In last week’s blog we shared 9 tips that will help lawyers and accountants build stronger client relationships. In this blog we look at how lawyers and accountants create more effective client development plans.
One cannot underestimate the part client development will play in building your practice. Your clients will always present the easiest, most effective, and most productive route to new work. The most obvious manifestation of this is of course receiving more work from clients, but you should also consider the extended benefits:
– Can your clients introduce you to new prospective clients?
– Can your clients tell you about the right events to attend, the right industry groups to join, and the right publications to write for?
– Can your clients give you the inside track on the latest developments in their technology area/s?
This means that staying close to your clients (and working in a systematic way to grow your relationship and uncover new opportunities) must be your number one BD priority.
You’ll also notice we use the term ‘client development’ rather than ‘client management’ or ‘CRM’. This is because to us management is a passive term. ‘Development’ is about growth and growth must be every ambitious lawyer or accountant’s objective.
How do lawyers and accountants create effective client development plans?
The start point is to know which relationships you want to develop. Take a piece of paper and a pen and write down:
1. The existing clients you want to focus on.
2. The ‘lapsed’ clients (i.e. those you have done work for in the past and would like to do more for in the future) you want to reconnect with.
Now you need to work out how to structure your time. We’d suggest you assign your time according to the strength of the opportunity and that means following the order we’ve listed them out above.
With respect to each of these 2 groups, we’d suggest the following start points:
1. Existing clients
Commit to seeing each quarterly in addition to calls and emails regarding live matters. Initially you might think this is too much but so much can crop up in a short space of time.
Moreover, remember your client isn’t too busy for these meetings. They will be of genuine value to the client as they will benefit from your wider professional, sector, and commercial perspectives – and they know that!
The social/formal mix
Alternate these meetings between the formal (visits to their office, visits to your office, reviews, attendance at their internal/board meetings etc.) and the social (lunch, dinner, drinks, sporting events, invitations to relevant industry events).
This mix allows you to build up both your technical credentials and cement the personal element of your working relationship. These are the two factors involved in every purchasing decision involving the professional services.
Have an agenda
When you organise the formal meetings, have an agenda and share this before the event. This will give both you and the client an opportunity to prepare properly.
It’s incredible how many additional (and potentially work-winning) questions will crop up during your prep.
Before any meeting (social or formal) set yourself 2 objectives so you know exactly what you need to get from the meeting. This gives you something concrete to work the conversation towards and again will maximise the likelihood the time you have invested in the meeting will yield the desired results.
This is important because once you get talking, your conversation can move all over the place and it’s easy to lose track of what you needed to achieve. Setting objectives makes sure you can pull the conversation back to the key points.
It’s also important to stay visible between your scheduled development meetings and make sure your clients know you are on hand and easy to access whenever questions crop up.
Here are some easy wins when it comes to staying visible:
– When you know a conversation will be better than an email chain, invite the client to join you on a phone or, better still, a video call.
– When you see snippets in the trade press that are relevant to their business, sector, or area of technology, send the link over by email.
– Like and share their posts on LinkedIn so they can see you’re taking an interest in their wider business.
2. Lapsed clients
The first step with lapsed clients is to have a good reason to reconnect. To do this you need to have:
A reason for getting in touch
As your email or phone call will come out of the blue, you need to have a reason for getting in touch. It may that you:
– Saw a recent LinkedIn post
– Saw them/their business in the press
– Were discussing something with another client that may be of interest to them
– Had a question you thought they may be able to answer
In fact, it can be anything else that explains why you’ve got in touch at that particular time.
A suggested follow up step
Once you’ve taken the time to get in touch, don’t leave it by saying “and we must catch up at some point”. Give them a concrete option (preferably based on how they prefer to meet whether that’s for coffee, drinks, lunch or breakfast) and suggest a few dates that might work.
Suggesting dates is a proven way of garnering a response. Instead of leaving things open ended people have to make a choice or suggest an option that works better for them.
Confidence to play it by ear.
If your meeting goes well, you can set up a follow up meeting to discuss something that cropped up during your conversation.
If it led to you being told they have an attorney at the moment that they’re happy with, make sure you diarise a follow up in 6 months’ time and send over any relevant links to relevant articles you’ve written or seen in the press and occasionally engage with them on LinkedIn to stay visible.
If you would like to improve your and your team’s approach to client development, we offer both BD training workshops and individual BD coaching for fee earners at all levels. If you’d like to have a chat about your approach to client development (or any other aspect of marketing or business development), please get in touch and we can arrange a time to talk.