As a solicitor, the obvious answer is “I’m a solicitor and people buy my legal advice.” However, that is not the answer, any more than “Apple sells IT” or “Aston Martin sells cars.”
Having been told to look at the reasons why people buy from us, we were all sent away to think again. At this point things may have got a little bit philosophical and esoteric. However, after discussing matters with the person sitting next to me (who was not a lawyer) we came to the conclusion that my clients buy clarity, protection, peace of mind and problem-solving in their business dealings. That’s quite an appealing ‘product’ and, interestingly, aspects of it could be claimed by businesses such as banking (in the good old days), house insurance and intruder alarms.
For a long time now I’ve seen myself as an insurance policy: if I advise you on a business purchase you have the reassurance that it has been properly documented, you know what you are buying and you have a right of recourse if you’ve been sold a pup; if I advise you on a shareholders’ agreement, you know that there is a robust mechanism there for managing the running of the company and resolving any disputes with the other shareholders; if I advise you on a supply contract you know who is supplying what, to whom, for what price and with what liability for repairing or replacing defective products. That gives clarity, protection and peace of mind.
The fourth aspect of my ‘product’ is the problem solving aspect and that tends to be relevant where someone has entered into a business transaction that was not properly documented at the outset: I’m then asked to try and clarify matters ‘after the event’. Resolving shareholder disputes is the most regular example of this but it can apply to any business arrangement that was not adequately documented at the time.
I suppose the process of asking ‘why’ people buy from us, rather than ‘what’ they buy from us, is similar to the marketing rule of selling ‘benefits’ and not ‘features’. However, asking a client in a meeting why she wanted to embark upon a particular course of action led to an answer that I hadn’t anticipated and allowed me to offer the client a number of potential solutions to her problem, rather than the one that we initially assumed would apply. It’s probably our British reserve that makes us reluctant to ask ‘why’ but overcoming that reserve can certainly open up a whole new world of possibilities.