The PSMG 20th Annual Conference this year was all about growth. Specifically devising strategies for growth and helping firms to analyse those strategies within an increasingly complex marketplace.

The timing of this conference and in particular this theme couldn’t have been better. Firms are looking to drive their business development and sales programmes to increase profitable growth. Whilst we certainly aren’t over the era of the firm merger, growth through increased profit in addition to growth through acquisition seems to be the goal for more and more firms.

I facilitated a workshop session at the conference. The panel comprised some really diverse and interesting perspectives. Jill Warren, Director of BD & Marketing at Bird & Bird.   A firm of over 1,000 lawyers just reaching the conclusion of an exciting proof of concept with OnePlace, a Salesforce based platform designed for law firms and Karen Mosley, Head of Business Development and Marketing at Wedlake Bell, a single office, 150 lawyer (and counting) firm who implemented InterAction a year ago to drive key client management.

Despite the differences in size and stage in the CRM life cycle of the panellists and delegates a number of things emerged that were consistent for everyone.   In this blog I have distilled these into some key lessons learned.

planning for success

Rule 1 – You really need to focus on the outputs

Many CRM implementations have been too focused on the inputs to the CRM system. It’s been about “How do we get contacts in to the system”? “How do we persuade users to share their data”? “How do we integrate the time and billing information”? We’ve forgotten that in order to encourage good behaviour we have to reward that behaviour by providing something that they couldn’t have got from anywhere else.

It’s time to start giving something back and not just asking for input.

Rule 2 – Everything has to be transparent

One of the key things that professionals want to know is “who’s doing what with my clients”? There is an increasing recognition amongst professionals that if they keep all of their contacts to themselves then others will do the same.

One of the most significant benefits of tracking contacts, activities and business development opportunities in the system and then providing reports on that information back to the user, is that you can answer that key question and let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.

Rule 3 – Opt-out and not opt-in

CRM systems have been very successful in enabling professionals to cautiously share their data. The reality is that even the most dedicated business development minded professionals will forget to do it most of the time.

Whilst there is a balance to be struck between opening the flood gates to a lot of rubbish, I am increasingly of the opinion that it is better to harvest more and then archive it if it turns out to be no good, than to ask professionals to clean up their data and share it manually when they choose.

Rule 4 – CRM is not an extra thing, it’s part of your day job

No-one wants to voluntarily do more work. So if the CRM system is positioned as a programme in its own right then it’s never going to be successful.

You will only succeed if you use your system to support an existing programme. We talked a lot in the workshop about different programmes and there was a great deal of commonality in what the attendees were trying to achieve e.g. key client management, cross-selling, and pipeline management. It doesn’t matter what it is that you’re trying to do with CRM, you just need to be clear about it and make sure everyone else at the firm is on the same page.

Rule 5 – Enter data once, use it multiple times

One of the challenges of CRM is that very little of the data actually originates there. To manage client relationships you need information from lots of different places.

If you’re going to win over your users then you need to explore automation and integration. If the data is being gathered elsewhere as part of a different process then you need to make sure that users do not have to enter it again in the CRM system. Technology has moved on so much in the areas of ERM and integration that there really is no reason for entering data more than once anymore.

Rule 6 – Think process NOT system

A follow on to rule 5, is taking a more process oriented view of information management and not a system view. For example, new business intake. This is an incredible data capture opportunity that most firms waste. In addition to the fact that many firms treat this as an administrative task rather than the most critical point of gathering intelligence about new clients (e.g. why did they choose our firm, what are their key business issues) the systems that are used for managing the data up to the point of sale (CRM) and after the point of sale (time and billing) just don’t talk to each other, or they do but they don’t speak the same language.

If the client is at the heart of everything we do, then we need to align our business processes accordingly and not take an inward system view of the world.

Rule 7 – It’s about the journey as much as it is the destination

Fortunately, human beings are sentient, emotional creatures and not robots. Whilst technology and process and systems are incredibly important, you need to make the process of working with clients a good one.   One of the things that professionals love most about what they do is the constant interaction with people. Technology can help them build their network and develop those relationships and if really done right can fit in to the way that they work not make them fundamentally change the way they work.

Rule 8 – Be ruthless with your data

No firm will ever be in a position that they don’t have enough data! The key is to be ruthless about information. If the data is of no value then don’t manage it. Apart from the fact that there is a legal obligation not to hold data if it’s not being used, there are perfectly good practical reasons why this should be your approach. You can’t possibly manage everything to the same level of quality, therefore work out which are the contacts and clients that are the most important and focus your attention on those.

Rule 9 – Measure the return on investment

Gone are the days when the business case for implementing CRM was “the firm down the road is doing it”. Whilst peer pressure is a key thing to which most professionals respond, it’s not enough to have clear objectives as to why you are doing this, you have to measure them too.

Rule 10 – Don’t be too hard on yourself

No single firm has got everything right. You need to take success where you find it and communicate that success to your colleagues. But you can’t measure success if you didn’t start by defining what success looks like.

So what are my thoughts at the end of what has been a really good session with colleagues and friends in CRM? On the whole I’m really encouraged by the amount of thought firms are putting in to all of their strategic programmes, not just CRM.

The level of engagement amongst the BD community in CRM seems to be increasing and there is a much greater willingness to be hands-on and not just see it as the responsibility of the “CRM department”.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you want your CRM system to do for you, just be really clear about what that is and then go tell everyone about it. Good luck.

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