One of the often-ignored venues for business development is the internal one, in your own law firm and with current clients. If cultivated properly, internal referral sources of business can be the low-hanging fruit of business development. Because the other members of your firm and current clients presumably know, like, and trust you, you are already ahead of the curve when it comes to these groups making referrals or choosing you for work.
The fundamentals of business development still apply, and you must make an effort to ensure that the members of your firm know what you do and who you do it for, and keep you top of mind when that work presents. You, likewise, must have that same knowledge about others in your firm so that you can direct clients to internal providers when they need services that you individually don’t provide.
How Do You Focus on Internal Business Development?
(Cross-selling, Teams, the Partner as Client)
Cross-selling is the term used for offering a new service to a current client. An example would be expanding work for a litigation client by adding a corporate transactional matter. Another method for expanding business internally is to take a team approach to servicing clients of a particular industry or focus. The team brings together members from different practice areas to meet multiple needs, thereby increasing the services rendered. Another method is viewing partners of the firm as clients in their own right and working to participate in their business through increasing assignments or providing a niche service that their individual practice may lack.
Where Can Internal Business Development Be Used?
Women in small or large firms can benefit from bringing work into their firm, even if they are not the one to do the work. Cross-selling makes use of other lawyers and services in the firm while raising the profile of the cross-seller as a rainmaker. Women working in firms with enough lawyers to meet the specialized needs of a particular industry can benefit from the collaboration of team members to address those needs. Clients will also come to know a successful cross-seller as the trusted adviser they can go to for any problem and know that they will be matched with the appropriate problem solver. The benefit—keeping the lawyer top of mind whenever a problem arises.
The team approach allows you to target business in a specific industry, thereby creating a niche, but taking a multidisciplinary approach to serving that industry. This can be a powerful tool for marketing a firm as a one-stop solution to potential clients in an industry. Developing business from individual partners is most effective where one would not be reliant on very few partners and could have multiple “clients” that require service. An example would be offering tax advice to partners with work as varied as litigation and mergers and acquisitions. Taking the approach of finding a niche that is helpful to a broad range of practice areas or clients is key to this technique for internal business development.
The similarity between the techniques used to develop business internally and externally is striking. The advantage of honing your marketing skills internally, in what should be a more comfortable environment, can profoundly impact your readiness to use those skills outside of the firm. A consistent message in each woman’s story was the importance of relationships. They matter. Fostering those relationships within your firm not only supports your business development efforts but also enhances your professional development at the firm.
Increasing the value of what you provide—both its excellence and its rarity—is a good method for securing your position when the bulk of your work comes from other partners rather than your own clients. Teams that hunt for business together also benefit from individual team members who provide expertise to the group that no one else has. Targeting current firm clients to meet an unmet need expands the client’s business with the firm through cross-selling and benefits from the niche approach as well.
For any woman lawyer who imagined marketing as a big-budget undertaking or cold-calling sales pitches, the reality of what can be done to develop business, right in your own firm, should be encouraging.
Make Marketing Work
This post was adapted from the Law Practice Division’s publication Marketing Success: How Did She Do That? Women Lawyers Show You How to Move Beyond Tips to Implementation. In this book, accomplished authors Afi S. Johnson-Parris and Dee A Schiavelli takes marketing from “what to do” to “how it is done successfully.” The book covers best practices in the legal industry through interviews with women rainmakers on how they succeeded using the most current approaches to marketing and business development.