GLITZ, GLAM & GIGABYTE GUESSTIMATES: AN INSIDE LOOK AT eDISCOVERY SALES
At the time of authoring this blog post, I’m quickly approaching my 14th year within the eDiscovery industry – a feat that is equal parts remarkable and startling, given the tumultuous environment that we have witnessed the last several years. Over the course of my tenure within this highly competitive, extremely tenuous and (yet) rewarding space, I have seen my fair share of personal and professional success stories. However, for each of the triumphs that I’ve been a witness to I have also been witness to significant failures. Throughout it all, myself and many other eDiscovery professionals have proudly dedicating our careers to a common noble purpose: selling the best eDiscovery services possible to a wide arrange of in-house and outside counsel consumers. The difference between success and failure, in terms of achieving this noble purpose, resides wholly within one’s ability to actually deliver upon this promise – something that requires evolving with the industry and acting on behalf of the consumers who have placed their faith in you.
There is a common misconception amongst eDiscovery consumers that the life of a business development professional in this space is one of pure glitz and glam. Visions come to mind of a slick Mad Men-esque salesperson – coordinating steak dinners, championship game suites, trips to private homes in tropical destinations, all while they fly from appointment to appointment on the heels of their big paychecks cut directly from the lofty margins associated with each of those confusing line items on your monthly invoice. The problem with these visions is they are actually based in some semblance of reality. There were, and certainly still are, individuals and companies who still very much operate in this fashion. I’m not here to say that this approach to “wining and dining” is necessarily wrong – I’ve enjoyed this perk in moderation myself as a method of thanking those who have supported me over the years. However, the fact of the matter is that in this highly complex and detail-oriented industry, coupled with the sophistication of the consumers we sell to, the aforementioned perks have quickly taken a back seat to the true substance of the deal at hand; i.e. are you the most reliable, secure and cost-conscious provider for the matter(s) at hand?
Much of this shift from “whoever can host the most lavish LegalTech afterparty gets my business” to “whoever can actually satisfy our complex eDiscovery needs the best will be retained,” can be attributed to the heightened sensitivity in the eDiscovery partnership decision making process. No longer is it acceptable for an in-house litigation counsel or a firmwide litigation support manager to justify their purchase decisions based on which company provided the best fringe benefit (nor was it ever acceptable, rather just unknowingly tolerated.) There is just too much at stake nowadays. So where does this leave the slick eDiscovery sales people?
As eDiscovery service consumption practices evolved, so did the methods deployed by those selling discovery management solutions. Understanding that the consumers must now feel confident in a partner’s ability to deliver upon what was being sold, invitations to steak dinners have given way to offers to attend thought-leadership conferences, or to participate as subject matter experts on discovery management MCLE presentation panels. The focus of today’s eDiscovery sales people is, or at least should be, to ensure that you and your organization are truly capable as a provider and fully vested in a successful partnership by way of delivering value to the end client.
With respect to value, the mind immediately races to minimizing costs and, indeed, that is an extremely important factor in today’s highly competitive eDiscovery market. However, in my mind and in my practice, value is not limited to simply providing cost-containment measures but extends into a fervent advocacy on behalf of those clients that I support.
Something that was instilled in me very early on in my career was the importance of remaining responsive to my client’s, or prospective client’s, requests. Back then, missing a phone call meant that the coveted two box copy-label-copy project from a new user was likely headed to your competitor. If you were to ask any of my clients or prospective clients today, I am sure they would tell you that I am regularly reachable even when traveling for work or leisure – it’s my way of ensuring those who I am conducting business with that I am fully dedicated to serving their needs whenever and wherever those needs may arise.
Thankfully, I now have support in my need to remain responsive around the clock through Inventus’ incredible team of project managers who are staffed around the globe. I now have the luxury of remaining mostly in the background, but I still make sure that I am included on any and all matter-specific email distribution lists for my clients. This birds-eye view allows me to continue to track our progress throughout a matter, yet remain an active advocate for my clients as items or opportunities surface amongst the various chains of communication.
As I tread into another year as a business development executive within the eDiscovery industry, I take pride in knowing that the clients I have retained over the years haven’t relied upon myself or my company because of some perk that was offered at the onset of our relationship. I have witnessed the rise and fall of the “Dom for Demo” days (an approach one organization took offering Dom Perignon for any and all who participated in a demonstration of their product) and can confidently rely upon my clients having the opportunity to purchase eDiscovery services without distractions and from organizations that can truly deliver secure, efficient, cost-conscious and value-driven results.