By Sue-Ella Prodonovich, Principal, Prodonovich Advisory
By the end of February, law firms should have billed 70-80% of their revenue for this financial year, as well as having a good idea about how they’re going to make the remainder of their budget for FY2018.
If you haven’t - or if the pipeline looks a little bare - you don’t have to panic just yet. Instead, look for the tree with the low hanging fruit and shake the branches hard until it falls.
To find out exactly how to do that, read on and discover my 7 tips for finding more fees today, without needing to bump up your prices.
1. Speak to your clientsIt’s almost always easier to get new work out of existing clients than it is to find new ones. And better still, the lead time - ie the time between the initial conversation and the work arriving on your desk - is almost always much shorter too.
So if you need more work now, your first port of call should be to get in touch with everyone on your current client list. When you do, don’t sell. Simply check in to make sure everything’s ok. Better still send them something of value, such as an article or an invitation, and follow it up with a phone call if you can.
Always remember, 80 percent of life is turning up. If you’re not doing that, you’re not even in the game.
2. Look for triggersAs I’ve pointed out before, no matter what product or service you’re selling, people will buy more easily when there’s a trigger to do so.
To cite an obvious one, people see their accountant when they need to do their end-of-year tax. So when you do contact people, even better than saying hi, is casually mentioning or writing about a trigger; what’s happened lately in your field, any regulatory changes, big events going on, or new trends emerging.
Alternatively, has something changed at your client’s end - a restructure or a change of personnel?
Whatever it is, call your clients to tell them about it, or send an email to your mailing list letting them know how it affects them and how you can help. You may be surprised by the results it brings - especially if you show how it will save them money or how it’s otherwise relevant to what they do.
Again, as I’ve said before, I once asked the project manager of a large listed property group why he chose a particular law firm to act for him on a significant dispute. He said that was easy....
He’d received an update from a lawyer he’d never met, working with a law firm he had never heard of. But the content was bang on the money and the timing was spot on. And because he was facing an almost identical issue, he picked up the phone and called that lawyer instead of his incumbent.
3. Call dead leadsGo through the list of everyone who’s contacted you over the past 12 months (or even two years) and get back in touch with them.
Let them know you’re still around and ask them if there’s anything you can help with. If this seems confronting it shouldn’t be. What’s the worst they’ll do? Say no again? Then you’re still where you are right now anyway.
Any decent salesperson will tell you that you should never write off someone just because they’ve said no in the past. If you get back in touch with say, 20 people, you only need one to say yes and you’ve probably made yourself money. Just don’t come across as pushy or desperate.
4. Change your targetsBuilding and maintaining referral sources is critical for law firms. In my experience, most work for professionals doesn’t come direct from clients, it comes from referrers. So if you’re not getting work through the door it could be that your referrers either aren’t saying the right things about you, or aren’t meeting the right people.
If you’re worried about the amount of work coming your way, tee up a meeting with each referrer and find out how they’re positioning you and who they’re positioning you to. Do they really know what you do? If not, now’s the time to tell them.
While we’re on the topic, is there someone else you think would be a good referrer? Someone who knows the right people or whose client base complements yours? Well, why not get in touch with them and try to meet them too.
5. RepackagePerception is 9/10ths of reality. In other words, how we present something or how it is perceived matters just as much as what it is.
So ask yourself, are there any legal services you have that could do with an overhaul?
Could you change the way you charge for something or reposition it, or introduce it to a new market? Take a quiet moment to look at your processes and see how you could rejig them to create something new.
Or why not see if you could team up with another complementary department to create a new product or service. The “cross sell” opportunities with law firms should be constantly looked at.
6. Open up the floorWhen it comes to generating ideas, two heads are always better than one. And three heads are better than two. And, four heads is better than... well you get my drift.
So don’t do your sales push alone if you can help it. Call a meeting of everyone in your team - especially those in day-to-day contact with your clients - and see what they can contribute.
Have they had conversations they forgot to tell you about? Do they have ideas about how things could be done differently? Have they seen aspects of your client’s business that aren’t bring serviced or other new opportunities for work?
These days partners should never be the only ones responsible for a practice’s business development. Get everyone to pitch in and see the difference it makes.
7. Get professional helpFinally, there’s always the option of bringing in the professionals: whether that’s through BD and sales coaching, advertising or even appointment setting.
After all, I know of some very good professional services firms who use the services of appointment setters and it can work to devastating effect. That’s because it shifts the emphasis on the routine matters to someone else - someone who’s an expert in it - and leaves you to pitch to someone who’s already partly interested.
If you don’t do this, there’s always the option of a digital or email campaign or some other tactic that will bring in new work now.