Time and again we’re told that lawyers need to be both technically agile and excellent business developers. This involves an understanding of how people buy (not selling by ‘script and template’) and developing good client relationships. But many struggle to define a good client relationship.
Furthermore, formulaic methods of ‘managing’ client relationships are confusing and even inadequate. Good client relationships are about giving; and are nurtured by listening.
Consequently, some firms struggle to ‘secure lawyer buy-in’ for business development. They implement CRM systems to hoover up contacts and expect lawyers to adopt new ways of developing good business and client relationship management habits overnight.
But by asking lawyers to add all their contacts into a CRM system and expecting ‘improvement’ in their business-development-related performance, ignores how lawyers work. And how client intelligence grows. Instead, lawyers need a credible ‘case for change’ that supports a genuine business need that they and the entire firm understand.
The case for change
Change is an incremental and personal process. How a litigator manages relationships may vary from a corporate lawyer. So, leverage the CRM system to support lawyers in focusing on habits that aren’t defined by systems and templates, but common sense. We all accumulate contacts over time. But look at your own business calls and email history. How many names regularly appear? They’re relationships, not contacts.
Let’s say each lawyer identifies six to ten individuals comprising clients and prospects. Instantly, a firm of ten fee earners – for argument sake – has anywhere between 60 and 100 good quality relationships. This isn’t hoovering, it’s focusing.
Additionally, encourage lawyers to consider the professional episodes of their client relationships, like promotions or sabbaticals. Curiosity and interest in someone’s career builds a more rounded understanding. This isn’t data, it’s intelligence.
As knowledge is shared, smarter client interactions are supported by credible intelligence. Most lawyers are fastidious about detail. Client notes are diligently captured during matters; documents maintained. So, apply this thoroughness to managing client relationship intelligence.
Consequently, the shared nugget by an associate about a client preferring theatre over golf becomes invaluable when entertaining. And that shared meeting note on client secondments becomes an opportunity to be proactive.
Many firms have client feedback programmes, but with the click of a mouse, a lawyer can get instant feedback by checking client interactions and shared insights. So, show them the events the client has attended. Show the power of shared post meeting notes. Updates become Facebook’esque.
And soon a lawyer will check the CRM system before any interaction. Why would a lawyer not want to know who else in their firm is interacting with a client contact before they talk to them?
Overtime, CRM will move away from being an annoying ‘to do’ item to becoming the core day-to-day activity. This is because the lawyer’s principal job is to anticipate and deliver high quality business advice. CRM allows lawyers to check the ‘pulse’ of their client relationships and focus accordingly. CRM’s value to users isn’t in the process of usage, but in its relevance.
Dan Bright works with individuals and firms to build practical and productive client relationship management habits. He helps firms optimise their CRM investments and focus efforts profitably. His website is www.brightercrm.com.