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4 posts from February 2007

February 28, 2007

Maximize results from lunches and meetings

There’s a story behind this week’s post. I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve been thinking about giving up this blog. A few days ago I looked through my book Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide for something I could post quickly for this week. When I re-read the info below, I realized that I had gotten so caught up in deadlines that I was ignoring what I’d written in my book. So I followed my own advice, and it worked.

Is this your top priority?
People hire lawyers whom they like and trust. Even in the internet age, business relationships are built on face-to-face meetings. Maximizing results from these meetings is critical to success.

Meet with the right people. Almost any meeting can help you to network and find your way to potential clients. But since the time you have available for new business meetings is limited, it is important to prioritize. If in doubt, meet with current clients first, then with partners who are open to cross-selling, then with others who fit your client profile or may know someone who can help you.

The wrong approach to meetings.
The most common mistakes in marketing meetings are talking too much, and pushing for too much, too soon. The most successful rainmakers are good listeners who adjust their pace to each individual’s comfort zone.

Do your homework. Before each meeting, spend a few minutes on the web reading about your client’s organization. Review bios, news items and more for one or two memorable facts. Work the facts into your questions or conversation, to show that you did your homework.

Remember to listen. Plan to spend fifty to eighty percent of the meeting listening. Prepare a few simple questions to get the person talking, based on your web research or more general questions. At the end, ask: Is there anything else I should know?

Define an advance. Before you go into any meeting, define the goal you would like to achieve. Research with over 35,000 professionals has shown that the best salespeople excel at getting “advances,” specific next steps that move relationships forward (see Chapter 3). Getting advances is an art; you must make sure each item is specific, and determine how quickly each client will move. If a prospect says “we should talk again,” it is NOT an advance until she sets a date and time.

Take the first step today. Schedule two meetings or lunches with current clients, or with partners at your firm who are interested in cross-selling, or with prospects for new business. Define the advance you would like to achieve at each meeting, and prepare a few questions to insure that you listen fifty to eighty percent of the time.

February 21, 2007

Ten steps to find new clients

Near the end of my Legal Business Development Workbook, I summarize the steps any lawyers needs to undertake to find new clients. The work is hard, but the concepts are simple:

1. Commit to the long term.

2. List your top prospects, the organizations and individuals who are most likely to need your legal services.

3. Test your value proposition and elevator speech. Is this really the best group for you to target? Why should these very busy people talk to you?

4. Plan to be in contact with each person at least once every 6-12 weeks to stay “top of mind.”

5. Create a plan to maximize face to face meetings. Build on activities that are most likely to be effective and enjoyable for you.

6. Prioritize relentlessly. Are you spending your very limited marketing time on the prospects with the greatest potential need for your services? Or are you taking the wrong people to lunch?

7. Qualify prospects after every meeting. Ask: Will they buy? Will they buy now? Will they buy from me? If the answer is no, keep them on your long list of people who get holiday greeting cards, but avoid time consuming activities.

8. Follow up consistently. Don’t stop.

9. Evaluate properly. Track your progress in a spreadsheet every week by listing the time you spend, number of advances, and/or other leading indicators of success. Are you meeting your goals?

10. Get out of the office today, and meet with a top prospect.

February 14, 2007

Would a CRM help you keep in touch?

Last week, I talked about the need to stay in touch with many people if you want to develop new clients. Sounds like a job for a computer. But which program should you use?

According to the website for LexisNexis Interaction, over 60% of AmLaw 100 firms use Interaction as their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to track clients and prospects. If your firm is one of them, or has installed another CRM that is working smoothely, you already know the answer and can skip this week’s post.

But if you don’t already have a CRM in place, in my opinion you face some very tough choices.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because for the last few months I’ve been putting a lot of time into my own CRM. LegalBizDev currently keeps in regular contact with about 800 people, and the number is going up. For the last 10 years, we’ve used one of the market leading CRMs – ACT -- and had a love/hate relationship the whole time. We loved the power of the system for tracking contacts and tasks. But we hated the time and money it took to keep it running. Every installation and upgrade led to problems, and synchronizing data from multiple users was never as easy as it should have been.

This came to a head in November when I bought a new laptop, and I needed to move ACT from my old computer to the new one. A few weeks ago, I wrote in this blog about the problems I had, including several hours on the phone with technical support people who needed English lessons. After I wrote about those problems, it got worse.

When the technical support person tried to get ACT running on my new computer, she rapidly deleted a number of related files. I started having new problems with other programs before we even got off the phone. When I asked about the problems she had apparently caused with other programs, she replied: I can’t help you with other programs call Dell. So I did. This led to several hours on the phone with Dell technical support people. They not only spoke English, but they were nicer people who cared whether my problem was solved. They ultimately reformatted my hard drive to undo the damage that may have been caused by ACT support.

One result of my experience with customer service was that I felt a renewed loyalty to Dell. (It’s a good thing, because some unrelated problems appeared after the hard drive was reformatted.) Another result of my experience was a new determination to consider alternatives to ACT.

For years, I had been thinking about switching to Salesforce.com, in part to simply get away from ACT, and in part because I love the fact that Salesforce is web-based and so several of us can work on the same data in real time. But I knew the transition would require a great deal of time and effort, so I kept putting it off.

As a result of this latest fiasco, I signed up for Salesforce’s 30 day free trial, and bought Salesforce for Dummies. I had hoped to switch within a few days. But the transition wasn’t easy, and I spent most of the 30 days being frustrated by things that did not work as I had expected, and changing my mind about whether it was worth the trouble.

A few weeks ago, I finally switched to Salesforce. Moving names and addresses was relatively easy, but I still have not found a cost effective way to move all the data about past phone calls and emails that I have in ACT. Right now we are using Salesforce for the present and future, and referring back to ACT when we need details on the past. Despite this, our conclusion after 2 weeks is that we absolutely love salesforce. Ask me again in 6 months.

The reason I told you this long story is partly to vent, and partly as a warning: CRMs are complex and powerful programs that take a lot of time and effort to maintain. If you need to coordinate a large business development effort with many prospects, you will get a huge payoff. In all the time I was frustrated with ACT, I only considered which other CRM might be better, and never once considered trying to live without a CRM.

But many of the lawyers I coach have trouble finding enough time to take their top clients to lunch. If time is an issue, I say use a spreadsheet or word processor table. It won’t be as slick or as powerful as a CRM, but you will have a whole lot more time to do what you should be doing: building personal relationships with the people who matter most to your practice.

February 07, 2007

How to keep in touch with potential clients

Any lawyer who wants to develop new business must keep in touch with a large number of people. That’s the only way to find the small number who may some day need your services. It takes time to build relationships, and legal needs increase and decrease. If you keep in touch on a regular low-key basis, it will maximize the chances that you will be “top of mind” on the day someone starts thinking about a new lawyer.

It has always been difficult to stay top of mind. In a world filled with too many emails, blogs, and newsletters, it is only getting harder.

The question is: what type of system will help you to stay in touch with many prospects, efficiently and effectively? While every lawyer must find his or her own answer to this question, the best systems have three elements in common:

Focus on the right people. Lawyers have a natural tendency to focus on the people they already know. That is fine when you know people who buy the services you provide, or who can help you find them. But if your list is limited to neighbors and old college friends, this probably won’t work. You must start from a clear vision of the type of people who may some day need your specialized legal expertise, and then create lists of the actual people you’d like to do business with. If you don’t know them already, your job is to find a way to meet them. Nobody said it would be easy.

Provide value. The most obvious way to provide value is to keep people informed about legal changes and decisions that may be relevant to their business. But some may have no direct connection to the law. For examples, see my posts on “the zen of selling by not selling.”

Make it personal. According to one survey: “Clients are fed up of being bombarded with newsletters; many cite them more as an irritant than an asset.” If you get an email that has been sent to 50 people at the same time, how much does it strengthen your relationship with the sender? Now suppose you get the exact same message, but it goes just to you, starts with your name, and maybe even ends with a personal reference to your kids? The idea of keeping in touch is to build relationships, and that must be done one person at a time.

If you are going to stay in contact with large numbers of people, you’ll need a filing system or software. Next week, I’ll talk about Customer Relationship Management software and the alternatives.

This material was adapted from my book The Legal Business Development Workbook.