When talking to firms recently it’s become clear that targeting, prospecting and sales are hot topics and I guess it should be no surprise. These days reputation alone is no longer enough to retain and gain business. The legal market is highly competitive and there are plenty of other firms targeting your customers’ instructions.
The fact is, of course, that firms have always had lists of target companies they wanted to do business with. The difference though today is that growing your business demands a planned approach. It requires business development associates, fee earners and partners working closely together to build a defined sales pipeline and create a strategy for moving prospects down that pipeline, from targets to fee paying customers.
And it means being more scientific about how you approach business development. In my experience, the most successful firms start by looking very carefully at customers, referrers and targets to understand what the perfect client and instructions look like. Then they segment prospects into ‘hot’, ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ depending on their propensity for doing business with the firm.
The next, extraordinarily important step is to bring together all the information you can about each prospect – and this is where your CRM system is crucial. Data from activity reports, previous business development campaigns and other communications can be combined with external data to try and uncover that most valuable of commodities in business development – a current or previous relationship with a prospect.
It may be that a fee earner used to work for a target company, or someone at the target company used to work for your firm. It may be that there is a relationship through an intermediary - individuals from both companies sitting on a board of trustees or involved with a professional body, for example. It could be from a personal network, such as LinkedIn. Wherever the relationship occurs, the key is to uncover it. And, once it’s uncovered, to build a team that is responsible for nurturing it to deliver new business.
Your CRM system should underpin your nurturing activities too – by enabling you to build lists for inclusion in targeted marketing activities, providing reminders to fee earners and business development associates and keeping track of all the communications with prospects, so that everyone is fully aware of the interactions that have taken place.
By placing CRM at the centre of your business development strategy, it changes from simply being a contact database to a prime provider of sales intelligence and a key tool for turning your organisation into a sales-savvy firm.