Nor should they. No individual can possess mastery over every function of a large, complex organization. Ideally, people are recruited, developed, and provided sufficient leeway (in the form of decision making and funding) to contribute to the mission of the organization.
All purchasing decisions have decision makers (person/people with signing authority) and influencers (frequent users). Legal tech is no different.
In the American Bar Association’s 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report, attorneys ranked the following sources as “very influential” in purchasing decisions:
- Staff feedback (41%)
- Peers (33%)
- Consultants (28%)
- Expert reviews (22%)
Executives Need Input
Perhaps like me, you have worked at a corporation or law firm where an executive was hell-bent on ramming through a shiny-toy-flavor-of-the-month.
They paint a grandiose picture and wax poetic about how revolutionary the software is, how much of a differentiator it will be in the marketplace, how new client acquisition and client retention will skyrocket, and how the organization be better, faster, and stronger.
But the vetting process was incomplete, the tool isn’t flexible, the workflows don’t align, the technology doesn’t integrate with other software, the user interface is ugly. So, people pay it lip service but ignore it, or use it, but don’t maximize its potential because it’s cumbersome.
It’s not that executives have bad intentions. But without fostering both the cultural expectation that feedback is expected from every level of an organization, and means by which that feedback can reach decision makers, they can become detached from the vision of the organization’s future and the reality of the present.
Influencers Are Incredibly Important
These are the people in a law firm or corporate legal department who will use the legal tech tools most often – perhaps daily or multiple times per day.
The most important reason for a legal tech vendor to build relationships with influencers is that they can tell you most clearly where your tool is or is not a good fit. This can inform communication strategy, deal timing, and most importantly, the product roadmap.
Many times, influencers know whether a tool can help cure major organizational heartburn or whether it would just be seen as a luxury. They can also help map out what the buying cycle looks like – who the key players are, what those people’s roles and priorities are, the organization’s fiscal calendar and budgeting practices, etc.
Multiple Perspectives are Required
Humans do not like change. We evolved to value safety and predictability to avoid being eaten. These days, the eating is metaphorical: a competitor may “eat your lunch” but you’ll probably make it home to your family in one piece. Still, the sense of discomfort or alarm when facing change or uncertainty is hardwired into our DNA.
The trick is to include necessary stakeholders without falling prey to paralysis by analysis.
For example, influencers wants to know about workflows, legal wants to know about the terms and conditions, and decision makers want to know about payback periods and client-impact
I previously wrote about the challenge of scaling technology across law firms. The worst thing a vendor can do is sign the deal, pat themselves on the back, and move on to find the next deal. The greatest growth opportunity for any legal tech vendors is expansion of current clients. A vendor’s job is to make early clients incredibly happy so they can be an internal guide to navigate the organization, helping the vendor land the next attorney, the next practice group, the next office, etc.
How Do We Sell DiscoveryMaster?
When possible, we prefer to host multiple demos with 2-3 individuals from a law firm or corporation. This brings multiple perspectives and opinions to a call but keeps the group small enough to allow for a genuine dialogue about pain points and solutions.
Usually if you get 5, 6, or more people from the same organization on a call, it ceases to become a conversation and it feels more of a presentation followed by a brief Q&A. Many people are hesitant to ask questions or give their opinion in front of a group. Maybe, like fear of change, it’s human nature. Or maybe it’s PTSD from that Wednesday afternoon in 6th grade when they reminded the teacher they forgot to give the class homework and everyone freaked out on them.
There are times when larger groups are a must –conversations with influencers and decision makers have progressed well, and they want to gauge the enthusiasm of a larger team. That’s perfectly okay. But if that’s the first interaction between the parties, it can be tough to genuinely get to know each other.
Formal hierarchies are necessary for most organizations to have any semblance of consistency and scale.
But every single person in the organization has an important role to play, and an important perspective that can help incrementally improve, or revolutionize, an organization’s effectiveness, client satisfaction, and profitability.
Whether you’re a business development professional, an mid-level manager, or an executive, don’t overlook the people who keep the wheels turning.