Acquiring only what we need and can afford: Getting to “yes” with a vendor behaving like LexisNexis requires one shared imperative that is missing right now

Some six or seven (or eight?) years ago I attended an annual LexisNexis sales force meeting held in Las Vegas, having been invited to speak to inside print sales reps about being an LN customer in one session. While at the annual meeting I sat in on a general meeting of all inside and outside account reps. From this meeting I remember Keith Hawk, then SVP of Sales, speaking about the ethical obligation LN and its sales force had to the company’s customers, an ethical imperative defined as providing lawyers with the professional grade legal resources they need to practice their profession. That was refreshing to hear. It implied that the Company’s sales reps weren’t being instructed to cram down sales of unnecessary legal resources in unwanted formats as a matter of corporate sales policy.

My, how times have changed. Keith Hawk has left LexisNexis. The ethical sales imperative he spoke of appears to have left LN too. This is evident from reports that allege LexisNexis has a new sales policy that finds expression in LexisNexis negotiation ultimatums which tie print and/or ancillary products to licensing Lexis Advance. (LLB posts here, here and here.) Such ultimatums result in law firms and government libraries buying what they don’t need if they can afford to do that, or not being able to acquire what they need for their user population because they cannot afford the additional expense of the tie-in being offered in what appears to be a take it or leave it basis. In those situations, the ethical imperative of selling only those legal resources lawyers need in the formats the buyer chooses has been violated by the seller. That’s just not how to successfully maintain and grow stable win-win vendor-law library relationships in the context of B2B sales.

But are LN’s reported tactics really a new sales policy? What may have happened, at least some instances, was that LN was getting push back from law libraries that didn’t want to transition from Lexis.com to Lexis Advance and LN decided to do some of its own push-back by denying those libraries print and ancillary products. That’s purely speculative on my part, but if true, it is no excuse for violating what had been an ethical imperative that once defined LN’s relationship with its client base. Remember when Thomson Reuters was the “evil” vendor?

Unfortunately, these days we really cannot forecast LN’s ultimate corporate objectives. Nothing much is long term at LexisNexis. LN’s almost annual tradition of corporate-wide reorganizations have taken its toll. Talent and institutional memory have walked out the door, sometimes voluntarily, oftentimes not. LexisNexis Legal is in an almost constant state of flux with chaos reigning in both the company’s cubicle farms and its executive suites. — Joe

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