How can lawyers and accountants start to reintroduce traditional face-to-face business development back into their BD plans (part 2)?

In our last blog we looked at how to move face-to-face meetings back in to your personal BD plan.  If you are still a little nervous about reconnecting after such a long time there is another way lawyers and accountants can start to reintroduce traditional face-to-face business development back into their BD plans.

You can engage in a bit of client listening.

I probably don’t need to explain the concept of client listening as it’s something most law firms now do in some form but if you aren’t familiar, it’s just asking someone to interview your clients to find out how they see your working relationship. 

The interviewer will find out what is good (and you can use this part of the feedback to inform your marketing choices and strengthen your service offering), what needs attention and what else you could be doing for the client.

Aside from helping face-to-face business development, why should your law, IP or accountancy firm invest in client listening to help their?

Client listening always delivers incredible benefits. 

It will underline your commitment to providing the highest possible level of service for your clients which on its own will generate inestimable trust and goodwill.  

It is also pretty much self-funding.  As you will be asking what else you could be doing for each client, they will literally be finding their own cross-selling opportunities for you to progress with them.

You will have noticed I have said you should engage someone external to do the interviewing.  This is sometimes where I am challenged.  Lawyers will ask me why a colleague can’t conduct the interviews. 

Up to a point they are right; they are more than capable and will have a greater understanding of the history of the relationship than someone external.  However, what they don’t have is independence.  The fact they are “from the firm” can often cause clients to hold back from saying what they want to say.  This means the exercise will not uncover everything it should and this missing piece could be the crucial one.

My other argument is that when you use someone who is used to running this type of campaign, they know from experience when people are holding back and require a little more (gentle) probing.  Admittedly we could only be talking degrees but if the interviewee is displaying signs of uncomfortability, what they are not saying is almost certainly going to be just as important as what they are saying.

Another benefit of running a client listening programme now is that with things as they are, it is entirely likely that your clients could need a very different type of support from you.

From a business perspective their plans, market or lives could have changed dramatically since March 2020.  This means they could now require your immediate help with something specific or an introduction to one of your colleagues or contacts.

From a more practical perspective, the way they work may have changed over the last year.  This could mean they have very different service delivery demands, demands that you could implement for your other clients in similar circumstances to strengthen your relationships and give you a more competitive offering to take to market.

And from a purely human perspective going out to listen to your clients lets them know you remain accessible, responsive and ready to provide the advice, the support and the external, impartial opinions they will undoubtedly need over the coming months.

How will client listening programmes secure face-to-face business development meetings for lawyers and accountants?

The main reason client listening is a good idea it is gives you an easy way back into any client relationships where regular contact has stalled under social distancing.  

Each interview will provide clear follow up steps and because those suggestions will have come straight from the horse’s mouth, your clients will be expecting you to use them.  Among these follow up steps will be perfect excuses to deliver what they want in person or at least set up a meeting in which you can discuss how best to fulfil the requirements, ideas and added value extras they raised.

This means there should be no uncomfortability on your part to reconnect, pick up the reins and reignite your face-to-face business development and your most important working relationships.

If you’d like to find out more about how we run client listening programmes for law firms, accountancy practices, IP firms and barristers’ chambers, please get in touch and we’ll find a convenient time to talk.

Published by sizetenandahalfboots

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

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