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The Corporate Sales Funnel: We the Client and God the Firm

Many think Christianity can be reduced to a set of rules – rules which must always be followed. They think about it legalistically. Why not? Every religion of this world operates in this way. The concept is this: “Follow this set of guidelines to perfection and you will reach fulfillment.” In order to end suffering, perfect each one of these points on the Eightfold Path. Pray five times a day. Do not covet. Go to this networking event. Do this golden summer internship. Each religion (or societal pressure) tells us to perfectly meet its own standards in order to reach happiness, enlightenment, or fulfillment. But it never works. In each of these systems, we are left with overwhelming guilt, because we simply will never do enough to measure up.

We often think about Christianity legalistically, expecting the economy of Christianity to mirror the economies of every religion. We think about it just like the lawyers who questioned and rejected Jesus because he didn’t fit into their framework of works-based living. However, I believe that Jesus came to shatter that framework. The Bible teaches that Jesus came into the world to reveal the true nature of God and to save human beings from the status quo, not by telling us what to do, but by doing life with us. The Christian gospel is good news, and not merely good advice, for it reveals a God who doesn’t judge us based on our actions, but who loves us and pursues us in spite of those actions.

You might think, “Oh, Jesus lived 2,000 years ago. Times have changed. This really isn’t even good advice, much less good news.” But my experience at a law firm this summer showed me how the Christian gospel is still both good advice and, more importantly, good news. Weirdly enough, I saw how the law firm’s pursuit of its clients parallels God’s love for us in a way that I didn’t expect to see.

My Summer Experience

The firm I worked at this summer is very large, consisting of 22 offices with approximately 700 attorneys. Complex collaboration is needed among the offices and behind the scenes, leading to divisions in business development, marketing, and public relations. Strategies are developed to help the firm gain national and local exposure, as well as to help attorneys in more individualized meetings with clients. As an intern, I worked in all of the business development and marketing areas of the Sales Funnel, which, at the firm of my employment, is the principal tool used in task organization. There are four components of the Sales Funnel in descending order: Awareness, Cultivate, Winning, and Account Management.

How could the Sales Funnel possibly relate to God and his pursuit of us?

1. Awareness

Awareness, the first and broadest phase, targets the general public to keep the firm in the back of the mind of as many people as possible so people will consider the firm when any legal needs arise. Public relations efforts, sponsorships, and the publishing of scholarly articles fall under this umbrella.

Consider John the Baptist’s ministry proclaiming the coming of Christ. We may liken him to God’s marketing employee, cultivating awareness of God, who can be considered the ultimate Firm. John raised awareness among the public that God existed and that God would perform a powerful service for humanity through the person of Jesus Christ.

Let’s go deeper into the awareness phase. The law firm also pays to sponsor events and signs at public gatherings, but in a much more cosmically significant way, Jesus paid to sponsor us with his blood. His sacrifice of his life earned us unconditional acceptance by God. While law firm advertisements are switched around in cycles depending on the space or event, Jesus’ sponsorship is much more than a mere appearance. His sponsorship of us came through a one-time fee with an unlimited expiration date.

The final channel within the awareness phase comes in the form of published articles. Different attorneys across the different offices write commentary on new laws or offer some nuanced insight on a matter, sometimes collaborating with other members within their specified practice group. Just as these attorneys are experts writing about the law in the field in which they have expertise, many Christians write and produce work in the field in which they are gifted, and God can use these people to reach others and point people closer to Christ.

2. Cultivate

Those who see the value in the firm’s efforts made in the awareness phase and understand how it can contribute to their personal or corporate lives then move into the next phase of the Sales Funnel: cultivate. Here, the firm holds client events, seminars, and distributes email alerts to targeted potential clients. Similar to cultivation in farming, the clients, or seeds, have been collected, and the ground must be made ready for them to grow into a full-fledged client. This process is similar to the Christian’s path to faith in Christ as described by Jesus’ parable of the sower recorded in Matthew 13 of the Bible. Furthermore, just as firms intentionally target clients, Jesus drew people to him not from simply saying things that sounded nice, but from doing things which impacted people’s lives. As we see in John 6, thousands of people gathered to Jesus because they had about miraculous healings he performed.

The firm then uses resources to key in on the most interested potential clients – the ones who have given up some of their time and resources to inquire into the firm’s services. For example, corporations might seek counsel from Labor and Employment attorneys about best practices regarding acceptable workplace behavior. In the midst of the #MeToo movement and forward-thinking initiatives, businesses have sought my firm of employment to come give seminars for their employees. These businesses may not even be clients in terms of case law – they merely seek the advice and services of the firm on these specific issues. If a new law gets passed, the firm will send a note to the client, informing them that the law has changed and that they must promptly change their policies or actions. This message saves the client from breaking the law, which, depending upon the severity of the infraction, could lead to total bankruptcy. In a similar way, God sends us necessary and perfect counsel, even when we may not see it that way.

3. Winning

The client has become aware of the services, properly cultivated, and ready to be won by the firm. Thus, it moves into the third phase of winning, which includes proposals and pitches. Pitches are often made on the spur of the moment or in conversation with a potential client. On the other hand, proposals are much more formal and require a good deal of preparation for an individual client. Several attorneys might work closely with the Business Development team to prepare PowerPoint presentations and certain addendums to win the business of large companies such as General Motors. There is high competition among firms for the big-name valuable clients, and each firm would send their very best teams to attempt to win the respective client’s business.

A firm succeeds in winning a client by making its pitch or proposal convincing enough for the client to buy in. At that point, the firm’s mantra – “Your problem is my problem; Your success is my victory.” – characterizes the firm/client relationship. When a client signs a commitment with the firm, the firm reciprocates that commitment by standing by the client as mediator, representative, and advocate through both the problems and successes.

Scripture can help us make sense of why and how this works for a law firm. The story of the death and subsequent resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus recounted in the gospel of John perfectly illustrates how Jesus considers our problems his problems. His friends Martha and Mary had both lost their brother four days prior to Jesus’ coming, but they had markedly different reactions to his presence. Martha professed faith that if Jesus had come earlier, he could have healed Lazarus. However, Mary’s grief caused her to withdraw and not greet Jesus at all.

It is inherently human to initially hesitate to accept the love and concern of others, but it is this comfort that we all need. I remember how when I failed to reach my expectations in high school golf tournaments. I would go home, shut myself in my room, and numb the pain of failure with Netflix or ramen noodles. When my parents would check on me, I would always be short, because I felt I didn’t deserve the comfort they were offering me. I was too immature to realize what I needed. But, if they had not been there, I don’t know what I would have done. Do I remind you of Mary? There is no counterfactual to suffering – it is a reality of life. But I believe that Jesus, a God who suffers along with us and took on our sins and burdens as his own, is the key to overcoming suffering.

The client’s problem is the firm’s problem. And even two millennia removed from modern corporate matters, this reflection brings us back. Jesus seems to bring this very approach to Martha and Mary’s problem. He wept with them, and then he performed the miracle of bringing Lazarus back from the dead.

When a potential client requires legal services, it will eventually have to choose one firm or the other in order to continue. Similarly, humans are in dire need of assistance with navigating the maze of life. At some point, we must have faith enough to depend on something, and I believe that Jesus Christ offers us salvation and eternal success.

In order to raise awareness two thousand years ago, God sent John the Baptist, and today we have celebrities, theologians, scholars and laypeople who circulate the good news. In order to cultivate relationships two thousand years ago, Jesus challenged the status quo of work-based-living, and today he still challenges us to a deeper reality. In order to win relationships two thousand years ago, Jesus exemplified the “in it together” mentality by dying on the cross, and today he still offers us that chance at life. The only thing the individual or client must do is accept the proposal.

4. Account Management

If one is brave enough to accept the proposal, the client moves into the fourth stage of the Sales Funnel: Account Management. In order to maintain a healthy relationship, both the client and the firm must be mutually willing to continue sacrificing resources with an eye toward care for their counterpart. The firm must be intentional in making the client feel cared for, and the client must repeatedly renew its need for the firm’s legal services.

There are three ways in which the firm retains its clients, and I believe they reflect how we can maintain our relationship with God. The first way in which the firm preserves communication with clients is through the practice of client visits, both informal and formal. During these visits, the firm might remind the client of some potential violations or give counsel on a new matter. The client can also initiate these visits to ensure that they are not erring in their field of practice or to simply thank the firm for their help. As Christians, our “client visits” can manifest themselves in prayer. Without prayer, we have no communication with God and can lose our grip on reality. We can find ourselves slowly slipping away into sin, thereby alienating ourselves from God and losing gratitude for his essential grace.

The second component of maintaining firm-client relations is client feedback. Every so often, the firm hires a third party to solicit clients opinions on the firm’s performance. Both parties must analyze past interactions for feedback for improvement. There is often knowledge to be gleaned from working through these evaluations and hearing your associate’s thoughts. Christians require feedback as well, and God’s consistent way of talking to us is through Scripture.

The third part of account management comes through the formation of client teams. The firm assembles groups of attorneys to cater to the specific needs of the most committed clients. These attorneys are chosen with regard to their proficiencies in certain practice areas and according to the client in question. For instance, the client team for a bank would be chosen from a pool of attorneys in the Financial Services and Transactions practice group. With regards to our spiritual environment, I believe that it is of paramount importance for Christians to physically surround themselves with people who will hold them accountable and encourage them in their relationship with God. These intentional relationships are the foundation for Christian community.

We the Client and God the Firm

We have now exhaustively progressed through each phase of the Sales Funnel and the according phases of God’s relationship with individuals. To me, the similarities between the two models – one set forth in the Bible two thousand years ago and the other in practice for corporate strategy today – cannot be pure coincidence. It seems likely that there is a deeper reality linking these two seemingly disjointed frameworks. The reality that Christians believe is this: God created this world with intentionality and revealed best practices through Jesus Christ’s actions, words, and ultimate death and resurrection. There is an interweaving fabric to this world, and a closer look at any practice which makes organizations, relationships, and life flourish – even something as relatively arcane as the Sales Funnel – points to it: God’s truth.

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