The creation and use of solid pipeline tools form the backbone of any good business development training and coaching program. Get your attorneys to use pipelines and many other business development issues will be resolved – goal setting, organization, evaluating your network, prioritizing and relationship building, to name a few. Pipelines are so easy to use and make such an impact on revenue that the attorney adoption rate is very high. In fact, many lawyers often already use some form of a pipeline on paper, as a spreadsheet, or even in their heads. Finding any tool with a high attorney adoption rate is difficult, so when we find one it makes sense to pay attention. One way to capitalize on this is to create pipelines in existing CRM tools that allow you to watch and capture attorney business development activities. Pipelines, used this way, can be an excellent, inexpensive way to maximize current CRM investments and help answer the question: “How do I get my lawyers to use our CRM?”
Tool vs. Leash
I’ve used several CRM/pipeline tools in a variety of corporate settings. Those with the highest user adoption rates are always those that focus on end user benefits over organization benefits. Systems like this rarely work well when they are set up to be primarily a tool for management, pushed by mandate. Creating a great tool for the end users, helping them keep track of contacts and push opportunities forward, promotes adoption. Make it a tool, not a leash, and you have more success. This is as true in law firms as in other organizations.
Want to watch a webinar on this topic?
So if you already have a CRM system, how can you use the growing use of pipelines at your firm to leverage that investment.
There are two ways to do this.
First, if your lawyers are going to use pipelines to track business development efforts, you might as well give them templates that allow you to capture data a lawyer is creating as the pipeline is used. So, create a form that captures categories you want to populate in your CRM. In a CRM vacuum, lawyers typically use Excel spreadsheets to keep track of prospects. Create Excel spreadsheets with columns that track the information you want, and then enter that data into your CRM.
OK, now let’s take it to a higher level. Why not teach the lawyers how to use pipelines directly in your system? Aligning data on spreadsheets makes the transfer easier, but your staff still has to get it from the attorney and then get it into the system. By using your existing CRM tool to act as the pipeline itself, the information (and the lawyer) is already in the system. Seems obvious, so why hasn’t it worked in the past?
The main reason it hasn’t worked is that the CRM is treated as a database, not a tool. When lawyers are initially taught how to use a CRM, the focus is on how to find firm client and prospect information. The firm CRM is considered a large database of firm clients and prospects to be used when you want to know with whom the firm has a connection or when you want to send some content to those connections (think client alerts). While this is certainly a function of a CRM (and some would argue, a primary function), it is a function that does not touch the daily life of most lawyers. They immediately see it as a tool for the marketing department to disseminate information and pull up data on clients when the lawyer asks for it. In short, it’s not their tool; it belongs to the marketing department.
To drive adoption, lawyers need to see the CRM as a tool that helps fill a key need for them: keeping track of their own key prospects. If lawyers discover that using the CRM for this function is superior to their current method (spreadsheets, yellow legal pads, remembering it in their heads), they’ll use the tool.
So why is your CRM a better pipeline tool for your lawyers than what they are currently using? Here are some reasons:
1. Easy access to content Most of the information lawyers need to populate a good pipeline is typically already in your system, particularly if your CRM is tied to Outlook. Tracking down names and contact info is the most difficult part of starting a pipeline. You can show them how easy it is to find that information from the same screen they will use to track pipeline progress.
2. CRM tools are superior at handling notes and tracking Spreadsheets don’t handle call logs and discussion histories very well. When spreadsheets are used regularly, it becomes apparent that columns used to track conversations become unwieldy and take over the document. A CRM tool tucks that information away neatly on another screen.
3. CRMs are tied to calendaring and reminder tools It’s one thing to have a list of people you want to contact, but connecting that list to a system for tracking tasks and calendar reminders makes it more useful to the attorney and turns the focus on action.
4. Understanding relationships When pursuing new prospects, a regular threshold question is “Whom do I know who already has a good relationship with this prospect?” CRM tools often have that information at the ready. Lawyers use tools that benefit them. Pipelines are used because they help lawyers increase business. Show a lawyer how it’s easier to use a pipeline tool through your existing CRM and use of that tool will increase.
 If a lawyer is somewhat new to business development and isn’t using any method at all to keep track of prospects, you can skip a step and train them how to track key contacts directly in your current system. Training them on business development basics can start from within your CRM.