BD is everyone's job (even yours) by Doug Hargrove, Advanced Legal

This article was also featured as a column in the Februrary​ 2016 issue of LPM. To read the issue in full, download LPM.

In the last edition of LPM (December 2015) I discussed the concept of ‘the modern lawyer’ and the skills they need, including fundamental business foundations such as business development, service delivery and marketing. Now I want to cover the lawyer as a BD manager (BDM), the importance of business growth from within your customer base, and how you should see every client touchpoint as an opportunity to create more business.

BD doesn’t have to be viewed as knowing the company sales pitch or the hard sell – it can just as easily be the building of relationships with prospects and clients. Every member of staff has the potential to adopt the BDM role. To some extent this can be helped by viewing the client as a consumer – a consumer of your services. They will have wants, needs, problems and pains that need to be addressed, and your firm has the capability to satisfy them. Every lawyer already establishes a personal connection with their client, empathises with their situation and takes the case on as their own. Many lawyers already ‘do BD’ – and while it’s in a different guise to what many perceive as the ‘sales pitch’, it is no less effective at establishing a client connection and showcasing the firm’s capabilities.

Acting as a BDM not only introduces new opportunities to your business – it also unlocks the potential within your existing client base. Using existing customers as a source of growth and a BD opportunity can only be profitable. It’s proven that it costs six times more to acquire a client than to keep one, so focusing on growing revenue from existing customers is far more cost-effective than client acquisition.

One way to grow revenue streams from inside your existing customer base is by cross-selling your services. However, most people who consume legal services don’t think: ‘What else could I buy?’. So it’s down to the law firm, and the lawyer, to upsell and cross-sell, picking the right time and moment to introduce a new service for the client to consume.

That cross-sell drive is going to force lawyers to act more like BDMs, but should it mean that they have to carry a cross-sell or BD target? Well, the target doesn’t have to be a cash value, and it doesn’t have to be assigned against an individual. Departments and individuals can be measured against the number of referrals they create or the volume of quotes they produce. As long as there is a consistent metric, you will be able to measure if you are being successful and identify what needs to change.

Of course, before you implement a cross-selling initiative you need to understand which elements of your portfolio could be offered to your different target clients – in other words, conduct a ‘whitespace exercise’. Map your existing portfolio of services against your clients (especially those with a greater propensity to spend) and understand where you have an opportunity and which type of client is more likely to consume which services. This will instantly give you a sales plan against your existing clients and, by a natural extension, introduce BD activity to your firm.

The ability to uncover new opportunities and grow existing revenue streams are cornerstones in any firm’s business plan. Whether they realise it or not, most firms already embrace BD in the way they nurture prospects and target their client base with new service offerings. Placing some structure around how this is achieved, making everyone in the firm responsible for BD, and considering effective targets are simply good business practice. 

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