It is widely acknowledged that, with law firms, often 80% or more of a firm’s revenue comes from 20% of its clients. But for many law firms there is minimal downtime, so finding time in busy schedules to focus on building, retaining, and growing relationships and portfolios with the firm’s existing clients can be challenging.
If your firm is looking to increase revenue, maximize client relationships, and build the firm’s client service brand, Strategic Account Management (SAM) needs to be one of the cornerstones of your firm’s strategic plan.
Silvia Coulter and Steve Bell of LawVision, co-authors of SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients Into Strategic Accounts and experts in key client planning and business development, shared some tips on how to get the ball rolling on a SAM program at your firm.
STEP 1: Prepare
Preparation is key, and the first thing to ensure is alignment with firm strategy. SAM needs to feature in your long-term strategic plan for it to be prioritized. And obtaining buy-in from firm leadership is essential for this to happen.
Firm leadership might vote for a SAM program, but in complex organizations such as law firms, what is observed, managed and measured (and sometimes judged), is what individuals make time for and get done. Senior leadership needs to walk the talk by making SAM top of their personal agenda.
Create selection criteria and narrow it down to a pool of 20 possible clients for your SAM program. There is no need to select hundreds of clients, nor do they need to be those with the biggest revenue – they need to be the clients with the most potential for significant growth. Each firm will have a different set of criteria for identifying their most important clients based on understanding each client’s situation, history, and relationship with the firm. The SAM-Legal book outlines some of the best practices for selection.
STEP 2: Select
You are now ready to finalize client selection. You can select anywhere between 1 and 10 clients for your SAM program, but it’s best to not select more than 10. This is an opportunity to hone your selection skills and refine your criteria and really understand your firm’s strengths.
It is important to remember that SAM is not something that is done to a client, it is something to be done WITH a client, soclient buy-in is essential. Speak to the client as early in the process as possible and be clear about your plans for the program. Both your firm and the client will be investing significant time and resources into your key client strategy, so they also need to be invested.
Part of the firm’s investment involves conducting thorough research, looking at the firm’s key client history and metrics, taking the time to create a relationship map and understanding factors at play in the clients’ industries. With that depth of knowledge and insight from the beginning, you gain credibility in the client’s eyes.
STEP 3: Implement
Even after all the preparation and selection, to launch the firm’s SAM program successfully you will need to consider other elements to prepare both your client teams and the firm for the launch of the SAM program.
Everyone on the client team needs to have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, budget, and success metrics. This means you need team leader and team-member orientation.
Everybody needs to be speaking the same language and have the same fundamental understanding of the process. This is an opportunity for people within the firm to get involved in sales, training, and coaching – which might have previously been outside of their remit.
It is also now time to develop and deepen your initial SAM client action plan – this needs to be more than a few action items for the Marketing and Business Development team. If your intention is to increase revenue, you need to be determining how you are going to be the firm selected to really partner with this client and help build its strategy.
STEP 4: Sustain
Once the firm’s strategic account management process has launched, it is important to remember that, although natural momentum will gather, it is critical to keep investing time and resources in the program.
It will be necessary to facilitate ongoing SAM team meetings, monitor and measure results, update the dashboard and pipeline, and evaluate client service.
And the entire process is cyclical by nature; you and your client team will need to be agile and revise and update the SAM plan as things progress.
It is a good idea to check in with your client at regularly scheduled intervals, and to conduct a year-end strategic review to identify upcoming goals for the year, discuss the relationship and get input from the client about what they want and need from your firm.
This is just a glimpse into the valuable insight shared in the webinar. If you want to find out more about turning key clients into strategic accounts, make sure you watch the webinar here.
You can find some fantastic resources to help you kick off your strategic account management program on the LawVision website and in Silvia Coulter and Steve Bell’s book, SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients Into Strategic Accounts.