Some perspectives and lessons learned at the LMA Tech West Conference 2015

I’ve been attending events and talking about CRM success for many years and have been pleased to have worked with many firms who have achieved it.   One of the most striking themes that emerged from the session I participated in at LMA Tech West Conference 2015 on CRM, was that success comes in all shapes and sizes and you have to take success where it comes.

The panel comprised some really diverse and interesting perspectives. Jill Warren, Director of BD & Marketing at Bird & Bird.   A firm of over 1,000 attorneys embarking on an exciting proof of concept with OnePlace a Salesforce based platform designed for law firms. Michelle Rutz (@MichelleRutz128) Business Development & Marketing Director at Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg, at the opposite end of the size spectrum to Bird & Bird, a 100 attorney single office firm in Chicago who are really generating great success with Contact Ease. Allyn Stone (@allynwstone) providing the non-law firm perspective, CRM Programme Administrator and VP in IT for Duff & Phelps, a 2,500 professional financial services company using both LexisNexis InterAction and Salesforce with really complex risk management and pipeline management requirements. The panel was brilliantly moderated by Chris Fritsch (@CRMSuccess), President and Founder of ClientsFirst Consulting, a specialist consulting firm providing CRM strategy and support to law firms, their goal being to help their clients achieve CRM Success. Finally me, Michael Warren founder of Stanton Allen, a CRM specialist focusing on how firms can use data and technology to support and not inhibit their CRM goals.

Despite the differences in size and stage in the CRM life cycle a number of things emerged that were consistent for everyone.   In this blog I have distilled these into ten golden rules for CRM success.

Rule 1 – To achieve success you have to know what it looks like

Whilst this may seem really obvious, all the delegates brought this up and many of those that had previously implemented CRM without success said that a significant part of this was because they hadn’t been clear about what they were trying to achieve. A large number of firms started out their CRM journey thinking of it as a technology project. They implemented CRM because the firm down the road had done so and as a result hadn’t been clear what they were trying to achieve.  So how could they measure if they had succeeded or not?

Rule 2 – Don’t be scared to use the “S” word.

For too long we have been scared of using the word “sales” when it comes to discussing the things that CRM should support. Jennifer Klyse from Sonoma Partners (@klyjen ) made a really interesting comment in her opening remarks that finally “sales” should be taken out of air quotes. I whole heartedly agree, what is the point of having a system to manage client relationships if this doesn’t include the ability to create targets, track your pipeline and manage sales?

Rule 3 – Worship at the altar of the “God of Small Things”

Sometimes success can come in very small but pleasant packages. It’s not necessarily about transforming the way in which your firm operates overnight.   Many of the delegates mentioned the “pardon the interruption” email, something that Michelle Rutz was keen to kill off in her firm, which goes out regularly by email, with sender plaintively pleading if “anyone knows so and so and ABC company”. Creating a CRM system that kills the “who knows who” email is a success and worthy of celebration.

Rule 4 – Talking about Celebration

We are all too often too quick to keep our successes to ourselves. Success breeds success and therefore it’s really important to make sure you spread the word. As Jill Warren said, making CRM successful in your firm is going to be the best sales job you have ever done in your life so you need to re-enforce the “buying” behaviour from your internal clients and tell them about how well you’re doing so that they want some too.

Rule 5 – Manage Expectations

Laura Hester, from ClientsFirst made an excellent point in that it doesn’t ultimately matter what you decide your CRM system is for, you just need to be really clear about it and manage expectations. It’s like the basic rule of giving a good presentation. 1) Tell them what you’re going to tell them 2) Tell them and 3) tell them what you’ve told them. It’s the same in CRM.   Tell them what you’re going to do, do it and then tell them that you’ve done it!

Rule 6 – Put yourselves in the place of your users.

Whilst implementing CRM in a law firm can be a challenging and often lonely place to be, it’s really important to put yourself in your users’ position. As Jennifer Klyse said, for people in the CRM team roll-out is day 150 of the project, for your users it’s day 1. If CRM is ever going to be successful you need to understand what is it going to do specifically for each of your users and then when you train them on the system make sure you do it from their perspective. Allyn Stone’s technique is when she has a new starter she finds a company where the user knows contacts and then she shows them all the other people at the firm that also know their contacts. The message being “hey here are some of your colleagues that you can go talk to, welcome to the firm”.

Rule 7 – It’s about the data, dummy

Part of me thinks that telling you that CRM success is largely contingent on the data seems unnecessary. However probably unsurprisingly it took up a large part of the session. Chris Fritsch pointed out that data degrades at about 30% a year and that the only way to truly achieve data nirvana is to focus your attention on the companies and contacts that are the most valuable to the firm. I couldn’t agree more. We have found that there is actually a directly inverse proportional relationship between the number of contacts that someone has in their Outlook and the quality of that data. The great news is that systems now allow you to tailor the synchronisation rules to user behaviour so you truly can deliver an experience that is unique to each user.

Rule 8 – Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

For many in the room, one of the key benefits of any CRM system was that it creates a more collaborative environment, a sense of “one-firm”.   So many firms have gone through and are going through mergers and acquisitions. A consolidated view of one of the firm’s most important assets, its clients, is one of the key benefits a CRM system can deliver.

Rule 9 – Measuring return on investment

This is one of the most challenging things to achieve with any system. So often CRM teams are asked “Show me the deal we wouldn’t have won if we didn’t have the CRM system”? This really is a ridiculous questions, it’s like saying “show me the email I wouldn’t have got if we didn’t have Outlook”, or as one delegate said “show me how my phone system generates business”? CRM is really just the tool for helping you do what you should already be doing better!

Rule 10 – Top down and side to side. Get the support of all the key stakeholders.

Without question one of the themes that was mentioned over and over was the need to build your relationships with the key people in the firm. The firm’s leadership really had to lead from the front and be the strongest advocates for the system but almost as important is building the relationships with your other stakeholders, IT, marketing and BD.   Jennifer Whittier (@skisk8mum) from Cole Valley Software made a really good point about this and that we need to remember that the goals and expectations of your stakeholders will be different so one size will definitely not fit all.

So what are my thoughts at the end of what has been a really good session with colleagues and friends in CRM? For me I think the key word is “Focus”.

You can’t do too much when it comes to objectives and goals, so focus on the top 3 things that your CRM system should do.

You can’t manage all the data, so focus on the companies and contacts that are the most important.

You can’t boil the ocean, so take success wherever and whenever it comes and focus on how you can then “rinse and repeat”.

Best of luck.

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