Thursday, January 27, 2011

Business Development for Fun and Sport

If you were to think of business development as a sport, what kind of sport would it be? Football, with all of its intensity, competition and rivalry? Hockey, with its emphasis on hitting the goals? Basketball, with the excitement of making and scoring on a long shot? Baseball, where you have to ‘touch base’ or you are out of the game? Soccer, with the strategy of advancing the ball – and sometimes having it hit you in the head. Tennis maybe, with all of the volleying back and forth that goes on? Golf, with all of its emphasis on focus and concentration – not to mention the occasional frustration? Maybe it’s a little of all of these things, but one thing’s for sure: successful business development is definitely a team sport.

That’s because, as with most things in life, business development requires building and leveraging relationships. It requires collaboration in working together with clients to help them identify problems and find solutions. It involves the give-and-take and sharing of roles and responsibilities. It sometimes requires relying on others to get things done – and the idea that a partnership can allow you to accomplish more than you could have alone. Sometimes it even requires building relationships with other members of your firm, creating a Client team to support your best Clients or a pitch team to acquire new ones.

Of course, the ultimate goal in the game of business development is to have your Client consider you to be part of their ‘team.’ That is how you know you’ve won.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Happy New CRM Year

The way to avoid causing a CRM 'revolution' at your firm and have a truly Happy CRM New Year is to forget about all of the sweeping changes you resolved to make. Instead, you need to make only one resolution this year: to be a little better each day. I know, it's not very exciting - but it works.

It also makes sense. That's because CRM isn't an initiative or a project. It's a fundamental change in the way your firm thinks about and manages its most important relationships. As a result, CRM success requires an ongoing commitment. This means that it takes time. This means that you are never really 'finished.' This also means there is no need to rush. In fact, firms that do rush often end up failing, which costs them a great deal of time, money - and credibility. 

Many of these firms ended up failing because they tried to do too much too fast: They may have rushed to implement without a strategy or a plan. They may have tried to roll out before their data was cleaned and standardized. They might not have taken the time to gather and implement feedback from end users to customize or enhance the system. They may even have been one of many firms that made the fatal but all-too-common mistake of thinking that it made sense to roll out everyone all at once. Many of these firms learned some very expensive lessons – and several have ended up aborting their rollouts, only to later have to begin all over again later.Many also learned how important it is to get it right the first time because you don't always get a second chance at CRM success. Once CRM has failed, it can be extremely costly and difficult to regain buy-in from firm management and confidence from end users. 

So this year, resolve to enhance your chances of CRM success by simply trying to be a little better each day. Develop a strategy. Commit to planning. Focus on understanding and meeting end user needs. Automate processes to save time and effort. Communicate successes to drive adoption. Measure results to demonstrate return on investment. Find opportunities to provide value to users. Most importantly, don’t do it alone. Reach out for information, ideas and best practices from colleagues, peers, industry experts, vendors or consultants. Remember, we are here to help if you need it. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Door to Business Development

Writing, speaking and other reputation-building or marketing activities are a great way to open the door for business development, but to be really successful, you have to walk through it. This door may lead to a lot of places, but the one place it should almost always lead you is out of the office.

That’s because the most effective business development is done face-to-face. To be a successful business developer, you have to get out from behind your desk and go see the Clients and prospects. Sure, there are other ways to develop business, but absolutely none more effective.

Does this mean you have to network at rubber chicken fundraisers or 'schmooze' at cocktail parties? Not unless that's your thing. But what it does mean is that you have to add ‘face time’ to your business development activities.

This means that when you write an article, you think about individuals who could benefit from it and send it to them with a personal note. When you develop a seminar, you offer to present it in-person to top Clients or prospects at their offices. When you speak at an event, you stay afterwards to answer questions or call to follow up with people who request additional information. When you attend a conference, you take prospects or referral sources out for dinner or cocktails. Most importantly, you plan face-to-face business meetings with your top prospects to assess their needs - because until you do, you have no idea how you can help them – and that is the key to developing business.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CRM Resolution.. or Revolution

Why do so many of our New Year's resolutions fail? Realistically it's not all our fault. We had the best of intentions. We really did. We just tried to do too much. We resolved to break all of our bad habits all at once. It's crazy if you think about it. We spent a whole year eating, drinking, relaxing - and now the new year seems like an easy time to turn things around. 

The problem is that it often takes as long - or longer - to let go of a bad habit than to acquire one. It can take between 21 and 66 days to adopt a bad habit. So just giving it up on January 1 is pretty unlikely. Plus, it's a lot harder to give up a bad habit because it takes more work and is usually a lot less fun than acquiring it was.

Bad CRM habits are just as hard to break. Actually they are sometimes harder to break because it's not just you own behavior you have to change. It's the whole firm that has to change - and you know how we lawyers love change.

Additionally, the things that need to be changed are often challenging. Firm management may need to be convinced to budget money to hire staff or upgrade systems. Attorneys and assistants may need to be persuaded to give up some of their free time (as if they actually have any) to sit through additional training. You may even need to convince everyone in the firm that it makes sense to move forward with a firm-wide rollout with all of the time, money and other resources that entails. 

Geez, it was bad enough trying to get your own bloated butt off the couch to go the gym. How in the world are you going to be able to get everyone in your law firm to play together nicely in the CRM sandbox? What you need is a revolution, not a resolution...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Building Blocks of Business Development Success

When it comes to developing business, the goal is to make it habitual - and that requires finding activities that you enjoy. Fortunately, there are so many options that there really is something for almost everyone. The key is to find the activities that are right for you.

For instance, some people are good at developing business by leveraging speaking opportunities at conferences and events or in front of Clients. But public speaking isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people. This may be due to the fact that almost half of all people have a fear of public speaking. Research indicates that speaking in public is often the number one phobia, outranking even the fear of death. So if you’re not a fan, you aren’t alone.

What about writing? There are a whole lot of lawyers who seem to be good at this. Just look all the English majors who end up self-selecting for law school. So if you are one of them, go for it. Just remember that business development by pen can be a long-term strategy. It can take a while to become a respected authority. The most important thing is to make sure that you write about topics that are relevant to potential clients and that you write for the publications they read. If you aren’t sure what they read, ask them. It’s a great way to start a dialogue.

While speaking and writing are popular among lawyers and are both good methods for things like credentialing, it’s also important to appreciate that these activities, by themselves, usually will not get you business. Instead, they will help to enhance your reputation and establish you as an authority. They are the building blocks that help to lay the groundwork for where the real business development begins…

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Your CRM Resolution

So you resolve to make this the year to focus on CRM success. What a great New Year’s resolution. This will finally be the year that you'll roll the system out firm-wide… in the first quarter. You’ll put training, communication and incentive programs in place… and the sign-up lists will be overflowing with eager ‘students’. You’ll integrate with time and billing and other key firm systems … and the data will be utilized to support strategic long-term planning. You’ll input industry codes for each Client… and the data will guide targeted marketing and communication efforts.

Of course, all of the attorneys and assistants will be thrilled to participate and cooperate. They will make sure all the data they input is clean and complete. They will eagerly to add all of their contacts to lists. They will enter all their business development and marketing activities. They will have fun and productive cross selling and Client team meetings. 

Firm leaders will enthusiastically and vocally support your CRM efforts throughout the firm. They will reward you with praise, a corner office and a big, fat bonus. You will finally get to work a 40-hour week... and actually take your vacation days.

As result of your efforts, no one will say a word if the firm raises their rates because of the improved service they are now receiving… and RFPs will disappear because of the additional efficiency and value the firm is now providing… and Clients will rush to the firm's doors with suitcases of money… and zzzzzzzzz...

Wait, it appears that you may have had a bit too much champagne and drifted off prematurely before the New Year. Well wake up! This is a prime example of the reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail...  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Having a Happy New Year

The New Year is an excellent time for a lot of things: celebrating, planning, making resolutions you’ll break a month later. But it’s also a good time to ask yourself this question: what are you going to do to make sure that your Happy New Year really is, well...happy?

Yes, happy. Face it, the day goes by faster and work seems less like work when it makes us happy. In a perfect world, most of us would like to do interesting work for loyal Clients who value our services and pay us fairly. And if we can do less work and have more free time for ourselves, our families and our friends, that will make most of us happy too. Life is just too short to be unhappy. 

It’s the same for business development. If you enjoy it, you will always be more successful at it. Too many attorneys I talk to think that business development means ‘pitching’ or ‘schmoozing’ or ‘working the room’ at a cocktail party - and the thought of that does not make them happy.

Fortunately, that’s not what business development is all about. In fact, there are so many things you can do to develop business that there is something almost any attorney can find enjoyable...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year's CRM Resolution

It's that time again. We ring in the New Year. Pop the champagne cork. Watch the big ball fall. Catch a few fireworks. If we’re lucky, we may even get a smooch or two.

Then the next thing you know it's one-one-one-one, and it hits us: another year has passed us by. We relaxed - and were lax. We indulged - and then bulged. Now suddenly we realize that we aren't gettin' any younger… or healthier… or richer… or thinner. Time is not our friend. We have to do something.

It's pretty much the same with CRM. Over time it's easy to let things slip. We don't mandate participation because it might require some unpleasant conversations. We skimp on staffing, training or incentives to save money. We don't make the effort to promote successes. We don't spend the time it takes to clean up our data. In reality, we just weren't ready to commit to the ongoing change that CRM requires. But it’s a New Year, right?

What better time to fix all our problems than the New Year. Now is the best time to put all of our bad habits behind us and make a fresh start. This year we will spend less, eat better, watch less TV and even start working out. And this year we are really going to be able to do it... well, at least until February. 

Sound familiar? Rest assured that you are not alone. People all over the world are doing the exact same thing. You're in good company – and they will fail just about as often, unless...