Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Associates: Answer These 3 Questions To Begin Your BD Plan

Sometimes the hardest part about starting a task is, well, starting the task. And if I've learned anything from nearly 30 years in the business development business, it's that BD plans are often that project: the one that lawyers know they need to do, the one they plan to do, the one that they just can't get off the ground. That can be even more true for associates, who are often juggling multiple assignments from multiple partners working for multiple clients on multiple legal issues.

The good news is that your plan doesn't have to be written in stone or particularly formal or even follow a standard format. All you really need to do is ask yourself these three questions, then write down the answers:
  1. What are you doing now that you would like to continue? Take a look at the work you've done – and the clients you've done it for – over the past six or twelve months. What did you particularly like doing? What do you want to do more of? Maybe you worked on an FCRA matter that you enjoyed. Or found that helping a client resolve a particularly difficult IP rights issue was something you were good at. Perhaps you were able to work for some specific client types, like family-owned businesses, or restaurant franchisees, or companies in the sports industry, that you would like to continue representing. The idea is to identify the work you like, and develop a plan for doing more of it. Not because you'll never do anything else (you might even come up with an entirely different list six months from now), but because without a plan, your chances of doing what you want to do are reduced.
  2. What are your marketing strengths? No one would disagree with the statement that some lawyers are better writers than they are networkers. Or that some can talk to anyone about anything. So why shouldn't you focus your marketing efforts on your strengths, on those things that you like, that you do well, and that you want to do more of? Of course that doesn't mean that you should completely ignore a valuable writing opportunity, for example, because articles and blog posts aren't your favorite way to demonstrate your expertise. But it does mean that, all things being equal, you should play to your strengths rather than trying to fix your weaknesses.
  3. What new things would you like to try? Without taking anything away from the two previous questions, it's critical that you think about what you're not doing, too: legal issues you'd like to know more about, marketing skills you'd like to acquire or hone, client types you'd like to represent. Your BD plan is the perfect tool for setting goals and aspirations, starting with new things you'd like to try. Want to get to know the craft brewing industry? Set a goal of joining a local trade association and attending four meetings in the next six months. Need to improve your public speaking? Join a Toastmasters chapter and make yourself attend meetings. After all, it's your future.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Are Your Cross-Selling Efforts Stalling? Maybe You’re Doing It Wrong…

Whether you call it cross-marketing or cross-targeting or some other variation on the theme, cross-selling is not a new concept for most lawyers and firms. And it’s not particularly complicated to do: align the work you actually provide a client with the services they need, and implement a program for connecting their needs with your practices. Easy-peasy, right? So why is it so hard to find cross-selling success? Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 25 years:
  1. You’re focused on the wrong solution. By framing the problem as “how do we cross-sell more services?” you’re unwittingly eliminating all the other ways you can derive value from your client base. Yes, expanding the scope and breadth of representation is a pretty solid way to maximize a relationship with Company X or Y. But your existing clients can provide you a wide range of other types of opportunities. Perhaps you can use expertise you’ve gained working for an industry leader to create a practice devoted to solving the problems of similar businesses. Or draw on the individual relationships you’ve developed with clients to get more referrals. Or even work with an in-house lawyer to author an article that allows you to share your insight with a new audience. Whatever the tactic, if you re-frame the problem as how to leverage the value of existing clients, you’ll have a new perspective on solving it.
  2. You’re not trying hard enough. Cross-selling is hard. It requires perseverance and time, the kind that is measured in years, not quarters of an hour. You need to bring people together and ask them tough questions and find compromise and solutions that may not please everyone. There are no shortcuts to successful cross-selling initiatives. Most firms – and many lawyers – don’t have the patience and long-term vision to pull that off. Sure they’ll introduce an IP lawyer to their real estate client, but they give up on the concept of cross-selling if that single new relationship doesn’t bear fruit in a month or two. That’s not to say that you’re never going to get results with a single phone call, but if you want your cross-selling efforts to produce new representation you’re going to have to work at it.
  3. You’re setting the wrong objectives. It’s true: most firms look at cross-selling as a way to grow their revenue stream, to increase profits with minimal expense. After all, the cost of expanding work for an existing client is always going to be less than that of acquiring a brand new client. And that’s a fine objective: like every other business, law firms have to make money to survive. But the firm that seeks to provide more work to current clients because that’s the best solution for the client – because it allows the client to increase efficiencies and drive down costs, because it allows them to benefit from the institutional knowledge their lawyers have of their business, because it offers them better services at a more reasonable rate – is going to be more successful than the one looking to make more money.
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What could you do to improve your cross-selling efforts?

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