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We’ve noticed a growing number of vacancies from legal IT vendors for sales staff on the Insider JobsBoard in recent weeks however a conversation earlier this week with the CEO of a major legal software vendor nailed our suspicions, namely there are currently not enough good sales people to go around.

Note the use of the word good – there are plenty of people out there applying for jobs in sales but few of them make the cut in terms of being suitable for the legal sector. The cheery “Ello John, looking for a new computer?” approach may be fine in High Street PC or mobile phone store* but is totally inappropriate in a law firm setting as the majority of law firms remain very conservative organisations in terms of their cultures.

And that is before we get into the idiosyncrasies of the legal software business.

Such as the importance of knowing a little of how law firms work… of knowing the language (matters not jobs, clients not customers, firms not companies – all those little nuances that distinguish the industry insider from the clueless outsider)… of appreciating how and why law firms use the software they do (legal accounts software versus plain vanilla bookkeeping systems, case management and why Microsoft Word alone is not enough when it comes to document creation and management)… and, above all, appreciating the politics of the law firm management structure and the relationship between professional IT directors and the partnership when it comes to procurement decision-making.

Oh, yes, and the fact most legal IT sales involve very, very long lead-times from the first sales pitch to the contract finally being signed. For major projects, two years is not unreasonable time although we did encounter one firm that took 14 years of negotiations before finally placing an order.

Now there are seasoned legal IT sales professionals who understand all this – but after 15-to-20 years of being on the road, the allure of eating All-Day-Big-Breakfasts in Little Chef diners and sleeping at Premier Inns has begun to wear thin and they either want (and can command) sky-high salaries or else are looking to move into sales and major account management roles.

As for the new entrants? A number of vendors report similar experiences to the company where a new telesales operator resigned after just two weeks because he hadn’t been given a salary increase. Asked why he thought he deserved a rise, he replied “Because every day I turned up for work on time!”

And so it goes and, in the words of that CEO mentioned at the outset, legal IT vendors are left in the anomalous position where they could sell more software – if only they had someone to sell it for them.

* Actually, it’s not. It irritates the hell out of me.