Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Tis the Season for Peace, Equality - and Providing Value

This is the time of year for celebrating (or at least aspiring to) things like peace on earth and equality for all. In that spirit of the season, I’ve included this week’s holiday business development quote with a message from Hanukkah.

May the lights acts of Hanukkah business development usher in a better world for all humankind your Clients. 

This slightly embellished quote from an unknown author shows the similarities between the spirit of the holiday season and the spirit of successful business development. To summarize the sentiment: To develop business, find ways to help your Clients and give first before you ever expect to receive.

This means you don’t walk into the meeting with the glossy multi-color brochures that talk about all your fancy offices and pedigrees. The minute you leave, they go right in the circular file. Don't talk about how great your firm is: “the smartest attorneys from the best schools with the most expertise in most every area of law and the most offices to serve the most prestigious clients with the most difficult problems..."

Enough with the fa la la blah blah blah. They’ve heard it all before, and frankly it doesn’t differentiate you from the other firms they are talking to. Instead, to set you and your firm apart, focus on consistently providing value to Clients and prospects before you ever expect to get something in return. Here are a few ideas:

Instead of a brochure, carry a folder to the meeting that contains an article you’ve written on a topic this is relevant to the person. Brief them on a change in the law that will likely affect their company. Provide ideas for avoiding potential risks. Find ways to improve efficiency. Suggest sources of financing. Most importantly, ask questions about their issues and needs in the upcoming year – and come up with solutions that you could help them implement.

If you just do a few of these things with a spirit of giving, without expecting anything in return, you will often find that that the prospect will want to work with you. See, sometimes it really is better to give than to receive…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nailing Events with CRM

There is often no better way to develop business than getting face-to-face with Clients and prospects. This may explain why so many law firms spend so much time and dedicate so many resources to events. 

While the types of events are diverse – lunches and dinners, cocktail parties, seminars, roundtables, golf outings, sports tickets, political mixers, charity projects, open houses – the challenges are the same: distributing the event details, sending invitations, gathering RSVP's, assembling attendee lists, printing name tags, scheduling follow up and, in a perfect world, tracking business development progress with prospects who attended.

As a result, successfully managing events can be extremely complex and challenging. It requires a significant amount of effective communication and coordination. Hmmm, sound familiar? Yes, you guessed it: exactly the things that CRM does really, really well.

As with other types of communications, CRM allows the attorneys to quickly and easily contribute contacts to the firm’s central CRM database, where those contacts can be deduplicated to prevent sending multiple invitations. They can also be categorized and added to event lists, or lists can be generated by searches of contacts who meet certain criteria like: people with HR Director titles to be invited to an employment seminar or people in the Hospitality industry to be sent an invitation for a roundtable on hotel financing options.

Before the event, invitations can be emailed to relevant lists of contacts directly from the CRM system or the lists can be imported into the firm’s email software for distribution. With advanced analytics, the firm can track who received the invitation, who opened it, who RSVP’d and who actually attended. 
At the event, attendee lists and nametags can be printed for check-in. Activities will then be added to each contact record automatically so that end users can see the status of each invitee. 

After the event, reminders can be set in the system and assigned to individuals who will be tasked with following up with prospects or leads. With additional CRM modules or modifications, these leads can be turned into opportunities that can be assigned to individual attorneys and tracked through the business development cycle or pipeline. All with CRM. See why there is often no better tool than the CRM ‘hammer ‘when you need to nail down events …

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Every Day 'Tis the Season for Business Development

"Peace on earth Plenty of Clients will come to stay, when we live Christmas business development every day."

This is a great (and slightly modified) holiday quote from Helen Steiner Rice – and it couldn’t be more applicable. To be successful at business development, we have to focus on it literally all the time – even during the holidays.

Every day, we have to make the time to build and maintain relationships. One of the reasons that business development requires such a consistent and continual time commitment is that research shows that it often takes more than seven interactions to turn a prospect into a Client. Yes, I know that sounds like a lot. The good news is only 10 percent of people are willing to commit that time. So really, all you have to do is hang in there and 90 percent of your competition will give up. Persistence really does pay.

We also have to take the time to reach out to Clients and prospects we haven't connected with in a while. Here’s a little something sobering to think about while drinking your eggnog: any Client you haven't spoken with in six months or more may not actually be your Client anymore. If we don't take the time to nurture our Client relationships, someone else will be more than happy to. 

So forget the fruitcakes (or other only slightly more thoughtful gifts) - break out the mistletoe and get close to Clients (ok, maybe not that close). Just pick up the phone and wish them a happy holiday. Or better yet, connect with them in person. Take them out to dinner and thank them for their business. This can also be the perfect time to arrange end-of-year reviews. Talk to them about what next year may bring. If you ask the right questions and share information about how you can help them, you may even discover an opportunity to work together in the new year. What a nice present...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pounding Out Communications with the CRM Hammer

When it comes to issues with firm communications, the CRM hammer hits these challenges, well... right on the head. CRM is an excellent tool for helping a firm plan and execute marketing campaigns and distribute all types of communications.

First, CRM allows all of the professionals' contacts to flow into the system directly from Outlook, which means there are very few changes to their business processes and they don’t have to use – or be trained on – new software. Then, CRM systems provide tools to allow contacts to be more quickly and easily standardized and deduplicated. This ensures that contact information is consistent and complete and prevents multiple communications from being sent to the same recipients.

Finally, contacts can be easily categorized and added to lists. This allows the firm to segment contacts to make sure, for instance, that the firm’s alerts are sent to all Clients and prospects, while at the same time preventing them from being sent to competitors. Contacts can also be sorted by industry or practice to make sure that they get the communications that are relevant to their needs and interests.

Additionally, after each e-mail or other communication has been sent, an activity can be automatically associated with each contact so that the professionals and other users can simply open a contact record to see who received what, and when. And if you think CRM is great for managing communications, wait ‘til you hear how it can improve event management…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Tis the Season for Business Development

As the holiday season kicks off, the sounds of the season are in the air and everywhere (including the almost unlimited commercials that make me want to hug my Tivo). After being subjected to a multitude of mundane messages and monotonous Hallmark moments, I started to wonder if some of them might actually have some value for helping my Clients to develop business. So for the rest of the month, I’ll be looking at a few of these little ‘gifts’ to see how they might be helpful for improving our business development efforts and keep on ‘giving’ all year long. 

"Christmas Business Development is doing a little something extra for someone."

This quote, borrowed (and slightly improvised) from Charles Schulz, seems a particularly relevant message, since true business development is all about doing things for others – and often, it really is the little things that count.

Business development is all about building relationships – authentic relationships. To establish these types of relationships, the potential Client has to feel that you are putting their interests above your own self-interest. Conveying this impression is almost impossible to fake (that's why they are called authentic relationships, right?) One of the best ways to build authentic relationships is to do a little something extra.

Like what, you may ask? Well, here are a few ideas you can try with potential Clients: spend a few minutes of non-billable time to answer an important question, send a personalized e-mail or note with an article on a relevant topic, give some money (or even better, time) to a charity that they care about. People will forget that animated e-mail holiday greeting with the canned jingle in about 4 seconds, but they rarely forget these types of things.

So stop spending all of the time, money (and anguish) that is often wasted on the holiday cards and instead focus on building relationships. If you do this, not only will you grow your practice, you might even start feeling that holiday spirit all year long.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bucket of CRM Nails

Law firms often have buckets of issues that are particularly ‘pointed’ and for which there may simply never be a substitute for the trusty (or some might argue rusty) old CRM hammer. These types of issues come in many varieties, but they almost always involve communication, coordination, collaboration, Client service or, most importantly, business development.

Over and over again, I hear marketing professionals and attorneys complaining that they invested a significant amount of money in this or that CRM system and all they got was a mailing list or a ‘glorified Rolodex’. To address this complaint, I have to say that most of the people who make these types of claims have never actually had to do a law firm mailing themselves.

In fact, every single time I discuss CRM success with managing partners of firms of all sizes, from 27 attorneys to more than 1000, the number one frustration that they unanimously articulate involves the inability to communicate effectively with Clients and prospects. They just don’t understand why the firm can't seem to compile a current, correct and easily updated list of Clients and other contacts and why they can't seem to effectively execute something as 'simple' as an e-mail campaign. These issues can be a source of tremendous frustration in law firms...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taking U Out of Your Cross Selling Alphabet

There is probably no objective that law firms put more emphasis on achieving – or that they fail more frequently at than cross selling. This may be because many law firms or lawyers don’t really understand what cross selling is all about.

Sure, some attorneys will do the work to figure out who could help them. They will identify other attorneys in their firm or professionals outside the firm whose Clients could be excellent potential sources of business for them. A few will even pick up the big, scary telephone and call these people. The real go-getters may even set up a meeting to talk about what they do and how the other person may be able to help them do more of it. And then they sit back and wonder why almost nothing ever comes of all this time and effort.

OK, here is the secret to why cross selling fails so often: like everything else in business development, it’s not about YOU. It’s not about how you can get the other person to help you. Cross selling is about figuring out how you can help the other person. This may sound counterintuitive, I know, but it’s still true. So start by removing you from your cross selling conversations...

Friday, November 12, 2010

The CRM Hammer

If we are going to think or talk about CRM as a tool, I think it begs the question: which tool would CRM be? In the wide world of tools, I think a lot of people would say that CRM is most like the hammer. It’s been around for a really long time. It can sometimes be big, clunky and even a bit unwieldy. It’s definitely not sexy. And if you don’t pay attention to how you swing it, you can certainly cause a lot of damage – and with CRM, it can be way worse than just smashing your thumb.

Additionally, since the dawn of the hammer, which is a pretty long time, there have been quite a few new electronic tools invented, like ERM, blogs and social media, to name only a few. So it makes sense to ask, with all this cool new stuff, do we really even still need the hammer?

Frankly, all of these shiny new tools are great problem solvers - until you are faced with a problem that looks like a nail. This is why none of these new tools have really 'replaced' the CRM hammer as a staple in any first-rate tool kit…

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Betting on Your Referral Sources

Obviously focusing on referral sources is a really smart bet, but if you want to improve your odds for success, you have to be willing to up the ante and invest the time to educate them.

To really improve your payoff, you need your referral sources to say great things about you. Not just broad generalities, like that you’re a really smart lawyer who works with really great companies and who went to a really good law school. While all of that may be nice, it doesn't set you apart - and it's not likely to get you hired, especially by sophisticated buyers of legal services in the current hyper-competitive legal marketplace. In this game, frankly, being qualified is table stakes. Getting hired requires value – and value is about helping people.

So your referral sources have to understand the value you bring to the table. They should know your area of specialty, your ideal Client, your target market and any niche expertise you may have. Even better, they should be able to convey how you help Clients find creative solutions to challenging problems or achieve superior results.

You also want them to communicate not only that you are a great lawyer, but also that you are a great person to work with - someone who understands the Client’s business and industry, is responsive, provides great service and doesn't overcharge. Ultimately, this will position you as a trusted - and there is no better position to be in. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

CRM - Alive and Kicking

And yet, despite all the challenges in the past, people are still investing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in CRM systems. In fact, in recent years, the worldwide CRM market revenue has actually grown 12.5 percent, according to leading technology research firm Gartner. Based on this, CRM still seems be very much alive and kicking.

Why is this? Perhaps it could be because CRM is the essential tool for enhancing communication, coordination and client service. Despite all of the new technological developments, when it comes to managing the myriad relationships that are essential to developing – and growing – your business and practice, there is no better tool for the job.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Focus on Referrals

So why would you take the time to focus on referral sources when there are other business development activities you could be spending your time on? First, it’s often much easier to get business from a referred prospect. In fact, research suggests you are almost twice as likely to get business from referred prospects. This is because they have essentially been pre-sold on your services by someone else who presumably had nothing to gain by making the referral.

Leveraging referrals may also be the most cost effective way to get business. Some business development experts have suggested that it may cost up to 400% more to get business from a prospect who has not been referred. It can also take up to twice as long to get business from a prospect without a referral because you haven't yet received that third party endorsement. As a result, unreferred prospects will often require you to demonstrate your experience, participate in a lengthy proposal process, provide a number of references or jump through other hoops, substantially lengthening the business development cycle.

Finally, when cultivated and cared for, referral sources are likely to stay with you longer, utilize more of your services and ultimately spend more with you. And they will often end up being most loyal Clients you have. Oh, and referrals are also free. All in all, it's hard to think of a reason not to focus on referrals. They are as close as you can get to printing money.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

CRM On the Shelf

It’s easy to question the relevance of CRM now that there is newer technology on the market or because of the CRM implementations that failed to meet expectations in the past. What is more difficult is to take some responsibility for CRM’s past failure

CRM is about people, process and technology – and when systems failed in the past, it was largely due to people and process issues, not the CRM technology. CRM requires a fundamental change in the way firms think about and manage relationships, and a lot of firms just weren’t prepared to deal with the change. CRM also requires significant resources in terms of time, money and people, and many firms weren't ready or willing to dedicate the necessary resources. 

Another problem in the past was that people’s expectations for CRM were sometimes unrealistic. They tried to do too many things too quickly. Many firms bought CRM systems thinking they would solve all the firm’s communication and relationship management problems. Guess what… they didn’t’. 

Some responsibility should also be shared by any of the CRM providers who touted all of CRM’s bells and whistles and trotted out the dogs and ponies during demonstrations, or the ones who recommended that firms roll CRM out firm-wide as quickly as possible so they could sell the most licenses in the least amount of time. Both of these strategies often backfired, resulting in a lot of CRM systems becoming shelf-ware – and a lot of customers becoming dissatisfied...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Referrals – Across the Street or Across the Hall

Once you have determined to focus on referrals, the next step is to figure out how to make them effective sources for developing new business. Help them help you... literally.

To actually refer you business, your referral sources have to be able to articulate good reasons for people to consult with – and ultimately hire – you. To do this, they actually have to know what you do. While this may sound obvious, I've seen plenty of attorneys who refer work across the street because they have no idea that another attorney, who just happens to be right across the hall, is well-versed in the same area of law that one of their current Clients has a need for. 

Think about it: do you have more than cursory knowledge about the practices of all of the other attorneys in your firm? Do you know the types of Clients they work with, the issues they help to deal with or the types of results they achieve? If you don’t, then don’t assume that other attorneys know your business...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Is CRM Dead?

It might appear that the development of all of this new relationship management technology could make the old CRM seem a little, well… tired. Let’s face it, it does seem like CRM has gotten a little long in the tooth. Some people might even say it needs to have some serious work done.

As a result, one question I’ve often heard asked is, “With all of new products, services and technology that are available for managing relationships, is CRM still relevant?” Taken to the extreme, we could even ask: is CRM dead?

It makes sense that this question would – and should – be asked considering the millions of collective dollars that have been spent on CRM systems over several decades – and the disappointing results that many people have reported as a result. In fact, at one point, pundits had proclaimed that more than 70% of all CRM implementation failed to meet expectations. So this question certainly deserves an answer – and some attention…

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Referrals - The Gift That Keeps on Giving

So what is the key to getting business from referral sources? First, like most everything else in business development: you need to give before you can expect to receive. If you want people to refer business to you, you should start by making referrals yourself.

The great thing about referrals is that they are the gift that keeps on giving: when you do nice things for people – like send them business – they often will be eager to repay you in kind. 

So start looking for opportunities to make referrals. They should be plentiful. As a trusted advisor, and a pretty smart individual (you made it through law school, didn’t you) it only makes sense that Clients and friends may come to you for advice on all sorts of issues. Find ways to help them – while helping the individuals you refer – who later may then help you. Look at it as a win-win… win.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Evolution of (X)RM

Law firm business development is all about relationships. So it is not surprising that there has been a continual and ongoing search for technology and tools to assist firms in discovering and leveraging these crucial relationships.

For decades, the relationship technology tool of choice for law firms was CRM (Client Relationship Management). A large number of firms spent large sums of money attempting to deploy these systems to gain relationship intelligence and enhance Client communication, collaboration and service. But time has shown that CRM success can be challenging. In fact, some research indicated that over 70% of CRM implementations may have failed to meet expectations.

Then came ERM (Enterprise Relationship Management), a technology that promised to reveal vast numbers of relationships with minimal effort required from attorneys. But as powerful as ERM may be for discovering relationships, it wasn't a complete solution to help firms leverage those relationships.

Lately social media is all the rage – and we have new and sexy SRM (Social Relationship Management), technology touted to assist us with monitoring and managing these social networks and relationships in the hopes of increasing ‘engagement’ and ultimately, revenue. With the advent of all this exciting new technology, it’s not surprising that some people have questioned whether CRM is still relevant…

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Referrals We Trust

People often say that word of mouth advertising is incredibly powerful. We know this must be true because almost every survey of buyers of professional services ever undertaken suggests that a personal referral is always the primary driver of the selection process. 

Referrals are incredibly credible and, even better, they're free. And as social media has gained in popularity – and influence – the power of referrals has become amplified. As a result, referral sources should always be included in your business development planning.

When thinking about potential referral sources you should consider current and previous Clients, friends, colleagues, other types of professionals with complementary practices, members of associations or organizations you are active in or anyone else who likes you and values the service you provide. 

One category of potential referral source never to forget is other attorneys in your firm. It’s not uncommon for attorneys to refer work across the street instead of across the hall because a potential referral relationship hadn't been cultivated. This is the worst kind of lost opportunity. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Data Quality Depression - Get Help…Somewhere

So what do you do if you feel like you are drowning in CRM data quality problems and you just can't seem to get help from within your firm – or if you don’t have months to spend manually cleaning and deduplicating your data?

One solution is to pay a data quality company to clean and deduplicate your data. During this process, data is typically matched up electronically against a postal database to append and standardize mailing addresses. The output generated is typically a very large spreadsheet of potential duplicate matches, which then must be manually reviewed and validated by someone on your team. After the review, data can be fed back into the CRM for deduplication. The entire process can take weeks or months and can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. However, if you consider that manually standardizing and deduplicating the same data could sometimes take a full-time data steward almost a year, sometimes the cost and time savings can seem justified.

Alternatively, there are now outsourced professional data stewards you can hire to assist you. These data quality professionals can work with your team on a full-time basis – or just lend a hand part-time when you need additional support during a rollout or to assist with a project. You can hire one or several data stewards and have their help for as long or short a period of time as you need. While outsourced data stewards function as members of your firm’s team, you don’t have to deal with hiring or managing them - and the cost can be significantly less than hiring a full-time internal data steward.

One final note: while data quality depression can be serious, you don’t have to face it alone. Reach out to colleagues, peers or industry organizations for help. Additionally a CRM success consultant can often provide you with information, ideas and best practices. Feel free to call us anytime for data quality assistance or outsourced data quality professionals. But if you don’t get help for data quality depression from a CRM Success consultant, get help… somewhere.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Business Development Targets

When I ask some attorneys to describe their ideal Client, I often hear, ‘one that pays.' This response is mildly amusing… but rarely true. Not every Client is a good Client. And what makes a great Client for one firm or professional might be a nightmare for another. So a big part of your business development planning process should start by defining your ideal target Clients.

A good place to start is often with your current Clients. Focus on the ones who have growth potential and who are not utilizing your firm to serve all of their existing needs. The reasons to start with current Clients are pretty simple: they are already writing you checks, so presumably they like you – and would be open to discussing the possibility of working together with you in other areas. Plus, it costs significantly less to develop business with current Clients than to pursue prospects with whom you don’t currently have a relationship. Additionally, if you are new to initiating business development conversations, often it can be less intimidating to begin a dialogue with people that you know.

Be sure to also make your ‘inactive’ Clients a top priority. These are the people who you consider to be Clients but with whom you haven't had a meaningful conversation in more than 6 months. These people also have another name – non-Clients – because frankly, if you haven't been in contact with them in this period of time, there is a good chance that they aren’t your Clients anymore. Call them… soon.

Additionally, one of the best ways to develop business is to help Clients solve problems, so another category of good potential targets is people with problems you can help with. Look for target Clients in businesses that you have experience with, in industries where you may have particular expertise or at companies that have issues that are similar to those of your current Clients. This will allow you to initiate a compelling conversation about how you have helped similar Clients deal with these types of issues successfully. After you have put together your list of targets, you may want to enlist a little help from your friends…

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preventing Data Quality Depression - and Rolodex Rejection

So how big a problem is data quality depression really?

In the past, some firms neglected CRM data quality as a minor issue – to their detriment. In fact, poor data quality can become a serious problem, especially during an initial rollout because the attorneys can quickly lose confidence in the system if the data is a mess. After all, attorneys are trained to find fault – and when they do, they may jump to the conclusion that if the data is bad, the system is not trustworthy. Then adoption and usage will stall.

Additionally, until the data is properly cleaned and deduplicated, the value of your CRM cannot be fully recognized. Until the entire firm is rolled out, the attorneys can't leverage relationship intelligence to identify ‘who knows who’ relationships. Until comprehensive contact information is collected and compiled and contacts are categorized (how’s that for alliteration?), it’s almost impossible to accurately distribute mailings, invitations or other communications. 

As a result, the longer the data cleanup process takes, the more marketing and business development opportunities are lost - and the more time and money are wasted. So ultimately, if you don’t focus on data quality, you could end up with what many firms refer to their CRM system as: a glorified, overpriced rolodex. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shotgun Business Development - Ready, Fire...Aim!

Effective business development starts with a plan. Without a plan, business development can become unstructured, unproductive and expensive – with limited or no return on investment.

We commit random acts of golf or lunch – inviting the same people who have never given us business. We spend weeks preparing for presentations for groups of attorneys – who are competitors instead of potential Clients. We spend hours writing long-winded white papers – for obscure, scholarly publications instead of industry or trade periodicals. We pay thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, for sports and event tickets – that end up unused or used by our associates and their friends. We give ‘til it hurts – to charities and causes with no ties to our strategic business development objectives. We don't prepare before the meeting or measure results afterwards. In short, we fail to plan, which is a plan for failure.

Without a plan to follow, it’s just too easy to fall into the habit of doing what we've always done or what we are comfortable with and hoping we might be successful. Doing what we have always done and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. And hope is not a strategy. And this scattershot approach is not a good way to develop business.

For successful business development, the ‘shotgun’ is not the weapon of choice. Instead you want a rifle with laser focus in your arsenal. Stop settling for doing the same things. You need to focus on the right things. The key is to make your business development efforts as effective as possible and get the highest possible return on the time you invest. Take the time to set your sights and really aim. But before you aim, you have to have the right target...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Getting the Help You Need for Data Quality Depression

Ultimately, at some point, you may realize that getting help for data quality depression is essential. Once a firm reaches a certain size, often around 100 users, a part-time data steward just can't keep up with the volume of data changes in most cases. Larger firms will likely require a full-time data steward. And as a firm reaches the 250 user mark, even one dedicated data steward might not be able to do the job alone.

The reason that data quality resources are necessary is that, no matter what you do, keeping up with data changes from hundreds of CRM users is a challenging - and ongoing - job. One reason is that an estimated 25 to 30 percent of data degrades each year. Think about it, people move, get promoted, change companies, get married – and a few die. All this leads to bad data.

Additionally, during an initial CRM rollout, having extra data quality resources will be imperative. If you consider that the average attorney has approximately 500 contacts - some senior partners may have thousands while new associates may only have a few - it’s not uncommon for a CRM rollout for a firm with 100 attorneys to quickly build a database of over 50,000 records. Of those, conservatively 25 percent or more may be duplicates. That means there could be more than 12,000 records that need to be standardized, cleaned and merged. If you assume that a skilled data steward can deal with about 250 records a day, it could easily take months to get the data in order, which is essential to get the professionals to trust - and use the system. This is assuming you have the internal resources... 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Your Business Development Plan - A Blueprint for Success

Like most things that are challenging – but can also be rewarding – business development success starts with a plan. To be really effective, you have to put together a strategy and plan that you can execute and measure success against. Without a plan, you will likely end up wasting the one resource that is the most precious - time.

Because time is limited, it's also important not to spend too much of it creating the plan either. Of course you need to spend enough time to prepare a well-thought-out plan, but remember, you aren't writing a sequel to war and peace. I've seen many a professional business development plan in filled with exacting detail, professionally bound, divided into sections and even annotated with a table of contents. The place you most often find that kind of plan is on a bookshelf gathering dust. Instead your goal should be to create a plan that is realistic, flexible and achievable... 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dealing with Data Quality Depression - Don't Do It Alone

When it comes to data quality depression, it's important to know that you aren’t alone. There are literally hundreds of firms struggling with the same frustrations and issues. Often, the best thing you can do is to reach out for assistance.

Frequently, help is closer than you think. In fact, you can often find relief within your own firm. There are plenty of people with the right skills and, more importantly, some additional bandwidth, who may be able to assist you with recurring data quality tasks. Good potential candidates include secretaries, records clerks, word processors, paralegals or even your receptionist. Having a qualified pool of candidates is important because when it comes to enhancing data quality, the more helping hands - and eyes - the better.

You may also benefit from the ideas and best practices of other firms. You may want to consider joining – or creating – a data quality “support group.” Start a discussion group, arrange meetings, or just get together for coffee with people in your area in similar positions who have the same data quality challenges and headaches. Before making a decision about how to address your own firm’s data quality issues, find out what has worked for them, as well as what hasn’t.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going Up - Taking Your Personal Value Proposition to a New Level

Finally, to take your personal value proposition up a level – to really connect with a potential Client – articulate characteristics that may be of particular interest to them. Discuss things that differentiate you or your practice. Describe a niche area of expertise. Mention unique skills or knowledge. Talk about your Client focus and how you help people avoid risks or solve problems.

Your personal value proposition should be compelling and memorable, something that would make a potential Client want to hear more – and remember you after your initial meeting. It should also be interesting and engaging, since the idea is to spark a continuing conversation. You could discuss areas outside of work that you are passionate about but that make you better at what you do. This will humanize you and make you seem approachable. You could even use a little humor or even or tell a story. People love a good story – and they often remember them.

Most importantly, you should demonstrate some element of enthusiasm or for your profession because your personal value proposition also gives the listener an initial impression of what it would be like to work with you – and first impressions can be powerful. Remember, all things being equal, in most cases people hire people they like and trust, and your personal value proposition is often your first opportunity to convey these characteristics to a prospective Client.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Alternative Treatments for Data Quality Depression

If your data quality depression doesn’t seem to be responding to conventional treatments, fortunately there are now some alternative treatments available. One treatment that has been particularly effective for some firms is outsourcing your data quality.

If you aren’t able to hire full-time or permanent data quality resources, there are now outsourced data quality professionals available who can help you to get a handle on your data on a part-time or even full-time basis. For a very reasonable hourly rate, these professionals can assist your firm with individual data quality projects – or even serve as full-time permanent data stewards.

These trained data quality professionals will serve as members of your firm’s data quality team. They are knowledgeable about multiple CRM systems, and they are supervised by consultants or companies who are experts in data quality and CRM success. Your data quality team members will communicate with you on a regular basis and will also provide you with regular reports regarding data quality progress. And, because they are outsourced, you won't have to deal with the headaches associated with finding, hiring, firing or supervising them.

Ultimately, using these alternative data quality professionals can be an effective and affordable way to reduce your data quality headaches – and the return on your investment can be significant. If you’d like more information about data quality outsourcing options, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help relieve your pain.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Opening Doors with Your Personal Value Proposition – Targeting Client Needs

To really elevate your personal value proposition, begin by trying to articulate it in terms of Client needs. These needs can often open the door to new business. But remember that Clients typically have a hierarchy of needs – and some are more pressing than others.

The goal is to identify and find potential solutions for the ‘big’ needs, the ones that are the most imperative, because these are the ones that are most likely to drive a hiring decision. Some of these needs include:

  • Increasing revenue and profitability 
  • Reducing costs, losses, inefficiency, pressure, stress, downtime, uncertainty or risk 
  • Avoiding conflict, litigation, fines, fees, bad publicity or negative consequences 
  • Saving time, effort or resources 
  • Improving processes, procedures or production 
  • Enhancing or protecting and reputations, images or credibility 
  • Meeting connections and deadlines 

Once you have focused your personal value proposition on the Client’s needs, you are ready to take it to the next level…

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just What the Doctor Ordered for Data Quality Depression

While the bad news is that data quality depression may seem to be an epidemic, the good news is that it is treatable – and it's rarely contagious. The treatments for data quality depression vary depending on the symptoms and the causes. As a result, your data quality specialist should diagnose your specific issue in order to prescribe a course of treatment specific to your firm’s unique needs.

For instance, if your symptoms include delirium caused by end users who do not seem to follow instructions or take responsibility for their own data maintenance, your data quality consultant may recommend a course of training (also known as a training course.) The focus of the training should be not only therapeutic, to alleviate the current issues by teaching users to best ways to prevent data quality problems, but also preventative, in order to avoid future relapses by emphasizing the reasons that long-term data maintenance is important to the firm.

On the other hand, if you are presenting with symptoms of stress and fatigue that seem to have been induced by a lack of adequate resources to do your data quality job, the consultant may first work together with you to create a compelling business case to take to firm management in order to secure additional monetary or human resources. 

If this initial treatment is unsuccessful, another equally effective treatment to consider would be to involve employees in other positions or departments to assist with data quality tasks part-time. Assistants, paralegals, word processors, records personnel, receptionists or even summer interns could be recruited to help prevent the spread or growth of data quality issues.

You should be aware that the selection of individuals responsible for data quality can be challenging and proper screening is crucial. Ideally, good candidates should have excellent attention to detail, a strong work ethic and some institutional knowledge of your firm and Clients. If the right individuals can be identified, their assistance can have an excellent prophylactic effect on future data quality problems.

While most cases of data quality depression often respond positively to one of these treatments, some cases seem to be resistant to these methods. In such cases, we often recommend an alternative therapy…

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pushing Buttons – Crafting Your Personal Value Proposition

Your personal value proposition should be a brief and compelling statement that is designed to start off an (ideally) interesting conversation by defining the value you may be able to provide to the potential Client. Without providing value, business development can often be challenging since it will likely be based mainly on hope or luck, neither of which is a great strategy.

The trick is that value is in the eye of the beholder – or in the case of a personal value proposition, the listener. Even more challenging, each individual may define value in a different way because each of us has unique needs and 'hot button" issues." Think about it: the issues facing an entrepreneur at a green tech startup can be vastly different from those of a C-level executive at an established corporation on the verge of layoffs or bankruptcy – and are likely very different from those of the other parents at the kids’ soccer game. 

So to push the right buttons, you have to understand the individual you are speaking with. You can start by doing research into the person's business, organization or industry. But, by far, the best way to determine a listener’s issues and needs is to ask. Only then can you determine what, if any, value you may be able to provide. This is also why you also may want to craft different personal value propositions for different types of potential Clients.

So, in creating your personal value proposition, think like your potential Clients. Frame the statement in terms of their most pressing needs and convey the knowledge and experience that you have to meet them. To test whether your value proposition conveys this type of real value, try this: when composing it, at the end of each of potential value statement, insert the words, “… and this should be important to you because,” and then try to finish the statement. If your ‘because’ is weak, so is your value proposition. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Data Quality Doctor Is In

If you think you may be suffering from data quality depression, it can be helpful to see a specialist such as a CRM data quality consultant who is familiar with the causes and effects of data quality depression – and who is an expert in prescribing the right treatment for your specific problem.

The diagnosis will often begin with a data quality checkup, which is a complete assessment and analysis of your data quality situation. Your data quality consultant will begin by taking your CRM pulse by meeting with you and other key stakeholders and system users to ask a series of targeted questions designed to get to the heart of the issues. Questions will focus on issues such as end user participation, leadership buy-in, training, communications, planning, resources, technology and other potentially ‘sore’ subjects.

The consultant can also run tests on your ‘system’ to diagnose any additional potential problems with things like system configuration, contact categorization, information standardization and list management.

After a complete check-up, your CRM success consultant will then make specific recommendations to help take away your CRM data quality pain…

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taking Your Elevator Pitch to a New Floor – or Level

We’ve all been in that fun place: at a cocktail party, sitting on an airplane or in the back of a cab and someone asks, “So what do you do?” How do you respond? While this conversation rarely takes place in an elevator, the answer has been described as an ‘elevator pitch’ because ideally it should summarize what you do in the time it would take to ride up in an elevator with someone – about 30 seconds. It should also help to start an interesting conversation.

Unfortunately, the most frequent response is often a bland and generic, “I’m a lawyer” or “I’m an accountant.” Some may jazz it up with, “I’m a tax professional” or “I’m a corporate lawyer.” A real winner I heard once was, “I work in an office.” Wow, I’m on the edge of my seat - please tell me more.

In lieu of a yawn, the general, polite response you will usually get is, “Oh, how nice. My (insert random relative) is a lawyer or accountant.” Following this, they will often excuse themselves to refresh their cocktail (translation: they’re just not that into you and want to disengage because someone - or probably anyone else - across the room must be more interesting).

So how do you craft a good ‘elevator pitch”? Remember, as a general rule, people do business with people they like and trust and who provide value. Start there. Stop pitching and start providing real value. I call this creating your Personal Value Proposition… 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Diagnosing Data Quality Depression - Where Does It Hurt?

The potential remedy for your data quality depression will depend upon the underlying cause. To diagnose the cause of your underlying symptoms, you must first assess the situation and figure out exactly where it hurts. Potential data quality pain points may include: 
  • A lack of adequate staffing to keep up with the data quality issues 
  • Failure to dedicate adequate resources to data quality maintenance 
  • End users and assistants who do not take responsibility for data quality 
  • Incorrect configuration of your system causing an increase in the number of data quality tickets or tasks
  • A lack of formalized training to ensure that end users understand and embrace their data quality responsibilities
  • A lack of management support to encourage participation or provide resources or incentives for compliance
Rest assured, all of these underlying issues are quite common and totally treatable - and, once treated, there is a significant likelihood that you will make a complete recovery. The best way to pinpoint your pain is to reach out to a specialist ...

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Truth About Body Language - Giving Business Development A Hand

While it may seem like a simple gesture, it’s amazing how much a handshake conveys to us. Those few seconds can potentially empower - or deflate - a new relationship.

Through the ages, the handshake has been a means of introduction, a symbol of agreement and a bond of trust. As a result, a good handshake has become both a minimum requirement and a powerful differentiator for politicians, diplomats … and business developers.

Admit it; we all have shaken hands with Mr. Death Grip or Ms. Limp Fish. Both made quite an impression – and likely not a positive one. So to avoid those scenarios and make a positive first impression, here are a few handshake tips: (1) Relax, it's just a handshake. Getting stressed out can make your hands clammy; (2) Use a firm grip, without squeezing too hard; (2) Make direct eye contact; (3) Smile and radiate confidence and enthusiasm; (4) Release.

As with all social encounters, sometimes 'handshake moments' just don't go as planned. If things go awry, don't stress about it. Just laugh, reload, and try again. Lightening up an uncomfortable situation can actually enhance your image of self-confidence and put the other person more at ease.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Recognizing the Signs of Data Quality Depression

Data quality depression has been described as an emotional state characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, and discouragement – often accompanied by a strong desire to bang your head against the wall… repeatedly. For your mental health, early detection of data quality depression is key and requires that you be aware of the signs or symptoms which may include:
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating on the same mundane and repetitive data quality tasks for 10 hours a day 
  • A sense of impending doom each day when turning on the computer and seeing the exponential explosion of data quality issues 
  • Feelings of worthlessness caused by ineffective attempts to beg, bribe or otherwise coerce users to comply with firm data quality standards 
  • Intense frustration with professionals who use their BlackBerrys to enter hundreds of new contacts with only first names and mobile phone numbers or e-mail addresses 
  • Dizziness caused by running in circles trying to get correct contact information from assistants 
  • Energy loss caused by jumping through hoops to try to get the firm’s leaders to commit the necessary resources 
  • A major pain in the posterior region caused by dealing with data quality 
Symptoms may be mild at first and may initially improve after consuming large quantities of chocolate or alcohol. However, as the condition worsens, the only hope is to seek a more effective - and permanent - remedy…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Body Language and Business Development - Smile All the Way to the Bank

We've heard that smiling is contagious. Well, we now know that it’s not only true – it’s also good for business. A smile not only creates an upbeat and positive environment and conveys to the potential Client your interest, enthusiasm, and empathy. It also makes you more trustworthy and likeable. Remember from a previous post, people often hire people they like and trust.

Not only that, using your ‘pearly whites’ could even have a
positive effect on your cash flow. A study has showed that consumers were willing to pay two to three times more after seeing a smile. OK, as a disclaimer, some skeptics may say that since the study involved drinking an ‘unidentified beverage’ that the ‘mystery drink’ could have actually led to paying more – and maybe even smiling more. But since the drink was lemon-lime Kool-Aid, my money is on the smile. But I digress. What’s important is the smile and the positive impression it conveys.

Anyway, here are a few tips to help to convey the most positive impression. First establish your presence in the room. Then make eye contact and smile genuinely, since people can tell a ‘fake’ smile from a mile away – and frankly, if you are not in the mood to smile, then you probably shouldn’t be attempting to develop business in the first place. But from now on, if you find yourself having trouble smiling, just think how much more money you could be making and see if that helps.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dealing with Data Quality Depression

Nothing can be more frustrating than dealing with CRM data quality. But when it comes to CRM success, there are few things that are more important. While data quality tasks can seem monotonous and mundane, left ‘untreated’, a CRM database can rapidly deteriorate into a disaster, causing end users to doubt and distrust the data and refuse to use the system - and causing you to pull your hair out. 

The First Step 
The first step is admitting you have a problem – or lots of them. Your end users are out of control. The number of duplicate records is multiplying exponentially. You can't actually contact your contacts because the majority of them have missing or incomplete information. Your data standards are nonstandard – or nonexistent. The incomplete entries from BlackBerrys are getting worse each day. You're even starting to become paranoid that the IT department may be part of the conspiracy. (I promise, they are not out to get you). Then suddenly you realize that you have no idea how to deal with international addresses or phone numbers – and you feel you have nowhere to turn.

Left untreated, disastrous data quality issues like these can really… well… drive you crazy. Fortunately for you, there is a cure… 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Body Language and Business Development - Put Your Focus on the Client

For successful business development, your focus should always be on the Client - even when you first make eye contact.The impression you make begins the moment someone 'lays eyes' on you - so always look your potential Client in the eye. This simple technique is very important when meeting with a Client because it tells them you are paying attention to THEM and also makes them feel that you are confident and honest.

Think about it, have you ever had a conversation with someone who is constantly looking away or looking past you. It can make you feel like they are not engaged or have someplace they would rather be. But if they look directly at you, it makes you feel like you have their complete attention and interest.

The basic rule is to spend about 80 percent of the conversation looking the Client in the eye. If you focus on them less than that, it conveys that you are bored or uncomfortable or lack confidence. But you should also glance away from time to avoid staring them down during the conversation which can make you come across as too direct, dominant or forceful.

While this may seem a little challenging at first, if you simply remember to focus your eyes - and your attention - on the Client, it will become second nature and you will become a natural business developer.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

CRM Diagnosis: Where Does It Hurt?

While a CRM checkup may be the best preventative medicine, sometimes we just don’t want to get diagnosed. We put it off because we get busy or because we figure if we ignore the problem long enough, maybe it will go away on its own. But if you neglect your minor CRM aches and pains for too long, you may find your overall CRM health to be deteriorating. At that point, you need to figure out just what the problem seems to be… where does it hurt?

Are your Clients and prospects having a reaction to the number of irrelevant communications the firm has been sending? Have the number of duplicates in the system swollen to unacceptable levels? Has usage flat-lined because the users have lost confidence in the system? Are you feeling pressure from firm management because they don’t perceive they are getting value from the CRM? Or maybe some technology glitches – or some obstinate end users – are just giving you a pain.

Well, whatever your symptoms, rest assured, you are not alone. Plenty of firms have found themselves in the exact same place. The first step is admitting that you have a problem. But don’t worry, once you get diagnosed and seek treatment, if you follow up with a strong dose of commitment, you can get rid of the annoying or painful symptoms and achieve CRM success.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Truth About Body Language – It’s Not Just All Talk

Have you ever had a business development conversation with someone that didn't go exactly the way you expected? You talked... they talked... but you just didn't seem to communicate. This might be because either you, or the potential Client, were actually saying something that you didn't intend. You may have been having a completely different conversation as a result of your body language.

You may have heard that verbal communication accounts for only a part of the total message you send. But did you know how much? Are you sitting down? If so, make sure you are sitting up straight – we now know that your mom told you to do this for a reason. The reason is that body language actually accounts for over 90% of what is communicated during a conversation. Hard to believe, but it’s true.

Just think back on a time when you were a customer. Did the salesperson look directly at you or look away? Did he cross his arms? Did she smile? Did she stand straight up or slouch? How was his handshake - firm or did he offer you the 'dead fish'? Either way, it left an impression.

When trying to develop business, it’s important to be aware of any negative signals you may be sending – and to remember that positive body language can actually make you appear more confident, likable and trustworthy. In other words, you will be someone that the potential Client would want to do business with. For the next few posts, we’ll explore some of the elements of good – and not so good – body language.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The CRM Checkup

As with any stressful or strenuous activity, always be sure to visit your physician before beginning your CRM ‘workout’ regimen. For a CRM checkup, you’ll probably want to enlist the services of a CRM ‘specialist’ such as a consultant who focuses on helping Clients to succeed with CRM.

So what does a CRM checkup typically involve? Relax - we promise we won't ask you to cough or say, ‘ahhh.’ Instead, if your firm has already rolled out a CRM system, but seems to be suffering from a bit of CRM malaise, the consultant may take your CRM temperature by asking you questions about where you are with your rollout, the challenges you've faced and successes you've had.

If you're thinking about selecting and implementing a new system, we’ll examine your firm’s unique goals and specific needs and the problems you think CRM could help to solve. We’ll also check your CRM pulse to determine whether you have done the necessary work to get in shape including committing the time, money and other resources required, enlisting management and leadership buy-in and putting the necessary systems, processes and procedures in place.

Once we have run all the necessary diagnostic tests, we’ll prescribe an assessment, which is a plan for success that includes a healthy dose of information, ideas and best practices to help you achieve long-term CRM health and prevent any recurrence or relapse of problematic CRM symptoms, issues or challenges. We’ll also recommend a regimen for long-term CRM ‘fitness’ that includes short-term, intermediate and long-term goals and recommendations for long-term CRM success.

Before we leave, we’ll even check your blood pressure - because CRM is not for the faint of heart. However, for those who are willing to commit, follow their specialist’s orders, and take their prescriptions as directed, the payback can be well worth the effort.

Of course, as with a visit from any doctor, you will ultimately receive a bill. But after a CRM checkup, you’ll find that the benefits more than outweigh the costs – and you won't even have to file an insurance claim. Afterwards, you'll find yourself feeling much better (at least about your chances for CRM success).

If you think you may be in need of a CRM Success checkup, feel free to call. We'll be happy to give a free consultation - and we even make house calls (subject, of course to travel expenses).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking the B’s out of B.D.

Banish the Blackberry from Business Development

If you want to be successful in building your business, the other 'B' that you need to banish - at least from Client meetings - is your Blackberry.

Picture this: you and another partner finally manage to get out from behind your desks to go meet some prospective Clients. Things seem to be progressing nicely. Then, while you are talking, your partner whips out his Blackberry and starts reviewing and responding to emails.
Your partner is definitely sending a message – and not just on the BlackBerry. Regardless of what may have been a harmless intent to multi-task, the real message sent was, “I am done talking with you. I am talking with someone more important now.”

Remember, the Blackberry is a communication device. When you use it, you are involved in a conversation. If you are meeting with a Client and you suddenly begin tapping away on your Blackberry, you might as well have turned your back and begun a completely unrelated conversation with a completely unknown third party who isn't even in the room.

Rude? Well, just think how you feel when conversing with colleagues or Clients and midway through the conversation they pull out their Blackberries. You may wonder if you are boring them? Or whether you should just stop talking, because obviously what you were saying wasn't that important to them. Or maybe you should just get out your Blackberry too?

Remember, anytime you are engaged in another conversation, even only using your thumbs, you are not fully engaged with the current conversation - and the other person knows it. If you want to be a trusted advisor to your Client, you need listen to them - and only to them. That’s the only message you want to send.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The CRM Personal Trainer

Many people who are recognized as leaders in their sport, field or occupation often attribute a significant portion of their current success to a trainer or coach of some type who helped them achieve more than they ever thought they could. And plenty of couch potatoes can attest that the only thing that finally motivated them to achieve the results they said they wanted was a trainer who pushed them and held them accountable. 

This trainer may be a mentor, trusted advisor or expert who shares knowledge and information and helps to avoid challenges and missteps. Even more important may be that encouragement they provide when you need it most or the firm push you need when you think you have reached your limits.

Likewise, seeking the counsel of a trainer or expert can be invaluable in the quest for CRM success, especially since the cost of failure can be significant in terms of lost time, money – and credibility. In some cases, it could even be a career-changer (which may be good or bad).

Your CRM trainer may be a CRM provider who helps to improve customer results through ongoing education and support. It could be a user group of peers who meet regularly to make each other more successful by sharing what has worked for them and what hasn’t. It could be an industry group that provides CRM white papers or webinars. Or it could be a consultant with significant CRM and industry knowledge and expertise whose job is to work together with Clients to provide support as well as information, ideas and best practices.

So get off the couch and find a trainer to help you with CRM success. You’ll definitely achieve more than you could alone. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Taking the B’s out of B.D.

If you want to be successful in building Client relationships, the key to successful business development, there are two B’s that you need to forever banish when dealing with Clients. The first one is the word ‘busy.’ 

Be Careful Not to “Busy” Yourself Out of Business

Imagine you are sitting in your office, trying to get through the thousand-and-one things on your to do list for the day . Then, unexpectedly, the phone rings and it’s a Client. You pick up the phone, attempting to seem engaged - or at least somewhat interested. But in reality, you are distracted. You can feel the minutes ticking away and emails multiplying exponentially in your inbox. 

The Client asks politely, “How are you?”  and you respond, “Oh just buried - as usual. Don’t know if I’ll ever get it all done. What’s up?”

What message have you just delivered to the Client?  What if she had something important she wanted to discuss  – or some even some additional work for you? Well, if she did, you will probably never know because now she is thinking that you don't have time to handle it - or, even worse, she may be wondering how focused you are on the work you are doing for her already. 

What if instead, when the Client asked how you were, you responded, “I’m doing great! How can I help you?”  Now that starts the call off in a whole new context. It projects to your Client that you are enthusiastic and  focused on her needs instead of your busy day.

The same focus is just as important face-to-face. Before meeting with a Client, take a minute to collect and compose yourself. Make sure you are organized and prepared. Double check your appearance - and your attitude. You don’t want to appear as if you just completed a marathon on your way to their office - even if sometimes it may feel like you have. Greet the Client calmly and confidently, with your focus completely on her and her needs. 

These things may seem like basic common sense, but just think about the number of times you have seen someone fly into a meeting, completely disheveled, and explain that they were so busy with their other commitments that they haven’t even had a moment to breathe. It leaves an impression – and not a good one. These are not the people you want to work with - and neither do your Clients. They want to work with people who appear prepared, composed and confident. 

So take the word “busy”  our of your B.D. vocabulary. You've got better things to say.