Archive for the ‘business development’ Category

Measuring & Reporting Business Development Activities

I read a very nice article on JD Supra about Business Development coaching, The Four Essential Rules of Business Development Coaching by Kevin Mcmurdo of the Wicker Park Group. Kevin presents four principles that he believes improves the chances for success in business development coaching.

The second bullet of fourth rule, Manage and track performance, is pertinent to marketing technologists providing tools for attorneys to nurture their relationships. It states with regrads to developing performance measures:

“An activity measure. Track the increase in both number and quality of business development activities. Agree on the relative value of different activities.”

Let’s take a look at how your CRM can play an important role in this process by providing the tools to record and measure activities.

Journalizing Activities

Most CRM systems allow users to journalize the business development activities, such as meetings, pitches, emails, and phone calls. This is very useful, especially for “B” and “C” ranked contacts that are not contacted as frequently as their top “A” contacts  (see Collecting Contacts Continued: Ranking).

Journalized activities provide attorneys a quick reference of their most recent touchpoint with the contacts so they can have instant context available for the next touchpoint. It also can provide useful reports at the end of the year to summarize their annual business development efforts for reporting to firm management.

The key to collecting useful activity data is to make it habitual for the attorneys, to make adding the data part of their normal routine. Ideally you would want this task to added to the coaches training curriculum so that when they are discussing tracking their business development efforts, they have the CRM open and the attorney can enter an activity immediately. This reinforces the coaching concept and transfers the hypothetical into an actionable task. The coach can then segue into showing activity reports so the attorney can see first-hand how the activity data he or she just entered can be used to track and measure their business development efforts.

Beyond Out-Of-The-Box

Most CRMs provide out-of-the-box tools and reports where you can list or print activities for contacts or groups of contacts. For example, the attorney could print out all activities for their key contacts in the past three months. But Kevin’s point goes a step beyond those baseline reports and taking activity data to the next level by aggregating and tracking changes over time. Doing this provides tools to measure progress against their self-selected goals.

From a CRM point of view that means you have to transform discrete transactional data, the activities, into useful summarized data.  There are several ways to reposition the data to be useful for attorneys. One would be to summarize performance over a given period of time, such as a week. A new table would be added to the CRM system to record the weekly counts for each activity types. This provides a simple report that would list the counts for the most recent week, along with a line graph of historical trends, “Is the line going up or is it trending down?”  This would be an easy way for the attorney to see if they are on track to meet their target goals set during their couching sessions.

Attorney Activity Report

Graphs are useful to convey data quickly with greater understanding.  You can create custom reports with graphs for your CRM using Microsoft Report Builder and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).  See Add a Chart to a Report (Report Builder and SSRS) for more information

Other reports, such as counting activities by contact or by company can be created so the attorney can monitor their efforts for key contacts or targeted companies. It’s an extension of the out-of-the-box reports mentioned above, only it’s totaling counts instead of listing individual activities. The actual steps to implement may vary between specific report requirements and system database design. So, this will require some effort to construct with the assistance of your DBA and programmers.

But What About Quality

Counting is only half of the equation. The other half is quality. Counting is rather easy compared to measuring quality because quality is a subjective judgement that you have to devise a way to track and measure in your system. A simple approach would be to start with type of activity. For example, a face-to-face meeting could be inferred as a higher quality activity than a phone call, which is then higher than an email. So, an attorney may set goals for “X” number of meetings and “Y” number of phone calls and “Z” number of emails. The coach would work with the attorney to set personal targets for each type. You can combine this approach within the counting reports discussed above to provide this measurement.

Unfortunately, most CRMs don’t provide a way to distinguish activities in a given category. So how do you attribute a qualitative value to similar activities? For example, you could have two “phone call” activities, one to a referral contact to stay in touch and nurture the relationship, and another could with a prospect contact to discuss details that could lead to opening a new engagement. Both are important but obviously, the relationship building call is of lesser quality than the call that results in a new matter.

One option would be to expand the activity categories to differentiate. In the example above there could be two phone call activities; “Phone Call Referral Contact” and Phone Call Top Prospect.” The problem with this approach is that the list of possible activities to select in the CRM becomes longer and more of a potential obstacle to use.  A short list of five choices is far easier for attorneys to use than a list of a dozen or two. Frankly, I don’t have a good solution for this part of the puzzle and would welcome hearing your ideas in the comments section below.

Where To Begin

  1. Start with your coaches, most likely members of your business development team, to define what information and reports would be most useful for the business development skills they will be teaching. Include your IT liaison, whether it’s a project manager or your DBA. One, it gets them involved from the beginning, which allows them to advise
  2. Take the coaches’ input and your knowledge of the data in your CRM and mock up a few examples for feedback. I have found that it’s always more effective and you get more usable feedback if you place something visual in front of people. Again, this is a task where your IT team can help.
  3. Finally, work with your IT department to scope out the development effort and implement the reports in conjunction with attorney coaching.

Not Just Another Feature

Remember that this exercise is not just another set of reports. You are collecting and presenting information for the attorneys in conjunction with the one-on-one coaching the firm is providing. This approach emphasizes the distinction between a one-hour class teaching CRM functions, and one-on-one assistance in developing life-long habitual skills. Integrating actual CRM tools within the coaching curriculum is far more effective because you are providing a reason for the attorney to use CRM and weave it into their daily processes and business tasks.

Five Tips on Building Your Personal Contact List

A recent LMA webinar discussed tips on how to develop business development skills in new associates. One of the tips was to collect contacts to build a business development list. This is excellent advice. As the webinar slide advanced to the next screen, it occurred to me that there’s more behind the process than simply collecting contacts. I’ve been collecting contacts for many years and it’s become second nature to me. But that may not be the case with a new associate fresh out of law school or any new professional.

Why Collect Contacts?

From a practical point of view, your contact list provides you basic information to connect with the people you know. You can quickly look up their email address or phone number when you need to connect with them. But good contact collecting and maintenance habits can convert a convenience tool into the foundation for your business development efforts. So here are my five quick tips to help you build that foundation.

  1. Enter Complete Information
    This may seem obvious but with the advent of smart phones it’s so easy to add someone to your contacts by saving only their email address of mobile phone number. Take the time to circle back to that contact and complete the rest of the contact fields including job title, company name and address. It may not be apparent right away but these data points become very helpful down the road. In a few years, you might be scratching your head when you look at a lonely phone number in your contacts and the only clue you left yourself was that his name was “Bob.” If Bob is someone you have frequent contact with, then there is no problem, you know who he is. But if he’s an infrequent contact having all his contact information quickly answers the question.

  2. Enter Notes
    Take the time to add useful notes to the record that will aid you in establishing a relationship, which is the whole reason to collect contacts. Some of the obvious notes will be spouse and children’s names, favorite activities or sports teams or other interests, and when and where you met. This last bit took me a few years to figure out on my own. It’s especially helpful if you are connecting with someone you have infrequent contact with. It will trigger your memory of the context in which you began your relationship. Perhaps it was a conference, a reception or a party. Or maybe you were introduced by another colleague. All of this information is helpful in establishing rapport quickly at a later date.
  3. Categorize Your Contacts
    Most contact apps allow you to make use of a user defined field, a data field where you decide what information you want to track. This is a perfect way to separate your contacts into tiers or groups. One simple categorization is business vs. personal. At some point in your career you will be asked to share your business contacts with the firm’s CRM tool. Having this category makes that process much easier. Other categories you might want to consider would be industry, role or even school.

  4. Rank Your Contacts
    Another, more useful categorization, is to rank the importance of the contact. For example, you might adopt a system where you label each contact as either an “A,” “B,” or “C” level contact. The “A” level contacts are the ones you talk to all the time. “B” might be someone you’d like to connect with every couple of weeks. And “C” might be someone you’d want to reach out to at least once a year. You can decide how to rank and define your ranks to match your own style. This is most useful in making sure you maintain connection with your less frequent contacts. For example, you can search for all of your “B” contacts and scan the list for those you haven’t talked to yet this month. Or look at your “C” contacts and decide which ones you might want to call, or send an email too, or set up a lunch date to reconnect.

  5. Purge Old Contacts
    F
    inally, every year you should scan through your contacts to see if there are any you need to remove. Every contact is an asset and provides you with value. Some are extremely valuable while others have no worth at all. And if a contact has no value it should be removed. Personally, I am very cautious about deleting contacts because you never know when your paths might cross again. But there are those that you can remove with confidence. For example, last year I finally deleted a software sales rep I met one time 20 years ago at a product pitch. I didn’t buy the product and the company she worked for is no longer in business. Clearly there is no value in this contact to me so I purged it. (Notice that I was able to determine this because I wrote good comments in my notes field.) Other examples could be people that have left the, retirees, and, unfortunately, deceased individuals.

Collecting contacts is valuable advice to anyone entering the work force.  But to build a solid foundation you need to enter clear and complete information, and make pertinent notes for future reference. Then you expand by categorizing and ranking your contacts, leveraging your list for your personal business development strategy. Finally, remember to keep your list clean by periodically purging obsolete contacts with no value.