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The Management Side of Sales Pursuits


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Article about tracking sales pursuits

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The Management Side of Sales Pursuits

  1. 1. The Management Side of Sales Pursuits February 2006 By Adam Stock In an increasingly competitive legal services market, where clients are less loyal to their law firms and law firms are competing for business, there is a growing need for law firms to be systematic and disciplined in their approach to business development. Marketing departments are increasingly retooling themselves with client service, business development and sales functions. Attorneys, marketing and sales staff need to work increasingly closely as a team taking on non-traditional roles to ensure continuity in pursuit of business from first contact through the pitching and closing of business. Being Systematic When we established our sales function at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, a 600- attorney law firm with 19 offices around the world, we implemented our own intranet-based application to help us manage our sales pursuits. Like many firms, we had previously tracked our pursuits informally through spreadsheets, e-mails and word processing documents and we did not have a fully functioning CRM system. This article shares some of the lessons learned from implementing and using our system. Goals Our goals were to: 1) provide a systematic tracking of our pursuits; 2) provide a seamless way for attorneys and marketing and business development staff to work collaboratively on client pursuits; 3) leverage our best business development practices across the firm; and 4) provide reporting functions so firm practice group and office managers could understand the sales pipelines for their areas of responsibility. As we have implemented our system, we continue to improve it as our processes evolve. Challenges Some of the unique challenges of systematizing business development in law firms are: 1) law is a relationship business that requires the lawyer to be the primary "sales" person rather than a professional salesperson; 2) that there are rarely lawyers dedicated to business development — virtually all lawyers must both bill work as well as develop business — which leads to many discontinuities in pursuits; and 3) there is not an established and defined role for business professionals in the business development process. We sought to build systems that addressed these challenges. Our Approach Unified view and openness. Our first goal was to establish a single place where staff and attorneys could look to see the current status of a client pursuit (see figure 1, below). We had found that different offices and practices had been approaching the same clients at the same time. By providing a single view to our pursuits, we have eliminated this po-tentially embarrassing situation and have increased collaboration. By sharing information more broadly and placing all of our pursuits on our intranet, we require a higher level of trust in members of our firm. The benefits are that we work more collaboratively and we can more easily share best practices. By being able to see what others are doing, attorneys are able to organize their efforts more effectively and more quickly. Page 1 of 2The Management Side of Sales Pursuits 2/7/2006file://C:Documents%20and%20Settingssplett.lawrenceDesktopAdam%20Stock%20articl...
  2. 2. Team and responsibility. Assigning marketing professionals explicitly to each pursuit has increased our effectiveness in working collaboratively and winning pursuits. Where previously we had organized exclusively along functional responsibilities — events, PR, seminars, RFPs, etc. — the pursuit-based approach assigns Marketing and Sales support responsibility to the staff member throughout the pursuit which has increased our effectiveness in service levels. By explicitly listing the attorneys, many of the issues of origination and business development credit are addressed earlier in the pursuit process. Continuity and snapshots. We frequently found that attorneys would get pressed into cases and transactions that would pull them away from pursuits for weeks at a time. It was often difficult to get them up-to-speed and re- engaged in the pursuit. Pursuits often take over a year, so establishing and maintaining continuity especially with changes to our staff was of key importance. Our pursuit system incorporates a full history of the emails and status updates of the pursuit, allowing attorneys and pursuit team members to review the pursuit detail to find out the current status of a pursuit. (See figure 2 below.) Like many firms, we used to start tracking clients through our accounting system when matters were opened. Through our pursuit application we are able to track our prospects long before they become clients allowing us to understand the return on investment for our business development efforts. Relevance. One of the drawbacks of a unified view of pursuits is that our system is filled with hundreds of pursuits that are not of interest to any given attorney. We have implemented saved searches and advanced searching to allow attorneys to bring up the pursuit lists for clients and prospects that they, their practice group or their office are responsible for. Sales pipeline. Our pursuit application establishes a status for our pursuits Investigating, Pitching, Closing and Won/Lost/Abandoned and establishes both target dates and dates that the pursuits were last updated. These features allow us to get a full view of the state of our sales pipeline and the effectiveness of our pursuits. Pursuit aging. Our marketing staff plays a much more active roll in moving pursuits ahead by regularly searching our pursuits that have no updates reported in the last 30 days. They will send reminders to attorneys to re-contact their clients and prospects often accelerating a pursuit that would have been neglected. Lessons Learned No system is without its drawbacks. We had hoped our pursuit application could be a forecasting tool. Because the majority of our business is garnered from existing clients, new matters are opened at times, without our involvement or knowledge and these matters never formally become pursuits. As a result, our application is not best used as a forecasting tool. We continue to work on changing this element especially with our top 200 clients. Since all pursuits that our marketing and business development departments assist on are in the system and we can see our track record of success, the application has been an invaluable asset in helping us transform the perception of our marketing department from one of "overhead" and a "cost center," to a key part of building our firm's business. We have a full system of accountability. The greatest benefits, however, are the collaborative team approach to pursuing new business and clients that have yielded demonstrable results. Our pursuit tracking system has been a key asset on transforming our marketing professionals into relevant business development professionals which has enabled us to better meet the demands of the ever more competitive legal market. Tracking pursuits provides the firm a collaborative way to begin to see new possibilities. It's energizing! Adam Stock is the chief sales and marketing officer for Dorsey & Whitney. He is a board member of the Legal Sales and Service Organization and a frequent speaker at various legal marketing programs. © Copyright 2006, Law Journal Newsletters Page 2 of 2The Management Side of Sales Pursuits 2/7/2006file://C:Documents%20and%20Settingssplett.lawrenceDesktopAdam%20Stock%20articl...