Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Business Development Scoreboard

If you are going to play the business development game, you need to keep score. This concept should appeal to most attorneys, who are often competitive by nature. But in reality, keeping score in business development is less about winning and more about improving your game. If there is no accountability, there is going to be less motivation to push yourself to move to the next level.

How do you keep score in business development? You find a way to track progress and measure results. It can be as simple as calendaring your business development activities and setting reminders to make sure that you follow up on a regular basis. You can track Client and prospect contact and business information and take notes about what is discussed during calls or meetings. If you have access to a CRM system, that can be an excellent tool for keeping up with this type of information. If not, you can make do with the tools on your desktop such as Microsoft Outlook or Word.

Finally, you should track the numbers of calls and meetings you have had and, most importantly, the results. The tool for tracking this type of information is called a pipeline, which is really just fancy sales terminology for a scoreboard. There are plenty of types of software that have been created for exactly this purpose. However, many of them are geared more towards companies than law firms, which can make them difficult and time consuming to use. Most attorneys find that a spreadsheet works just as well. Remember, when it comes to the business development game, it’s not the flashing lights or bells or whistles that really matter. It’s having the winning score... 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Diving Into CRM Part 4: The Deep End

It’s a scary feeling: realizing you have - perhaps inadvertently - ventured out of the safety of the shallow end of the CRM pool. Suddenly you start to realize you can no longer feel the solid bottom under your feet. Now is the time you really will sink or swim. Not to worry. Every seasoned swimmer, at some time or another, has been where you are – in the deep end. And many of them ended up as better swimmers because of it.

Sure, plenty of firms are perfectly content to splash around in the shallow end of the CRM pool. They purchase systems to help solve problems with mailings and events. Even though you should never underestimate the challenges associated with Client communications in a law firm, this is really just putting a toe in the water. Others want to utilize CRM’s who knows who functionality to enhance business development efforts. Again, this is beneficial and can certainly justify the purchase of a system, but it’s still basically dog-paddling. To really get to the next level of CRM success, you have to take some risks – and that requires going ‘deep.’

Deep means utilizing the CRM system strategically. For instance, CRM can be used to support Client teams by tracking associated activities and scheduling follow-up reminders. Industry information can be imported to better segment Clients and prospects. The system can be tied to time and billing to share financial information so the attorneys can make informed decisions and profile top Clients or even those that may be at risk of defection. The system can be utilized to enhance Client service by sharing information gathered from Client surveys. You can even invest in integrating outside data sources to populate company contact records with key business and financial information.

Like the first time you venture into the deep end, all of these things can have the unfortunate potential to cause a little uneasiness. They frequently involve significant investments of time, money and staff and can sometimes even have political repercussions. But they also have the potential to help your firm become a stronger CRM swimmer, and as a result, enhance business and improve profitability. So once you are in the deep end, you may find that it can actually be a great place, assuming you are prepared to take the plunge and start swimming… 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gimme a ‘B’, Gimme a ‘D’

How can your cheerleaders help you to improve your business development game? There are lots of ways.

The researchers in the marketing department or library have access to tools and technology to help you discover what the most pressing industry issues and trends are that may be driving legal needs and purchases of legal services. They can keep you up to speed with information on Clients and help you identify opportunities to cross sell. They can even help you identify competitors’ strengths and weaknesses to give you an advantage in a pitch.

Additionally, as busy as they may be, the technology department is always looking for ways to help the attorneys improve their game. They are focused on utilizing and developing software and systems to help the lawyers improve efficiency, save money, be more accessible and mobile and do more with less. This can translate into profits for the firm – and benefits for business development. They are also dialed into the technology to help communicate more effectively, identify and track business development opportunities and provide superior service to existing Clients.

Finally, the marketing department is often your most enthusiastic cheerleader. They are eager to help you get out there and win more business. They have PR experts who can help get your articles into the publications that Clients are reading. They can find speaking opportunities for you at conferences and other events that Clients are attending. They can introduce you to social media outlets to enhance your reputation, showcase your expertise and make connections with prospects. Most importantly, they can help you plan a business development strategy and take your game to the next level by finding the right trainer and coach.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Diving Into CRM Part 3 - That Sinking CRM Feeling

After you realize how much you have sunken into a CRM project – the time, money and, especially, credibility – it’s easy to start getting nervous. You dove right in and purchased the system, you started off with a smooth stroke on the installation, you had made several laps toward getting users installed, and then, something unexpected happened.

Maybe the attorneys didn’t show up for training. Perhaps secretaries planned a revolt after realizing that a lot of the work was going to be on them. The IT department got caught up in their other projects and was got behind on the installations. The data stewards bailed when they discovered that merging tens of thousands of duplicates for hours each day just wasn’t as glamorous as they thought.

Whatever may have happened, you are starting to feel like you are all alone in the CRM pool – and you begin to realize that you may be in over your head. Suddenly you get that sinking feeling…

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Business Development as a Sport – Part 3: The Cheerleaders

Like any sport, business development is always better if you have cheerleaders. It’s nice to have people who are on your side cheering for you and helping you to win. In the law firm, the individuals dedicated to marketing, business development, technology and research can actually be some of your most devoted and helpful cheerleaders.

OK, so maybe they aren’t on the sidelines with pom-poms yelling at the top of their lungs and doing backflips. That type of behavior can tend to be frowned upon in the hallowed halls of the sophisticated law firm. 

But your law firm cheerleaders actually serve a much more subtle and important a role: they support you in all of your efforts to help you succeed at business development, and on the occasions when you don’t score a big win, they still support you and then they help you improve and find ways to do better next time. With them as valued members of your team, it's easier to stay at the top of your game and win new business more often. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Diving Into CRM Part 2 - Getting Into the Pool

It doesn’t matter how you end up getting into the CRM pool. Whether you step, walk, jump, dive or even belly-flop into the water, once you are there it’s sink or swim. Soon after you’ve taken the CRM plunge, it suddenly becomes very important to find a way to stay afloat. Once you have made the CRM investment, you’re committed, for a lot of reasons. (By the way, if you haven't done any of the following things yet, you need to - right away.)

You’ve spent a lot of time, money and, often, credibility. You’ve convinced the firm of the importance of purchasing a system. You’ve juggled budgets to get the money for the necessary software, hardware and staff. You’ve entered into a multi-year ongoing relationship with a CRM provider. You’ve partnered with IT to utilize some of their resources. You’ve hired an internal or outsourced data steward. You’ve had your data quality evaluated to figure out how much it will cost and how long it will take to clean up. You’ve put communication and training plans and incentives in place. You’ve committed to the change management that will be necessary to successfully roll the system.
Wow, have you gone off the deep end?...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Business Development as a Sport – Part 2: The Goal

So if we are thinking of business development as a sport then, of course, we need a goal. So what would the goal of business development be? Actually, there would likely be more than just one.

One of the most important goals would be to keep the ball rolling: reach out, make connections, set up meetings. In short, get out of the office and go see the Clients and prospects. While those balls are rolling, you would also need to be able to keep multiple balls in the air. You will need to juggle the work and other demands of a successful law practice with the responsibilities inherent in business development - writing, speaking, making calls and/or attending meetings, conferences or events, all of which can require a significant time commitment.  

A higher goal, and one that would be worth several points, would be to attempt to level the playing field – to become so good at what you do that none of your competitors can get close to you. One way to do this is to become so entrenched in an industry niche that your experience and knowledge are sought after and people refer you work. Another way is to become so well versed in your Client’s business that they consider you a trusted advisor and business partner and seek your advice, which can lead to multiple opportunities to generate additional work and even cross sell.

A final goal would be to practice, practice, practice. When it comes to business development, the more you do, the better you get - and the easier it becomes. In fact, if you practice enough, you will reach the ultimate goal: to make business development so habitual that you almost reach a point of ‘muscle memory’ where developing business becomes something effortless that you are so good at that you even enjoy it. That’s when you know you have ‘gone pro.’ 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Diving Into CRM - Part 1

Have you ever heard the saying that you have to walk before you can run? It’s usually being spouted off by one of those that really annoying self-important know-it-alls with all of their clever little sayings. You know, the ones who are usually all talk. Anyway, I’ve heard them say this about CRM too, but I disagree. Instead, I would say that with CRM is more like a triathlon: you have to swim before you can run (ok, a triathlon without the biking – and after swimming and running, most of us would be too tired to care about the biking anyway).

OK, I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck all that means. It means that different firms approach CRM in different ways. Some firms dive right in head-first with both feet. Of course, those firms often later need someone to toss them a life preserver. Some even require resuscitation, which is what some people call it when they attempt to roll out a system for the third time.  

Other firms commit to only a toe. They walk up to the pool with their water wings on and do as little as possible for fear of drowning. Years later, you can often still find them by the side of the pool watching all the cool kids splashing around and wishing they had the courage to go in. If they could only conquer that fear, they might have a great experience and may even learn new things.