Blog/Podcast: How One Business Development Manager Gets Her Job Done
Every law firm is different, but all legal business development professionals can learn from each other’s best practices. Erika LaCerda, former lawyer and business development manager at Warner Norcross + Judd, shared her top six strategies on the latest episode of the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast.
- Use subtle clues from clients. Thanks to her prior career as an administrative law judge, Erika has spent a lot of time listening to people, watching their behavior and analyzing body language. That experience comes in handy in her business development role when she’s matching up prospective clients and attorneys who she thinks will work well together. Erika notes that it’s important to listen to what clients say they want, but sometimes you have to read between the lines to figure out what they really need.
- Learn clients’ plans for the future. Only focusing on the task at hand means that when the task is done, there’s no more business. Rather than allow that to happen, Erika takes the time to learn where each client wants their business to go in the future. This way, she can ensure that her firm will be able to meet their needs for years to come. Learning and adapting to a client’s long-term plans creates a lasting relationship that’s beneficial for the firm and the client.
- Be present in the community. Every city has its own business culture and industry players, and you can’t learn about them just through online research. The only way to really learn a market is to be present in it, so Erika spends as much time as she can attending events large and small throughout Michigan, where her firm is located. She finds that this networking is the best way to get the word out about her firm, and an ideal way to understand the unique needs of clients from different regions.
- Focus on the long sell. People are suspicious of slick salespeople, and they won’t give their business to firms they don’t trust. The solution? Don’t sell at all. Instead, foster relationships based on genuine interest for people’s legal needs. Erika uses the long sell to build trust with clients and make sure her firm is top-of-mind when they eventually need legal services. Not every relationship will result in immediate business (or any business at all, for that matter), but it’s never a waste of time to connect with new people.
- Foster internal business development. Erika stresses that internal business development is just as important as external business development. No matter how many prospects you find, it’s impossible to work effectively when lawyers are disinterested or skeptical of your business development efforts. Before anything else, you must have a good rapport with the lawyers you work with, which comes naturally from listening, learning and demonstrating your value.
- Anticipate the future. Erika has noticed several trends shaping the legal industry, such as client data analytics and the popularization of legal products. Instead of letting these trends pass her firm by, she has embraced and incorporated them into her work. Recently, she helped her firm’s cybersecurity group promote their new cybersecurity package and identify the target market. She also frequently relies on data to understand the markets where her firm’s clients come from. Adapting to these trends has helped Erika stay nimble and keep her firm on the cutting edge.