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The New Business Development Mantra That All Law Firms Should Live By

“A-B-C. A, always; B, be; C, closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!”

Made popular by Alec Baldwin’s character in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” it’s a line that’s all too familiar to salespeople and rainmakers. With greater access to data, however, there’s a new mantra that should be leveraged by all those in business development: A, always; B, be; C, collecting; D, data. Always be collecting data!

While “always be closing” reflects the urgency of making deals, it doesn’t actually speak to the process. That’s where data comes in. With a better understanding of how a prospect becomes a client, attorneys and their support teams can be more strategic in client generation and pipeline management. Sounds simple, right? It is, but, in reality, many firms fail to collect, aggregate and assess data to refine processes and make better decisions.

Do you think your firm is collecting the right data? Can you answer the following questions?

  • Who are your top referral sources? How many clients did the top three send you in the past 12 months?
  • How do most prospects who come through your website contact forms find your firm? What are the keywords they search by? Or is there a listing with your state bar association that sends most online leads your way?
  • How many prospects do you expect to become clients in the next four weeks? How much revenue can your firm expect if all of these convert?
  • Do prospects who receive an online intake form complete the retention process faster? Or are those who are mailed the documentation quicker to get started?

If you’re unsure of the answers to most of these questions (and don’t use software that will easily generate these answers), you’re not alone. We often hear from firms who don’t know these numbers. Many are successful but, without the data, they’re not systematically successful. When business starts to decrease, they often don’t know where to begin to find the source of the issue.

Data-driven firms, however, can often detect an issue before it impacts their bottom line. For example, if you actively track referral sources and know that you get approximately 5 leads a week from a local community website and, all of a sudden, that number drops to zero, you know you need to go right to the source. Upon visiting the community site, you might discover that the link on the site is broken. As a data-conscious firm, you can spot the decrease in your weekly review of the numbers. If you didn’t have access to this data, you may not realize the error for weeks or even months. The delay can mean dozens of lost leads and a major drop in new business.

When it comes to business generation and pipeline management, your firm should be able to easily assess the following data points in less than two minutes:

  • Top referral sources: Websites, advertising, professional referrals, etc.
  • Website lead behavior: What do visitors do on your website before they contact you?
  • Top rainmakers at the firm: Who is most successful at bringing in new business?
  • Current status of all prospects: Has John Smith had a conflict check cleared? Has Marie Clemmons been sent the intake form? Is it time for a follow-up on Matthew Keller’s inquiry?
  • Current pipeline value: You should be able to assign a value to each lead and easily find the total in the pipeline. This is one of the most overlooked metrics that is critical for quarterly and annual forecasting.
  • Communications with each prospect: Each email, call or letter should be logged in one central location. When examined across prospects and successful conversions, this data should help you determine a cadence which is effective for conversion.

As with all systemization, the key to data success is having the right people, processes and tools in place. It’s important that everyone in your firm becomes a data devotee and recognizes the importance of this intelligence to your firm’s success. In reinforcing the role of data in your firm, you might consider sharing key data points during firm-wide meetings and set goals that your entire team can rally around and hold one another accountable.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are designed for pipeline management and there are several options, including Zola CRM, that were developed specifically for law firms. These tools can organize every moving part in the business generation process, and give your executive team the right data they need to make better decisions.

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