Friday, May 28, 2010

Achieving CRM Success - What Else Can It Do?

As firms have grown, the level of sophistication of their approaches to business development has been growing as well. More than ever, firms of all sizes are experimenting with things like business development coaching or training, Client teams, alumni programs, Client interviews or Client service initiatives. What is common – and essential – to all of these initiatives is the need for communication and collaboration. CRM was designed to enable this type of communication and collaboration and it can be an excellent – even essential – tool for succeeding with these types of business development initiatives.

CRM systems allow users to share information and notes about Clients and prospects, add marketing and business development activities to records, enhance contacts with business or competitive intelligence, monitor or watch changes to selected contacts, attach relevant documents and even track business development opportunities. 

As firms continue to grow more sophisticated in their approaches to business development, some of the core and even more advanced or innovative features of CRM systems are now moving from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ functionality. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Business Development Mistake #4 - Failing to Understand and Anticipate Client Needs

To develop business, you have to provide value to Clients. But no two Clients define value the same way. To learn how you can best provide value, you have to understand the Client's unique needs. You accomplish this by learning their business and industry, preparing for meetings, asking insightful and targeted questions and, most importantly, listening to your potential Clients. 

But to really become a trusted advisor, you will need to anticipate needs before the Client even becomes aware of them - often called latent legal needs. By definition, latent needs are unmet, so they represent significant opportunities. By helping Clients identify and appreciate these needs, you position yourself as uniquely qualified to address them – often limiting competition and price sensitivity in the process. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Achieving CRM Success - Who, and What, Do We Know?

As firms grow, both in numbers of attorneys and dispersed offices, the ability to identify and leverage connections becomes increasingly important – and more difficult. In addition, now more than ever, firms are being compelled to respond to a deluge of RFPs and are more often proactively pitching for new business. 

Because finding these core relationships can enhance the success of these business development efforts, the relationship intelligence or ‘who knows who’ functionality of CRM is often considered essential. Additionally, as the complexity of the RFPs has intensified, crafting a winning response often requires firms to tap into the depth of and breadth of their cumulative experience and expertise. CRM systems can provide a convenient repository and access point for this type of information. 

However, as with many great ideas, the challenge in utilizing CRM - or any technology - to accomplish a strategy like this involves understanding and overcoming the inherent people and process issues. This type of detailed information typically isn't well organized in a single convenient location in a law firm. It resides on the computers and in the brains of a lot of lawyers and staff who are sometimes in a variety of remote offices or locations. To execute this strategy requires motivating and mobilizing the people and convincing or compelling them to share the information. A project like this can take significant time and effort, but ultimately the results can be well worth the investment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Business Development Mistake #3 - Lack of Preparation

Clients want to work with lawyers who understand their business and industry. No good lawyer walks into a courtroom or deal room unprepared. Likewise there is no excuse for failure to adequately prepare for business development. Failing to properly research and understand the Client’s business and industry undermines your credibility and limits your ability to connect with them.

To prepare for a business meeting with a Client, do your homework. Read everything you can about the company and the individuals you are going to meet with - news and business information, company financials, industry information. Set up Google Alert to automatically notify you of important information and things being written about them on the Web. Don't forget social media and networking sites such as LinkedIn. Reach out to your firm's marketing department if you need help.

You should also make it a habit to Read what the Client reads - and try to think like the Client when you do. What does all of this mean for them? How will it affect them personally and professionally? The goal of the research is to help you to prepare and ask a series of targeted questions to assess the potential Client's needs. You must understand those needs before you can create solutions that the Client will find valuable - and ultimately get hired.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Achieving CRM Success - What Should It Do?

Successfully selecting – and deploying – a CRM system requires separating the ‘must have’ functionality from the ‘bells and whistles.’ When evaluating systems and providers, it can be helpful to keep in mind that bells and whistles can be essential… but usually only on a bike or a train. For selecting a CRM system, focus instead on your firm’s need and goals.

One primary need that is almost always articulated by firms of all sizes is enhancing communication and coordination of mailings and events. I’ve often heard it said, “Our firm spent all of this money on a CRM system and all we got was a really expensive mailing list.” However, usually the person making this comment has never actually had to personally manage a law firm mailing list. Many firms do hundreds, or even thousands, of mailings each year. They are sent to thousands, or tens of thousands, of contacts whose information chances frequently. In some firms this is compounded by the hundreds or thousands of attorneys who have relationships with these contacts and in some cases even act like they ‘own’ them. This is not a job that most people would volunteer for.  

Fortunately, mailing list and event management is a core component of almost every CRM system. All of the systems have out-of-the-box functionality that allows attorneys or assistants to add contacts to mailing or event lists. The lists can then be incorporated into e-mails, invitations or other communications that can then be distributed.  

The systems also allow firms to categorize and enhance information about contacts to better segment them. For instance, a firm might want to define who their Clients – or top Clients are. They may want to identify the contact's primary industries. They may even want to enhance contact information with business or financial intelligence. Ultimately this information can also be searched to create lists and enhance targeted communication.

Additionally, there are external providers who offer enhanced e-mail communication and reporting functionality, as well as the ability to have e-mails delivered from an alternate domain to avoid issues with SPAM. These products should be evaluated by firms who do a significant number of mailings and events.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Business Development Mistake #2 - Confusing Marketing with Business Development

While the lines may sometimes seem blurred between these two vital revenue generating activities, there is an important distinction.

Marketing encompasses the strategies and tactics designed to help create or define needs. It can include the creation of various channels or methods for communication or publication such as articles, websites, blogs, newsletters or alerts. Messages may also be communicated through public relations, branding or advertising. Additionally, marketing may involve events such as seminars, webinars or individual speaking opportunities. All of these things provide essential support for effective business development efforts.

Business development, on the other hand, involves personally connecting with Clients in order to understand their needs and facilitate an agreement or solution to address those needs. More importantly, it involves getting out from behind the desk and getting face to face with potential Clients. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Achieving CRM Success - Where Will It Live?

Hosting is also a crucial element to consider in CRM selection. The preferred business model of many CRM providers outside the industry almost always involves hosting the system and data ‘in the cloud.’ This is a fluffy euphemism for on ‘a server someplace outside the firm.’ While this may be standard practice for other industries – and while it may even be more secure than hosting within the firm - firms so far have almost universally taken a pass when it comes to having their sensitive contact data reside outside the firm firewall. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Business Development Mistake #1 - Confusing Sales with Business Development

Many lawyers bristle at the thought of ‘selling’ their services. In fact, one of the reasons many lawyers went to law school was that they didn't want to be in a business that required ‘sales.’ The bad news is that there is no such business. 

The good news is that lawyers don’t have to ‘sell’ to effectively development business. Great business developers understand that they are really in the Client service and success business. To succeed at business development, simply remember this: A sale is just a pleasant by-product of helping your Clients succeed. Be in the Client success business.