How can lawyers and accountants grow client relationships?

Although new client acquisition is what most lawyers and accountants focus their business development on, the truth is the easiest and most productive source of new work will always be your existing clients.   But to extricate opportunities you need to have strong client relationships so how can lawyers and accountants grow client relationships?

The good news is staying close to your clients doesn’t require eye-wateringly expensive CRM systems or an overly complicated or laborious contact plan.  It only requires you to follow these 7 really simple rules.

1. Start with the end in mind

Getting what you want requires you knowing what it is you do want.  Do you want your clients to give you a larger share of their legal spend?  Do you want to persuade them to use more of your firm’s services?  Do you want them to become an active referrer?

Having set objectives will make it easier to choose the right development tactics.

2. Know your clients

Once you know what you want to do, the next step is to choose how to do it. This requires knowing your clients. What do they like doing?  What time of day suits them best for a meeting?  What are their outside interests?  Who do they want to meet?

Put this knowledge together with your objectives and you will definitely get your tactics right.  More importantly, if your tactics map to their preferences, your invitations will take pride of place and elicit an immediate and positive response!

3. Get in touch without being having to be prompted

Although unprompted communication is something that’s really easy to do, very few lawyers and accountants actually do it.

You already know what your clients do and what  they want from you so any updates will be welcome.  These could be relevant news stories or updates from the ICAEW, SRA or Law Society. 

And if you get to know their outside interests, you can easily forward a link to something they have a personal interest in.

These ‘saw this and thought of you’ emails are a perfect (and free) way to underline your interest in the client and keep your name in front of them.

4. Promote your full service offering

Most clients want to use as few professional advisers as they can.  However, they might have you pigeonholed against the type of work you do, oblivious to the fact you have a much wider range of services they could be using.

Make sure you keep them up to date with everything you’re doing across your full range of practice areas and, if you can, introduce them to colleagues in the areas they show interest in.

5. Always add value

I hate to say it but sometimes lawyers and accountants can be seen as interchangeable, a commodity, regardless of your skills, experience, expertise and understanding of the client, their business and their sector.

More worryingly, you’re most definitely seen as a cost.

The more time you spend with them the more areas you’ll see where you can add value over and above your hourly rate.  It may be doing things more efficiently, it may be making introductions, it may be spending more time onsite or it may be helping them develop their processes and people. 

Whatever it is, it will add value and value will strengthen your long-term position and increase the likelihood of cross-selling.

6. Be ready to help

Ask this simple question when you meet your clients – “what’s your biggest worry at the moment?”

This will enable your clients to table their current concerns.  And once it’s on the table, you can offer a solution.  You ability to help won’t go unnoticed and once you are helping, you will become their first port of call when other concerns arise and that will ultimately win you more work.

7. Maintain your visibility (and your credibility) between meetings

Unfortunately, out of sight really is out of mind so you need to maintain your visibility between meetings so you’re not forgotten. 

Social media is a big help (as long as you’re connected on LinkedIn or following your clients on Twitter and Instagram) and the ‘saw this  and thought of you’ emails will supplement that.  However, you can do even more by securing editorial slots in the publications they read, speaking slots at the conferences they go to and invitations to the events they go to.

If you’d like help with your client development plans (including launching independent client listening programmes to open the door to new opportunities) or would like some client development training, please get in touch today.

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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