It is an all too familiar conundrum – busy attorneys meet, whenever possible, to discuss the firm’s new business pipeline and share prospects. Then, before they even have a chance to set follow-up reminders on their calendars, they are bombarded with flurry of urgent client emails.
The new business efforts, naturally, are set aside, to focus on existing clients.
Adding to the challenge of balancing business development against a demanding workload is the pace in which attorneys send and receive information. Unlike decades ago when an attorney would have time meet a new business prospect and take them to lunch, today’s attorneys are not only pressed for time, but the span of business prospects is much greater and less manageable.
How Do Attorneys Get Clients Online?
Stepping Back to Move Forward
In spite of these hurdles, marketing and business development experts say one of the most important things an attorney can do to effectively build new business is take a step back and analyze whether their actions are actually translating into business leads.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is confusing activity and being connected with real results,” Doug Johnson, managing director of Catapult Growth Partners in a recent webinar on law firm business development. “Some attorneys may be fooling themselves believing because they are active on social media channels that this connectivity will actually translate into business.”
Process, Prospecting and Accountability
A better way to cultivate new business requires a more calculated approach that involves three key success factors:
1. Focus on the right process. This refers to better understanding the steps a general counsel or a corporate buyer takes before making a purchasing decision on a legal matter. Once an attorney has insight about what it takes to get hired, they can chronicle the information in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. In other words, the technology can remind the attorney what it takes to win the business. These steps can also be applied to winning future matters.
2. Focus on proactive prospecting actions. Attorneys should redirect business meetings to focus less on what they’ve done for their clients in the past and more on what they plan to do to tackle their clients’ upcoming business challenges. Honing in on what is to come rather than highlighting past successes is a good rule of thumb.
3. Use Technology to Provide Accountability. Unless an attorney has a photographic memory it’s nearly impossible to remember every detail about a client or prospective clients’ history, given the pace of communications today. CRM solutions can catalogue important historical information and remind attorneys when important touch points should be made. These tools can also help attorneys better understand where to spend their time with respect to business development.
Keep it Simple
Behavioral science shows people will do what benefits them the quickest. This means the majority of people do what is easy over what is important. The same rule applies for attorneys. While there are natural rainmakers at every law firm, most attorneys need a business development process that is simple and easily implemented into their hectic work schedule. In light of this, an effective program should include no more than three core components:
4. Listen to understand. To identify opportunities, they recommend taking time to listen carefully to what clients and prospects are saying their business. Numerous scientific studies indicate when making a purchasing decision, if a client doesn’t feel heard they will likely look elsewhere for business. Repeating back what is heard during a meeting is a good exercise to practice. It helps the prospective client know you listened to them and care about their business.
5. Trusted advisors are indispensable. Relationships open doors, but it is how relationships are nurtured that really matters. According to Mr. Johnson, most attorneys stall out at the solid working relationship stage with clients. However, when an attorney can move into a position of being a trusted advisor, this is when they start to become indispensable to the client. When a client starts asking for counsel about a legal matter outside the scope of business, you are on the right track.
6. Prioritize according to importance. A successful business development program can’t possibly be managed without setting to-dos on a calendar. The key is to categorize to-dos in tiers according to importance. In other words, attorneys should identify the most important thing they need to do and work on that first. The other pieces can wait and technology can be used to manage the workflow process and help set reminders for upcoming tasks.
Think Big, Start Small, Scale Up
Once a business development program is in place, one of the biggest pitfalls to avoid is trying to cram too many contacts into a CRM platform at the same time. Instead, focus on a smaller pool of prospects and get comfortable with the process.
It is far more effective to hone in on three to four prospects and learn important information about those individuals for example: how they like to be communicated with or what their buying style is like – as opposed to importing 1000 contacts into a CRM solution and trying to get to them all at once. Mo Bunnell, president of Bunnell Idea Group, credits a former client with a great way to approach the process: “think big, start small, scale up.”
When an attorney can pair a manageable number of strategic prospects with a succinct process and leverage technology to manage the workflow cycle, this is when the needle starts to move. If that’s the case, then it sounds like slow and steady wins the race, after all.