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Three CRM Tips for Attorneys On “Working” Relationships

Here’s an excellent article from Stuart Goodman, “7 BD Tips for Deepening Relationships with Existing Clients and Prospective New Client Executives. I’ve known Stuart for over fifteen years and he’s one of the best sales rep I’ve ever known. His most important skill is understanding how to build and nurture long-term relationships. He makes it look natural, but I know that his success is underpinned by lots of hard work honing his craft. So, when Stuart offers up tips on relationships, I pay attention.

Stuart’s tip #6, “Don’t give up,” has a direct tie to attorneys using CRM systems for business development;

 “Often, executives will only take meetings through trusted connections. Work your way up through lower-level contacts or other trusted relationships.”

Working their way up through other trusted relationships implies that the attorney “works” relationships and not simply rely upon intuition and luck. It’s natural to work hard at maintaining close contacts, those where they already have a strong relationship with frequent touch points. But it’s more difficult to form and nurture new, unknown connections to grow their network. Yet this is the way to create new business opportunities. The firm’s CRM tools can provide tools to make this process easier to manage.

So here are my three tips on how attorneys can use a CRM to implement Stuart’s tip that will help them focus their efforts in a more structured approach to save time and effort, and let them focus on implementing Stuart’s tips on deepening their relationships.

  1. Create a targeted list of who you want to meet.
    Most CRMs will allow attorneys to segment their contacts into lists for easy access and tracking. Having their key contacts segregated lets them view and report on them more easily. For example, they can run a daily activity report all of their targeted contacts each morning. Remember that that there may be activities generated by others  by other attorneys that may know the same person, or there could be changes in contact information, such as job changes or email updates that the CRM system automatically generates activities.
  2. Use CRM tools to connect and research.
    Both internal and external tools are helpful to identify possible paths to those contacts. Your internal CRM is the first place to start as connections identified through your colleagues will have the most relevance to your business objectives. Then use LinkedIn and other social media to ferret out other ways you can connect. Attorneys wishing to connect should pay attention to their comments, articles, and groups to which they belong to identify their interests and any common ground they may share. This will help facilitate Stuart’s tips number four, “Resonate personally, emotionally,” and number five, “Lead masterful conversations.”
  3. Leverage the CRM’s tools for scheduling and tracking.
    CRMs provide tools to track and schedule attorney’s business development efforts. Journalizing their activities, such as emails phone call, and meetings, as a way to aid their memory, especially with infrequent contacts. It’s helpful for the attorneys to be able to look back at what was discussed or covered during their last contact. And the data can be useful for their year-end firm memo. Most CRM systems have features for reminders to help you make sure no one falls through the cracks. CRM reminders are tied to the CRM contacts and are more permanent than Outlook pop-up reminders that tend to more of a nuisance than an aide.

Many attorneys are not aware on how to make use of CRM tools to help them with their business development efforts. Employed properly, CRM tools can assist attorneys to “work” their way up to develop and maintain valuable relationships. The best place to start is to work with their Business Development/Marketing department to develop a game plan and schedule some time for one-on-one instruction of the CRM’s tools that will help them implement their plan.



Collecting Contacts Continued: Ranking

In my last post, “Five Tips on Building Your Personal Contact List,” tip number 4 for new associates was to rank your contacts. The concept of ranking contacts is not new. And many of us practice this informally as we intuitively know who our key contacts are, those people that you remain in touch with constantly, some perhaps every day.  But then there are those that you talk to less frequently and some that seem to have dropped by the wayside. The problem is that those forgotten contacts may be valuable to you in the future. Implementing a systematic ranking system will help you keep in touch with these contacts.

Create A Systematic Approach

In my previous post, I suggested implementing a system of levels using “A Level,” “B Level,” and “C Level” to differentiate your contacts. Or if three levels is not enough, use four or five. You decide based on your own goals of how many people to track and the frequency of your calls.

For example, below is a possible communication strategy for a five-tier ranking with each level representing a specific tactic for call frequency.

A Level = Once/Week (or more)
B Level = Once/Month
C Level = Once/6 months
D Level = Once/Year
E Level = Never

To be successful your strategy must be practical and fit within your workload. Set realistic targets for your levels. Let’s say you decide that in addition to all you A Level contacts, you’re going to add three additional calls or touchpoints a week for your B, C & D Level contacts. Your strategy could look like this: two calls per week for B Level and alternate a call each week for C and D Level contact. (Note: I am omitting E Level contacts because they will never be scheduled for a call.)

Contact Touchpoint Schedule

Contact Touchpoint Schedule

When you extend this pattern over the course of a year it equates to forty-seven contacts. The brake down by level it looks like this:

B Level =   8 (2 per week)
C Level = 13 (twice a year)
D level = 26 (once a year)

Using a ranking approach forces you to apply critical thinking on your time allocation for business development efforts. And it also makes you evaluate the relative value of your contacts to your future book of business.

Putting It into Practice

There are two phases to implement this concept. First you need to identify and rank the contacts that are important to your business development efforts. Secondly you must integrate this philosophy into your daily workload.

Identify & Rank

Identifying your contacts is a simple process of printing out your contact list and marking up your key contacts. Start with your A Level contacts, the ones you are likely already reaching out to regularly.  These should be easy to identify. Next review the remaining contacts to identify the next forty or fifty contacts, depending on the number you settled on your communication strategy above. These will become your B, C and D Level contacts. I suggest that you identify them all at once in a first pass, and then assign ranking. Ask yourself, “Out of these fifty contacts, who are the 8 most important to me?” These become your B Level contacts. Then split the remainder into two, the C and D Level contacts.

Schedule Touchpoints

Now it’s time to put your plan into action, and this is where your firm’s CRM can help. Most CRM systems have a task scheduling or reminder feature to help you manage your communications.  They also allow you to record your activities so you can easily see when the last time was that you reached out to a contact and what was discussed.

For example, InterAction from LexisNexis lets you create reoccurring reminders. You can add a reminder on a B Level contacts set for the first Monday of each month. And another for the first Tuesday of each month, and so on with each of your selected contacts. Now all of your touchpoints are scheduled and will appear automatically in your inbox at the appropriate time.

The reminders include the persons contact information, their address, email, and phone numbers, and the summary of your last contact, provided you entered that touchpoint as an activity.

Recording Touchpoints

Adding activities is a great aid to help manage your relationships, especially with those contacts you have infrequent communications. Enter notes and comments specific to your conversation or meeting so that it’s easy to recall your last conversation a month from now or six months down the road. The activity can be specific to a business conversation but could also be more personal, like plans for an upcoming vacation, which provides an ice breaker for your next call. The goal is to capture information that will allow you to continue developing the relationship.

So here are the three basic steps you can employ to rank your contacts:

  1. Develop a systematic ranking approach and communication strategy goals of how many calls per week you want to make, making sure it fits into you existing workload.
  2. Identify and rank your contacts based on your communication strategy targets.
  3. Implement your strategy as part of your regular workflow and log activities to help maintain relationships.



Defining Legal 1-to-1

My first awakening to the term 1-to-1 came from the Peppers & Rogers book, Enterprise Marketing 1-to-1. They examine multiple case studies and examples where companies leveraged their database knowledge and power to customize messages targeted to a market of one. The key is to collect data relevant to your market and product or services, and the use that data to craft your offering for the relevant segments, each with a unique message that resonates to their needs and desires.

In truth, you are not creating thousands of unique messages. Rather you are leveraging database technology to merge your data to make it appear that the target is receiving a unique message. For example, if you make widgets and you have collected prospect’s data on their widget preferences, you use that data to drive your offer.

Widget Data
















Your letter with merge fields could look like this:
     “<NAME>, today you can own your own <SIZE> inch <COLOR> Widget for use at <USE>.”

Customer one would receive:
     “Bill, today you can own your own 1 inch red Widget for use at home.”

And customer two:
     “Fred, today you can own your own 2 inch blue Widget for use at work.”

This is the basic database marketing strategy direct marketers have been employing for over ten years. You see it every day in the offers you receive in the mail, email, and custom magazine inserts. Package goods manufacturers have this strategy down cold. They conduct research to identify their market and what drives their purchase decisions, then they collect the relevant data, and finally they the data to craft their offers. Using the data is the key to 1-to-1 marketing.  But marketing legal services is different than selling soap so it’s more difficult to develop a 1-to-1 strategy.

I have noticed two very important characteristics in law firms and many other service industries that set them apart from most other markets.

1. The attorneys are both the product and the sales force.
2. A strong sense of entrepreneurship

Attorney Sales Force
Although many attorneys may cringe as being classified as being in sales it’s a simple truth. You can dress it up under the euphemism “business development” but it still is sales. The attorney needs to listen to the client or prospects needs, identify where he or she can address those needs, present the benefits of their service to the decision maker, and then close the deal.  So if you view sales as part of the attorney’s job description, then the firm needs to employ a marketing strategy that allows the marketing staff and its resources, including the CRM database, to integrate within the sales pipeline in support of the attorney’s efforts to bring the sale home.

In this environment you are not going to be sending out form letters merging in widget colors. But your database still needs to collect and present relevant data in support of the personal selling process. Legal CRM products provide the foundation of this support.

A Firm with a Thousand Solo Practitioners
Attorneys have a strong sense of individualism. Even in a firm with hundreds or thousands of attorneys, each one still views their contacts as their own book of business. Their contacts are their life blood, their assets, their future. Technically, the contacts are assets of the firm, but I’m not going to enter into a debate on that issue. What is relevant and important to this discussion is the attorney’s reluctance to lose control of their contacts for fear of being raided or of another attorney’s incompetence soiling the relationship they have work to develop and nurture. I believe the key to solving this delemma is the word “relationship.” If an attorney does have a strong relationship with their contacts, the risk of being raided is lessened. Sure it will still happen. And raiding will happen even if the contacts are not in the CRM as most of the information a raider needs is readily available online.  Legal CRM is a vital tool to provide attorneys a competative advantage over their counterpart who rely solely on their memory. 

Managing the Relationship via CRM Software
The key to 1-to-1 marketing with entrepreneurial attorneys is to teach them how to use the CRM as a tool to help manage their relationships. The first step is to get in the habit of collecting critical data relevant to the relationship and keep a journal of key communications (touchpoints). CRM software allows attorneys track this critical information and journalizing activities. Finally, the attorney recalls the information either in advance preparation for a call, meeting or email, or as a way to identify which contacts to reach out to that may have a need in response to a current event, ruling, etc.

Collect, Store & Use Relationship Data

Collect, Store & Use Relationship Data

Collecting Data & Journalizing Activities
You want to record bits of information that will help you establish and maintain a rapport with the contact; where you first met, spouse name, favorite restaurant, skills, areas of responsibility, etc. Some may be able to do this in their head for their critical contacts but it becomes impossible to do it with all of your contacts. I have seen attorney’s whose contacts number in the thousands. If you take good notes you can easily reconnect with old contacts whose fate brings them back across your pass.

Likewise, logging a contact’s critical activity provides insight to the progression of the relationship. It’s a record of all of the critical touchpoints between you and the contact so you have a historical record of the relationship. Emails you’ve sent or received, phone calls, meetings, lunches, and letters are logged with pertinent comments or notes. Over time you will have a journal you can call upon at a moments notice to refresh your memory on any discussion or corrispondence.

Storing in a CRM
Attorneys are very good at keeping track of those key contacts they deal with day in and day out. But you cannot remember everything for everyone when the you get beyond the first tier of contacts. I have seen attorneys with 2,000-3,000 contacts. Truthfully, most of these are not business development prospects. But the point is that all attorneys have a large number of contacts that reach out to periodically. Keeping pertinent data in your CRM is critical for managing these contacts that may move up to become key contacts at some point.

In a team environment where multiple attorneys are either involved with a pitch, or in a client situation where multiple timekeepers have interaction with multiple client personnel, tracking and journalizing helps ensure the team is on the same page. A CRM tool is more effecting than broadcast emails, a common practice used by attorneys to carbon copy team memmebrs, as it keeps a permanent record available on demand by any team member even those who were not with the firm at the time the corrispondence or incident. Emails tend to get forgotten and lost. The CRM data has permanence.  And the CRM data will also incorporate marketing’s touchpoints: newsletters, alerts, invitations and RFPs. So you have access to a more complete relationship picture that includes all communications, not just your own. Of course this is dependent on everyone on the team participating. A system is only as good as it’s weakest link.

Using the Data
So let’s tie the concept of a law firm CRM to direct marketing 1-to-1 scenario. Instead of a merging of preference data into a widget offer, the attorney “merges” the CRM data in preparation of a meeting or a call. This is the “use the data” part of Legal 1-to-1 that drives the sale process, the attorney as a salesman. You pull up the record in your CRM software and review your notes and your most recent communications, look to see if anyone else has been in contact and why, and find out what recent marketing communications have been sent and/or requested. The attorney “merges” the data into their communication strategy to make the touchpoint more relevant and therefore more valuable to the receiver.

The other use of the data is to use it to target specific contacts for services as market conditions or the political landscape create opportunities. This data is different than recording spouse and children’s names. It requires a deeper understanding of the contacts needs and role in their organization. The firm’s marketing department can be instrumental to help identify and track this information. I’ll discuss this in a future posting.

The bottom line is that using a CRM software allows you to track and monitor critical data that helps you create and maintain a business relation with your contacts. It becomes a 1-to-1 relationship when that data is relevant to your target markets needs. But only becomes truly valuable if it’s used as part of your relationship strategy.

So in order to get started an attorney needs to answer three questions:

“What information do I need to track?”
“How do I track or record this information?”
“How do I use stored data to establish a 1-to-1 relationship with all of my contacts?’

These will be the topics of my next series of posts