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The Managing Partners Podcast

Owen Van Syckle

Episode # 231
Interview on 12.08.2022
Hosted By: Erik J. Olson
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About Owen Van Syckle

Representing: Van Syckle Group | Sales Acceleration Academy

Owen Van Syckle is the Founder and President of The Van Syckle Group a sales acceleration firm. Prior to starting his own companies, Owen worked as a General Manager/International Director of Sales and Marketing at a regional textile company that went from start-up to 52 million in 6 years. In 2015 Owen Van Syckle started Van Syckle Financial Group, LLC. He is the author of the book: What You Know About Selling Is NOT True.

Other Accomplishments:
– Top Forty under 40, 2010
– Founder of the Presidents Luncheon
– Chairman of SMEI (Sales and Marketing Executives International) of Hampton Roads
– Graduate of Leadership Hampton Roads class 2009
– Founder of the Sales Acceleration Academy
– Appointed by Governor McDonnell to the Commonwealth of Virginia Small Business Commission 2013-2014
– Graduate of Civic Leadership Class of 2015

Learn from his expertise and what trends are helping grow his firm on this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast!

Episode transcript

Erik J. Olson (00:01):

Hey everybody. It is Erik J. Olson, your host for this episode of the managing partners podcast on the managing partners podcast, we feature, we usually feature, I should say, managing partners of law firms that are trying to run their business more effectively and grow their business and get more clients. But today, cause I said before, usually we don’t have a managing partner on, we have someone that works with managing partners like you to help you with your sales. So you’re gonna need to stay tuned to the very end because I can’t wait to share the phone number that you can call in order to contact our guests. It’s a really cool phone number. You’re gonna love it. And I think it’s a really good indicator of how he can help you present your law firm and get more opportunities to convert. So without further ado, Owen vans, Hey guys,

Owen Van Syckle (00:53):

Hey bud, how are you?

Erik J. Olson (00:55):

I’m great, man. So for the audience Owen and I have worked together for years he is a sales coach of hours here at array digital and he’s been incredibly helpful giving us guidance and helping us kind of understand a little more about the psychology of sales and when we should be asking questions and things like that. So he’s been a very good coach for me and the others that do some selling here, but oh, and can, first of all, before I, I, I started on the questions. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and your firm?

Owen Van Syckle (01:30):

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you’ve been doing this 22 years. I started when I was 12. Just kidding.

Erik J. Olson (01:39):

I was gonna say, I mean, Hey, you sold me on that.

Owen Van Syckle (01:42):

<Laugh> so I mean, it’s essentially, if you really foundationally break this down for law firms and for practices, we grow top line, we grow origination. We do it through training and coaching. We have a unique proprietary process that gets the participant or the lawyer or the BD people to instill the behaviors and the behavior modification. And it all starts with what’s between their heads. So you’ve opened up talking about sales on a managing partner podcast. When in fact they have different thoughts about what they think that word means, whether it’s business development, origination sales, so we start right there. Yep. And then we give them the skills to help them originate more business into larger much larger cases.

Erik J. Olson (02:34):

Yeah. So very few law firms, at least that I’ve been exposed to have dedicated sales people. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> they usually have intake specialists or they have a call center. Do you work with those folks as well as your traditional sales people?

Owen Van Syckle (02:50):

Yeah. We actually work with all layers of the practice. So it starts with right. You, you and Ray are experts making the phone ring for the clients. Right. You make the phone ring, you get ’em to fill out the forms and you create that opportunity. So it really starts there with intake specialist receptionist. So it starts, how do we move it from there all the way up. But we do a lot of work directly with the attorneys. The attorneys are client facing. They typically haven’t developed any kind of business development skills. They’re typically not the best at originating new business if they are, they’re probably on their own <laugh>. Yeah.

Erik J. Olson (03:36):

And it it’s an incredibly important factor in building a law firm is lead with case generation, right. And origination. Yeah. And, and it, and you’re right. It’s, it’s something that is definitely not taught in a law school. It’s something that most lawyers, most managing partners, most partners need to figure out on their own. And, and, and that’s been shared on this podcast many, many times is that they don’t like, first of all, they don’t have a lot of time to, to figure these things out. And so when they do get into a situation, they need to be as efficient as possible because you’re billing by the hour. And if you’re just, you’re losing these opportunities left and right. And you’re spending time doing that, that, that can hurt a lot. You know, you, you had mentioned your proprietary system. Can you explain just a little bit about what that is?

Owen Van Syckle (04:25):

Yeah, absolutely. So I like to call it, we, we drip train. So we give a client a little bit of information about the business development process. We send them out to use it. We have ’em demonstrate it. We prove it out, helps them with the beliefs that actually, oh, okay. It worked. And then we come back and we give them a little bit more, most training programs, sometimes coaching, most training programs are fire hose approach. Yeah. One day, two day, half day. So we are all about the drip and changing the behavior modification. So it can become the unconscious competent. If I could say that.

Erik J. Olson (05:07):

I, I think that’s a good approach. I mean, I appreciate that approach to the drip a little bit here a little bit more. The next time we see you, the follow up is really good as well. And, and anytime that I do like the fire hose approach, like you’re talking about I, I come out invigorated and then I go back to the real world that I’ve got a ton of things to do. And before I know it, two weeks have pass and I forgot everything that I learned in that seminar.

Owen Van Syckle (05:30):

That’s exactly right

Erik J. Olson (05:31):

Now, is this like one-on-one coaching in person? Is it virtual these days? Do you have like an online platform?

Owen Van Syckle (05:38):

Yeah. Great question. We spent three years building a state of state of the art LMS system. So we’ve broken down the entire business development sales process by module by topics. So participants can easily navigate inside of that and it’s on demand. So it gives us a lot of flexibility for delivery to busy attorneys because they’re all very busy. So whether they’re reviewing some content before we come in and do some coaching, whether they’re reviewing a module or we’re taking a piece of the business development process, or whether we’re doing it on site using just gives us a lot of flexibility the way we design that platform.

Erik J. Olson (06:22):

Yeah. I, I, I think it’s incredibly applicable to law firms. Oh. And like you said before, like at array digital, our job is to create attention, create opportunities, get the form filled out, get the phone ringing. But that that’s it for us. Like we don’t get involved in the sales and what, what, what nobody wants is for those opportunities to be lost. And so that that’s where like the sales training can really have a big impact. And again, the psychology of sales and the, the process that you’re in. What, what is, what is kind of a, a typical scenario for you when you work with the law firm? Like, do you find that the people that are on the front lines of business development, like they, they know exactly what they’re doing and they wanna a tune up or they’ve kind of learned on their own or they’re starting from scratch.

Owen Van Syckle (07:15):

Yeah. we find the number one problem is head trash. I like this. Yeah. I like to use that word. Right. So what’s between their ears. So you have lawyers, attorneys that have come through law school. Right. They have a skill. They are educated and they’re probably really good at what they do. So some of them have beliefs that, you know, the work just needs to come in. Right. And they need to use their expertise, whether it’s transactional or complex to do the work and bill by the hour. So the first thing that we address is what’s between their ears. What does business development mean to them? What does closing a sale mean to them? Origination and walking through beliefs they have created and how that’s impacting the results. So we start right there and then once we work through that and I’ll get on the same page, then we can move them to training process system and how to move from that phone ringing to a new client.

Erik J. Olson (08:23):

Yeah. Yeah. The, the head trash, I think is a very valuable component of it because everybody has their own opinions about the sales process, origination. We can call whatever we want, but it’s, it is a sales process. How you feel about it, some of the assumptions that you make. Oh, oh. And one of the things that you worked with us on when it comes to head trash was the assumptions about what a, a managing partner knows and how much time they have. So like, what we discovered by working with you was that we were trying to just cram too much into a very short meeting. I mean, I’m all for short meetings, but they need to have a little bit of structure. And maybe sometimes a second meeting is required instead of trying to take a, a 30 minute meeting and make it into a 45 minute meeting. And so that’s been very, very helpful for us when you’ve identified that we have an underlying belief that is not serving us properly.

Owen Van Syckle (09:24):

Yeah. Especially when a firm or a company like yours wants to start moving into the larger cases in the larger work that processes can be a little bit longer, you know, so, you know, for, for a law firm, they’ve got their transactional work and things like that, our process really works well when they’re wanting to move into larger cases, complex estate planning, where their clients are meeting with a couple different firms and interviewing those firms. If I may say it that way, or general counsel work for mid mid-size companies who don’t have general counsels. I mean, when they start moving and wanting to move into that kind of work or close those types of cases or originate our process comes into play real well there,

Erik J. Olson (10:18):

You know, one of the things that I hear from managing partners that are our guests is the number one way that they originate cases is referrals. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And, and, and they don’t actually try that much sometimes in some cases, or feel like they need to go get new cases besides the referrals. But I would imagine that even in referral situation, you still have to do a little bit of business development there, make sure that, you know, the process that you’re going through. How do referrals play into your system?

Owen Van Syckle (10:52):

Yeah. Great. <Laugh> I love this. I’m doing a workshop tomorrow on this exact topic. So man, I, I wish I was more prepared. I would’ve pulled up some, you know, some samples here and walked it through it. So I’ll make, I’ll try to make this short Eric keep, keep it short. Cause I get like the here on my next standing up, we look as at referrals as one channel of lead generation one.

Erik J. Olson (11:18):


Owen Van Syckle (11:18):

We, we, we preach and teach seven channels, right? So referrals, strategic partnerships, quality introductions, networking, direct marketing like you do. So we have these cha we actually call it the prospecting hierarchy. So what we know is if we don’t have at least five of those channels working and being measured, then we have some risk mm-hmm <affirmative> because we typically rely on one or two channels, but something’s going to happen. Eventually whether they dry up the economy, something will happen. So having five channels going at one time, so referrals are huge. We love referrals, shorter sales cycle origination, higher close ratios, love referrals, much more relationship driven. But that’s one of seven that we, that we train on.

Erik J. Olson (12:14):

Yeah. And one of the things that we, we, we just confirmed yesterday, we looked it up yesterday. We were having an internal debate about referrals versus finding new opportunities online. So one of the, the thing that we confirmed was how many people actually, when they’re searching for a professional product service or any kind of solution to a problem, how many of those people would go online? And, and the answer is 97%, 97% of people search right off the bat in a place like Google. But, but I would imagine even in a referral situation, they’re still gonna do a little bit of due diligence. Right. And so E they may, they may have been a referral, but, but when they get to you, you’re not aware of that. Right. They may have come through your normal channels as well. So there there’s, there’s a lot of considerations there. And you know, you said seven, five to seven different like sources, lead sources. I completely agree if you depend on one. Yeah. It’s, it’s not enough. You need to be where people can find you. And there’s lots of different ways. So like actually, can we kind of go through those? I, I know you probably don’t have the list in front of you, but yeah. So certainly referrals.

Owen Van Syckle (13:27):

If I’m looking at my pyramid, cuz I have to define some of our definitions of these channels, mean different things to people. So at the top we, we call that quality introduction and, and Eric, that is a face to face personal introduction. So if, if I knew somebody in our region that needed digital marketing, instead of me saying, call Eric at Ray, they’re amazing. I say, Eric, can you meet us for coffee?

Erik J. Olson (13:56):

Yeah. And I

Owen Van Syckle (13:57):

Wanted the personal face to face introduction. I just, I just gave you my halo and it’s, it’s pretty much an immediate close. So below that is strategic partnerships. And this is a cooperative. What we call a cooperative reciprocal relationship. You see this a lot in different industries, like mortgage brokers and real estate agents, right? So they’re cooperative and they’re reciprocating back and forth below. That is what we would say, referrals. And we, we look at that channel coming from clients or customers because even though strategic partners can be considered referrals, we actually break that out into a different segment. Under that you’re gonna find networking, you know, chambers of commerce associations, very industry specific things coming on down there, you’re gonna find direct marketing, right? The type of work you do. Another one under there is gonna be workshops and seminars, right? Bringing and educating, being an expert. And then at the bottom, which is still existent in some industries would be cold calling.

Erik J. Olson (15:07):

I thought you were gonna say the yellow pages.

Owen Van Syckle (15:10):

<Laugh>, that’s what it was back in the day. You just start thumbing through the yellow pages.

Erik J. Olson (15:14):

Apparently they still exist cuz we had a guest on and he says he still advertises on the back of the yellow pages in his metropolitan area. But he doesn’t expect any leaves. He just wants to secure that spot. So no one else gets it. I haven’t seen a phone book in years. I was surprised.

Owen Van Syckle (15:31):


Erik J. Olson (15:32):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s that, that, Hey that’s that could add to your seven, I guess. Yeah,

Owen Van Syckle (15:38):

That’s right. I might put that below. I don’t know if it goes below cold calls or above cold calls. Yeah. Well we’ll figure

Erik J. Olson (15:43):

It out. So it’s interesting that you, you say code call cold calling is kind of like at the bottom and if it exists in some industries, why, why, why do you kind of phrase it like that as, I mean I’m, I’m guessing that is not typical for a law firm at all. Not

Owen Van Syckle (16:00):

Typical. No, no, not at all.

Erik J. Olson (16:03):

You need a personal injury lawyer.

Owen Van Syckle (16:05):

Yeah. There, there are some industries today that still do cold calling. There are actually organizations, businesses that do and are hired and subcontract contracted out to do cold calling for companies. So it still exists. Yeah. Is a ton of work. Very low return on time. But it’s still in there. Yeah. It’s still in there. I mean technology there’s so much that it’s changed. Relationship. Lots changed in many years, but it’s still in the list.

Erik J. Olson (16:38):

We got a call today in the office and it was from a high school that was doing some fundraising and it was a great cold call. And and I, this is Kevin received it, our co-founder here. And I say, you should have asked her if she wants a job. Cuz she was really good <laugh>. But, but it, that takes a lot of practice and a lot of confidence and most people aren’t want to do it. But yeah, I don’t think I could only imagine maybe for managing partners, it would be applicable if you’re a, a B2B business or like tax attorney. But certainly if it’s any kind of B2C family law PI you have to wait for them to come to you. Yeah.

Owen Van Syckle (17:15):

Most of our law firms are gonna be at the top of that pyramid.

Erik J. Olson (17:18):


Owen Van Syckle (17:19):

And, and even if they’re doing something in the middle, we’re always pushing them up. How do we create and get better results in those other categories?

Erik J. Olson (17:27):

Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. Like the partnerships that’s that’s widely used as far as referral partners in the industry. Like if just as an example, I’ve already said like personal injury and family law, if I was a personal injury lawyer and someone came to me with a family matter, I could refer them to my family, lawyer partner. Right. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so I guess what you’re you, you, you would advise to go find more partnerships like that.

Owen Van Syckle (17:52):

Yeah. The larger firms much better at that. The mid side firms and the small firms anywhere from two to 12 attorneys, not so good at that. You’d be surprised you would be shocked when the estate planning attorney sitting across the hall

Erik J. Olson (18:11):


Owen Van Syckle (18:12):

And, and, and, and, and the attorney’s doing a lot of business corporate work and knowing that business owner probably needs some level of estate planning and won’t ask or walk it over. It’s amazing. Yeah. Just cuz they’re not cognizant and they’re not thinking about

Erik J. Olson (18:28):

It. They’re not thinking about business development. They’re

Owen Van Syckle (18:30):

Billing, they’re

Erik J. Olson (18:31):

Billing out. They’re thinking about doing interesting. Yeah. Yeah. That that’s, that’s the mindset shift that needs to occur. So well, cool. Owen, this has been real helpful. If someone is interested in finding out more about you, maybe interested in your services, your academy, how can they find you? Oh, by the way, everybody, this is the cool phone number that’s about to come up.

Owen Van Syckle (18:51):

<Laugh> they can find us the the, the catchall website right there. Owen van So that’s O w E N V as in victory, a N S as in Sam, Y C K L or they can call us at seven, five, seven results. Do you, you know where that came from, Eric? That phone number?

Erik J. Olson (19:15):

Well, no, I don’t. I don’t.

Owen Van Syckle (19:17):

Okay. Every client wants that. <Laugh>

Erik J. Olson (19:20):

Yeah, no, that’s great. It’s fantastic. When I saw him, like, yeah, I wish I had that. And, and actually I asked you like, how’d you get it? And how long have you had it for? Right. Yeah. So very cool. That’s awesome. Well, cool Owen. Hey, thanks so much. Alright, everybody go call Owen S seven five seven results, or go to his website, Owen And if you are interested in digital marketing for your law firm, you can check out my All right, Owen. Thanks bud.

Owen Van Syckle (19:50):

Thank you, Eric.

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