A law industry ex-pat explains why B2B SaaS sales professionals and lawyers must follow the same path to success - by basing their arguments on precedent.

I never made it to Esquire status, but that didn't matter to the solo practitioner I spent 3 years working for during and after law school. Working remotely in Pittsburgh, I'd receive my next assignment over email.

"Mr. Boudinet, please craft a response brief in opposition to the attached motion to dismiss. To get started, you might want to check out [completely unhelpful prior court decision]."

Those were my marching orders. And from there, I knew what I had to do for our case to have any chance at success. Spend between 20-30 hours on Westlaw (truly the bowels of Hell) desperately searching for prior court decisions that were

  1. In our jurisdiction.
  2. Involved a case with circumstances substantially similar to our own, and
  3. Provided court precedents where the judge had ruled favorably on the merits of essentially the same argument we were presenting.

Needless to say, it sucked. And oftentimes, I would conclude my 20 hour search with the despairing realization, "we have utter dogs*** in the way of relevant court precedent for our arguments and we are completely f*****."

Why B2B SaaS Sales Reps Should Think Like a Lawyer

The first time this happened, I learned a critical lesson about how the law worked. And sales professionals, there's a reason you just sat through that long-winded introduction, and it's because that critical lesson applies to you as well.

Realizing we had next-to-zero legal precedent to back up our arguments, I tried to get creative. This was my 3rd or 4th brief for my attorney, I had to come back with something, right?

I spent the next few years trying my best to channel my inner Atticus Finch, desperately weaving together a multitude of peripherally relevant cases to arrive at the point: "This case should set the new precedent."

About an hour after I hit send on the email shipping the ill-fated brief off to my Attorney, she responded with the polite, yet curt reply. "Jeremy, while I admire your creativity, from now on stick only to existing precedent in drafting these briefs."

In law, you see, no one cares about your innovative, creative, but un-validated legal arguments. No one cares about your self-serving opinion on the case itself.

And in B2B sales, no one cares about your innovative, creative but un-validated product or service. And, take this to the grave, no one cares about your self-serving opinion on the product or service's effectiveness. 

Key Statistics to Remember

Look at the following five statistics then remember that, as your colleagues in the legal profession learned a long time ago, it's all about precedent.

1. Enterprise buyers spend 32% of their journey interacting with supplier-side content or sales people. 68% of the buyer’s journey is devoted to internal assessments, peer networking and recommendations of external experts. Gartner 2015

2. Websites w/ product reviews are #1 influencer of Mid-Market tech buyers. #3 for SMB. Tech Publications are #4 for SMB. TechAisle 2015.

3. SMBs and mid-market both use an average of 5+ sources of information when evaluating potential solutions and suppliers. TechAisle 2015.

4. Testimonials are one of the key ways to get your product to sell itself. KISSMetrics 2014.

5. B2B referrals are twice as likely to close as marketing qualified lead. Referral program ROI is 300-400% better than all other types of campaigns combined. Sales Benchmark Index 2013.

How to Build Your Value Prop Like a Lawyer

Start with precedent that hits as close to home to the buyer as possible. Evidence of ROI for their fellow industry members. Testimonials and case studies that go to the key determinants for their ultimate decision.

They're the judge, you're Harvey Specter. And in sales, just as in law, it's not enough to merely invoke precedent, but to apply it as closely as possible to the key issues in your present case. The more directly you apply the precedent, the better your opportunity for success.

Last but not least, if you're considering leaving a role in sales to pursue a law degree/legal career -- DO. NOT. GO. That is all. Thanks for reading.

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