So your firm has a CRM system. It’s an essential part of the over-arching strategy the partners have set for the future. And you are responsible for making it a success. Where do you start?
Well, from my perspective, the first thing to do is to take off your shoes and walk in the brogues or flats of everyone in the organisation who will use the system. Not literally, of course, but metaphorically walking in their shoes will give you the vital insights you need to make the system relevant and useful to them. And relevant and useful systems are the ones that get used. Let’s look at some examples.
Personal Assistants (PAs)
As far as I am concerned, PAs are the gatekeepers of any CRM system. They are constantly receiving information about client relationships. So getting them on board is crucial. But what’s in it for them? The answer is that a well-run CRM system can not only save them time, but also enable them to support for their fee earners better.
For example, when they know important meetings are coming up, PAs can proactively run reports showing the activities and contacts that have taken place with the client. Armed with this information, fee earners can be better prepared and are less likely to be wrong-footed by clients.
Alternatively, if their fee earners are wooing potential new clients, PAs can proactively interrogate the CRM system for existing relationships within the target or with intermediaries. Using the system not only make it easier for PAs to provide the information fee earners need, it makes them more valuable to them and the firm - and they can prove it by producing a report of their activities for their annual appraisal. As a result, they can improve their career prospects and remuneration.
Over the past three or four years I have noticed a major shift in business development, with a new breed of professional emerging. There are still some firms where generalists run tactical lead generation marketing campaigns and events. And of course, a CRM system can greatly simplify the execution and tracking of these activities, as well as managing the resulting pipeline.
But the new breed of business development professional is more strategic, advising and coaching partners on becoming industry/sector experts, the best prospects to target and the best tactics to engage with them. For these professionals, information and insight into the target companies and any existing or previous relationships is critical. So too, is the ability to plan and execute a co-ordinated nurturing plan. A well-run CRM system is critical for supporting all these activities.
In today’s competitive legal environment fee earners must always be thinking about where the next matter is coming from and building the relationships that result in future business. However, their time is extremely precious. Their first priority must be to focus on the matters in hand and deliver the best possible service to clients.
That’s where a CRM system is most useful to them. It can not only give them a full history of client contacts, activities and interactions (or their PAs can!!), it can make recommendations about which clients to contact and when, maximising the use of the limited time available.
In fact, that is probably the key message for all users that work with a CRM system. Using it can help them work smarter, not harder; and maximise the use of their time. At the same time the system provides a single source of the truth, which enables a cohesive, one-firm approach to clients, prospects and intermediaries. The bottom line is better relationships and a more successful firm.