Business Development (BD) is happening in law firms. CRM is happening in law firms too but I am specifically referring to “CRM” here primarily as the strategic practice of a firm looking after and managing its most important relationships - clients, potential clients, intermediary relationships such as referrers, bankers, influencers, consultants, witnesses etc. The usage of a CRM 'system' to support this relationship strategy is critical in my opinion - most professional services firms promulgate their relationships as one of the most important and unique assets in their offering - however, I am generally quite surprised when it comes to budgetary decisions and allocations regarding technology put in place to support these relationships, often there is a mismatch.
In terms of BD, firms are certainly realising the importance of having dedicated professionals to support the “selling” of their services to their clients and this is evidenced by the rise in roles that refer to elements of the business development process - Bid Managers, Pitch Managers, Pricing Directors and so on...
The absolute 'end game' for these 2 areas of BD and CRM (remember my definition above) should be aimed at 'winning more work', growing practices and increasing client 'stickiness' and loyalty.
According to Ackert Advisory, 71% of law firms have implemented some form of internal coaching programme for Business Development - but, of the firms I've spoken to over the years, I've found that not one firm has ever combined its usage of the firm's CRM system directly in to their BD coaching/mentoring initiatives and made it a part of it.
Not linking these areas together, to me, this feels like the equivalent of telling someone on their induction where the fire assembly point is but without telling them what the fire alarm sounds like or what to do when there's a fire! The dots have to be connected here.
If your firm is considering a coaching/mentoring initiative concerning business development in some way, here are three recommendations:
- If your firm undertakes BD coaching or training, make sure that your CRM system and its very specific usage is part of this coaching/training and supports the concept of goals/objectives relating to the coaching.
- Make sure that the users understand how it expects the CRM system to be used in respect to Business Development and how helpful it is to track progress against goals.
- Explain the significance of the usage of the system to the overall goal of the coaching/training and not just the operational aspects - e.g. more focused engagement and activity visibility should enhance the client experience - a better client experience should lead to more opportunity for growth, due to the deeper relationship that develops.
All too often, CRM in professional services firms can be viewed solely as a software project in isolation, as opposed to an overall firm-wide initiative that must be setup to directly support the firm's relationship strategy and therefore, business development. When the CRM system usage is directly aligned with the business development strategy, rather than being implemented independently, then the firm can expect greater returns on their investment and not leave it to chance.