A new piece of new business is all very well but, if you are only providing one service to a client, then you only have a toehold in the account, which doesn’t necessarily make it loyal. However, on the positive side, a toehold gives you the opportunity to make further inroads.
Research from Harvard Business Review1 shows that “the more practice groups that are involved in a client engagement, the greater the average annual revenue the client generates. And the more cross-specialty work professionals engage in, the more work they will subsequently get and the more they'll be able to charge for it”.
So, both from the point of view of individual fee earners and the overall practice, it makes sense for partners to work together to grow the client’s business. So how can you go about it?
The first step is to have a deep understanding of your new client. Your CRM system can help you identify and share the key individuals, their goals and aspirations, as well as the business objectives of the organisation.
Having detailed knowledge of the sector the company works in is also crucial. Armed with a sound understanding of the business and its environment you can anticipate potential issues and problems. As a result, you can proactively advise the client, providing additional value to the individual and the business that competitors will find it hard to emulate.
Some practices I’ve worked see this business understanding as being so crucial that they are encouraging lawyers to study for MBAs, or organising briefings from sector specialists.
Once you have a sound understanding of your client and the sector, you can then start looking for new areas of opportunity. This is where the relationship intelligence in your CRM system is crucial.
First of all, it can help you identify partners and/or associates who already have dealings with the new people you want to target. These could be professional connections, either currently or in the past, or personal associations, for example belonging to special interest groups. These relationships can then be leveraged to broker introductions.
Secondly, it can help you identify where there are no relationships, which can be just as important. If your practice has no visibility with a senior client figure – and your competitor does – you could be in trouble!!
Thirdly your CRM system can help you identify where you have specialists that can be used to bid for other work. Cross-speciality teams not only drive greater revenue, they can also engender greater loyalty, as it is more difficult to replace them. For example, finding an individual tax lawyer probably isn’t too difficult or risky. Replacing a team that includes a tax lawyer, intellectual property lawyer, regulatory lawyer and a litigator could be extremely risky indeed.
By adopting this approach, instead of being an end in itself, winning a new piece of business becomes just the first step in building a long and profitable relationship for both your firm and your client. And creating the advocates you need to win even more business.
1 When Senior Managers Won't Collaborate, Heidi K. Gardner, Harvard Business Review