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.
There is often no better way to develop business than getting face-to-face with Clients and prospects– your CRM contacts. This may explain why so many law firms spend so much time and dedicate so many resources for events.
While the types of events are diverse – lunches and dinners, cocktail parties, seminars, roundtables, golf outings, sports events, 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
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’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 failure.
CRM is about people, process and technology – and CRM failure in the past has been 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.
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,
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 or CRM failures that many people have reported as a result.
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.