Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Business Development Mistake #9 - Focusing on the Wrong Clients

So which Clients should you focus on developing business with? When in doubt, start with the ones who are writing you checks. 

Typically more than 80% of business comes from current Clients, so start by strengthening and expanding relationships with them. Presumably they already value your services and they often have additional work or can be excellent referral sources. Plus, you should already have a keen understanding of their businesses. 

Next you may want to consider Clients in related businesses or industries who face challenges similar to those of your current Clients. Then look for opportunities to cross service some of your firm’s other Clients. Make connections with other attorneys, professionals or referral sources whose practices are complementary to yours and whose Clients could also benefit from your services. You should also focus on potential Clients with whom you already have established relationships or connections but whom you are not currently working with.

Only after you have exhausted these options, should you consider expanding to new prospects with whom you don't have existing relationships. It's not that these aren't great potential Clients, it's just that developing business with prospective clients can cost up to five times more than working with existing clients - and your likelihood of success will often be lower. Make the most of your valuable - and limited - business development time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Motivating Change for CRM Success

It’s always nice when something we say is reinforced by really smart people like the folks at McKinsey & Company. One of their articles about change management suggests that there are four basic conditions that must be met before people will change their behavior in the workplace:
  1. A compelling story: They must see the point of change and agree with it, at least enough to give it a try.
  2. Role modeling: Admired and/or respected colleagues must be seen modeling the desired behavior.
  3. Reinforcement systems:  Surrounding structures, systems, processes and incentives must be in tune with the new behavior. 
  4. The skills required for change:  They need to have the skills to do what is required of them. 
How does this translate into CRM success, you may ask? Well here is what we have always said about CRM success: 
  1. Create a vision statement for CRM success. Professionals and support staff must understand why CRM is important to the firm, what will be expected of them and, most importantly, what’s in it for them.
  2. Key firm leaders must actively support the CRM program. They should be the first ones to contribute their contacts and should help to create the vision, foster communication and recognize successes.
  3. Put processes and procedures in place to enhance results including an internal communication campaign, incentives for participation and rewards for successes.
  4. Make training a priority. Initial training should be conducted in person using real life data and scenarios. Ongoing training should be designed to encourage long-term results and success.
It’s always nice when you find out that what you originally thought was a best practice – or even just common sense - is actually pretty smart. Thanks, McKinsey. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Business Development Mistake #8 - Failing To Provide Value

Securing a meeting - and ultimately developing business - with a prospective Client is easier when you bring something of value to the table. The challenge is that  value is unique to each individual, so to understand what a particular Client values, you have to ask. 

For one Client value may involve a positive resolution to a conflict; for another it may be a proactive approach to avoiding conflict. For others it may be as simple - and important - as prompt and timely communication or accurate budgeting. 

Ultimately however, one thing is certain: when you seek to determine and provide value from the Client’s perspective you elevate yourself from being perceived as just another lawyer to becoming a trusted business advisor, which is exactly the position you want to be in. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Welcome to Fantasy CRM

After the purchase and implementation of a CRM system, we sometimes hear buyers or users say that they feel like they spent a lot of money and they aren’t getting the return on their investment. In many cases, this is because their expectations were wrong when they selected their system. What they thought they were buying was something I like to call ‘Magic CRM.’

Here is how Magic CRM works:  Immediately after purchasing Magic CRM for a very low price and with a money back guarantee, it is installed effortlessly in a matter of a few weeks with no technology issues whatsoever. It is enthusiastically received by all end users, who require no  training or commitment of time and who welcome the opportunity to share information. 

Data flows effortlessly into Magic CRM quickly and is cleaned automatically without the need for data quality staffing. The result is a comprehensive collection of complete and correct contact information for all Clients and contacts (CRM alliteration is fun, yes?). Additionally, mailing lists created in Magic CRM are clean, comprehensive and free of errors and duplicates, and they are created, maintained and updated automatically without the need to bother the busy end users.

All the professionals in the firm, of course, use Magic CRM to collaborate, share information and work together in harmony. They religiously track all marketing and business development activities and expenses. They benefit from enhanced information about each contact’s business and industry which is delivered to their fingertips with no additional cost or effort. And most importantly, after installing Magic CRM, scores of Clients suddenly abandon long-standing relationships with competitors and race to the firm's front door with their money because of the superlative service and value that the firm provides as a result. Welcome to Fantasy CRM. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Business Development Mistake #7 - Talking Instead of Listening

After you ask a Client or prospect a question, it is imperative that you listen actively. Active listening means devoting your full attention to what the Client says without interruption. Just a hint, you cannot listen actively while thinking about what you are going to say next - or while talking. 

One of the traps some people fall into is treating a Client needs interview like a verbal tennis match. After serving up a really great question, they immediately start positioning themselves for the next volley by thinking about what they’re going to say next. If you’re doing this, you aren’t devoting 100% of your attention to the Client. While people sometimes think that this will convey that they are prepared and polished, in reality, it prevents you from connecting with Clients - and could even cause you to miss opportunities to understand and address their needs. 

The way to know if you are listening actively during a Client needs interview is that you should find yourself talking only about 20% of the time - and half of that time you should be asking questions. OK, I admit that like many lawyers, math was not my strong suit, but I know what some of you are thinking and before you ask, yes I am aware that this only leaves 10% of the time for you to talk. And yes, I know this can be challenging. But if you are able to do it, the payback can be significant: Clients will perceive you as genuinely interested in them, their businesses and their needs... and you will be positioned as the best person to help them.  

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Achieving CRM Success - A Final Note

If at first you think that achieving CRM Success seems unattainable, perhaps you need to lower – or at least modify – your expectations. OK, by this I certainly don't mean to demean the potential of CRM. In fact, just the opposite: CRM has tremendous potential, and when it fails to meet expectations, it usually isn't the CRM system or the technology that's the problem. More often, it's the expectations that are wrong.

In the past, people often mistakenly expected CRM to be the answer to all of the firm’s problems with communication, collaboration and business development. While CRM is invaluable for enabling all of these things, it can only do so when firms are willing to commit the resources, make the changes and do the work that is required to take advantage of CRM’s potential.

So to achieve CRM Success, take your time and focus on the basics. Set a goal, achieve it, communicate success, repeat. As you do this, you will be also be providing value to the firm and the attorneys, which ultimately is how CRM success should be measured anyway. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Business Development Mistake #6 - Pitching Instead of Questioning

Nobody wants to be pitched – especially not potential Clients. Instead, Clients want to be heard. They want to work with attorneys who take the time to listen to them in order to understand their business and their issues. These are the lawyers they think will ultimately be able to help them find ways to deal with or avoid these issues.

To become one of these attorneys – also known as a trusted advisor - stop pitching. Stop talking about yourself and your firm and how great you are and instead focus on the Client. Begin by asking targeted and insightful questions that allow you to explore the Client’s needs. This is often referred to as a Client needs interview.

During the interview after you ask a question, be quiet and listen. To be sure you are listening, use this formula: you should spend about 10% of the interview asking questions and another 80% listening. (OK, I know that some of you may now be second guessing your addition since math is not always a strong suit for many of us lawyers, but yes, you are correct if you realized this leaves only 10% of the time for you to talk).

Remember, people like to talk about themselves – so let them. While not talking may seem challenging at first, I promise that it will also be worth it. In most cases, the Client will perceive you as more interested in them and less focused on your own interests. This will reflect positively on you, especially since most other attorneys can't or don’t do this. The Client may even come away from the interview thinking that you are a wonderful conversationalist. You’ll also be amazed at what you will learn. You will likely even discover opportunities for you or another attorney at your firm to help the Client – and develop some business in the process.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Achieving CRM Success - What Now?

Because trying to process all of the information about CRM success can sometimes seem overwhelming, it can be helpful to keep a few things in mind:

1.    Don’t try to do everything. CRM can do a thousand things… that doesn't mean that it should. Focus on your firm’s core needs and goals - initially the two or three that are most pressing and are considered essential by the firm and attorneys.
2.    Do something. Start by assessing your firm’s goals and needs and developing a CRM success plan strategy and plan to achieve them. Get agreement, input and buy-in from key stakeholders. Then work on executing your plan. As you achieve a goal, communicate success and set a new goal. Repeat. Remember, you often win the CRM battle one step at a time. 
3.    Don’t do it alone. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of great resources for CRM information and advice. Reach out to colleagues, industry organizations, CRM providers or consultants. You will find that most are willing to freely share information, ideas and best practices. 

At ClientsFirst, we are always happy to help with CRM success. Feel free to contact me anytime if you ever need information or ideas. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Business Development Mistake #5 - Focusing on Yourself Instead of the Client

Here is some tough news: the world is full of smart lawyers from great firms who went to top schools and who have all kinds of honors. Being smart and qualified will no longer differentiate you. In fact, almost anyone on the short list can make a case that they are the best lawyer for the job. 

Fortunately Clients don’t hire people just because they are good lawyers. They hire good lawyers that they like, trust and connect with. To make this connection, focus on the Client. Demonstrate that you understand their business and their industry and that you have knowledge and experience in helping Clients like them solve real business problems. Now that is a differentiator.