great content he’s got on his website head to boft.com. We’ll also post a link on the website to the HBR article Keith just referenced and also a full transcript of this podcast. Thanks for listening.