Following the announcement that DMH Stallard and Riverview Law have signed a formal strategic alliance I thought it would be interesting to get Tim Aspinall’s view on this bold move. To read more about Tim please click here
What is the connection between Riverview and DMH Stallard?
DMH Stallard and Riverview Law have a shared vision for the way that legal services should be delivered. Like us, Riverview Law were keen to capitalise on the rapidly changing market and had innovative ideas for doing so. We have what Riverview Law needs to grow even faster, including a large experienced team with a great reputation for delivering services efficiently. Riverview Law has what we need to grow, including a strong brand, sales and marketing. Both of us believe in fixed pricing and Legal Advisory Outsourcing.
The truth is we have been working together for some time now having already undertaken a number of market tests where both DMH Stallard and Riverview Law pitched for work that neither of us could have won independently. The market tests clearly demonstrated that for a wide range of requirements – from complex litigation to high level technical advice – the alliance is a winning formula.
Who made the first approach; you or Karl Chapman (CEO of Riverview law)?
Initially it was me who made contact with Karl. It was clear from an early stage that Riverview Law’s outlook matched how we had been positioning DMH Stallard for some time. We know that the delivery of legal services needs to change so it seemed like an obvious conversation to have. As it turns out it was!
What do you both get from this arrangement?
That’s a good question.
Because of our shared philosophies the alliance brings a perfect arrangement to capitalise on the Riverview Law model and brand and DMH Stallard’s legal heritage and experience in areas such as M&A, commercial property, disputes, employment and other areas of business law.
It gives each business the opportunity to offer more services to customers, work together to win new business, develop existing business and create new fixed price products.
Added to this over time we can take best practice from both firms to create a very powerful legal force combining traditional law with modern delivery – exciting isn’t it?
Do you think the relationship will stay as a strategic alliance or could it become a merger?
The legal market is undergoing significant change and in order for both organisations to take full advantage of this change and provide customers with the services they need we have decided that there are some areas where it makes sense for us to work together Our strategic alliance achieves our goal of extending our offering to customers and right now the alliance is our core focus.
We will, however, both continue to win and deliver work separately and run independent businesses under our respective names.
What do you see as the main challenges for you both as you move forward together?
I think some people feel that expecting a traditional law firm to work alongside a disruptive innovator like Riverview will be our biggest challenge, but we don’t see this as an issue more of an exciting opportunity. Perhaps it will be dealing with all the extra work we’ll generate together, but that’s the kind of challenge we’d both like to have!
DLA Piper own 21% of Riverview Law – do think this will create any competition issues?
DLA Piper is one of the largest and most innovative law firms in the world and so we would be flattered to find ourselves competing against them. Riverview Law naturally briefed DLA Piper and their other large shareholder, AdviserPlus, and both organisations were and are highly supportive of the alliance.
Riverview have some very advanced technology at their disposal – will you be using any of it?
We have been investing in technology for some time now and have similar BI (Business Intelligence) software to them. Getting accurate management information to our clients is an increasing need that we have both responded to and are happy with the results. One thing we may look to leverage between the two firms is CRM. Riverview operate a very advanced version of Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM system which we are going to be taking a serious look at.
Will there be other strategic alliances in the future?
We have a strong working relationship with Riverview Law but we are both independent businesses pursuing our own strategies. Our focus is on making the new alliance successful, but who knows what might happen in the future.
If you have one message for the legal profession what would it be?
If you could take a sneak preview of the legal profession in 5 years’ time I think you would be looking at a completely different landscape than the one we have today. The legal world is changing at a frightening pace and those firms that can’t adapt in parallel are going to be left behind. I have no intention of letting DMH Stallard be one of them.
I happen to know DMH Stallard very well (they are a client) and as regular readers will know my relationship with Karl Chapman stretches back to the early 90′s so I will watch this relationship with interest in the coming months.
DMH Stallard are a well thought of traditional law firm with a great track record and a strong brand in the south east.
Riverview are a disruptive force in the marketplace especially in their use of technology and processes. By bringing the two together I would expect to see a very interesting hybrid emerge which could potentially be even more disruptive than either could achieve alone. Time will tell I suppose.
Silhouette Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This is a true story.
It highlights three highly important aspects of business development that could have a positive effect on your ability to win more business in the future.
Here we go then.
In a previous life I owned and ran an IT recruitment company. One of our targets was a water company who we conservatively estimated spent £15m ($22m) on contract IT people each year and we badly wanted a piece of that action.
The person who gave out the work, we’ll call him Brian, and I didn’t really get on. Our moral compasses pointed in different directions and I wasn’t prepared to do what others did to secure business from him. He would mess me about no end: cancelling meetings at the last minute and breaking promises but I pressed on.
Then two things happened at pretty much the same time.
Firstly, a contractor who was working for me and had worked at the water company before, let’s call her Alice, was contacted by her old agency to go back to work on a specific project that she had extensive knowledge of. She refused to go back unless it was through me.
Secondly, Brian called me up to say he had good news and bad news: good news was they would let Alice come back through me (whoopee); bad news was they had just installed a supplier panel for 3 years and I wasn’t on it (booooo). He also added that he was moving to another part of the organisation, I took this as more good news but didn’t let on.
Then a new resource manager turned up, why don’t we call him Pete, who I only got to see because I had Alice on site. Had I not then he would have given me the brush off like all the other wannabe agencies (lesson #1).
My relationship with Pete was different from the start: identical moral compasses, the same interests and an amazingly similar sense of humour. Added to this early on he gave me a really obscure technical requirement that his panel suppliers had drawn a blank on and after working solidly on it for 2 weeks I found somebody. Our relationship entered a new phase as a consequence (lesson #2).
Roll forward three years. We had over 70 contractors on site making us the second biggest provider of contractors even though we could only get the requirement 3 days after the panel suppliers. I also had excellent working relationships with Pete and all the hiring managers (lesson #3).
So let’s summarise those key lessons: -
- The difference between zero and 1 is greater than 1 and a hundred. Being on the sales ledger makes all the difference so do what you need to in order to make it happen. Had I not had Alice on site I would not have got to see Pete and you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.
- Do something exceptional. The other agencies gave up because the requirement I satisfied was hard and one of many so they just pressed on to the next easier one. I didn’t. If you succeed where others have failed great things can happen and frequently do.
- It’s all about strength of relationships. When it comes down to it people buy from those they like, trust and feel valued by, Pete certainly did and it helped me to overcome the strictest of supplier rules. Added to that I also established a relationship with all the line managers who actually had the need for IT contractors. Relationships based upon trust and affinity will always trump those based on process and rules.
For what it’s worth this is the best of several very similar stories from that era that all deliver the same key messages which are as relevant today as they were then.
If you have time I would really like to hear comments from anybody with similar relationship-based success stories. Thanks you.
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
There are a number of definitions for the words “sales” and “marketing” but what follows are the ones I prefer to use. Many would shrug their shoulders and say “who cares” but I think they would be wrong. Have a read and see what you think.
Why is it important to know the difference?
Put simply if you are relying on the wrong approach to help you secure new clients or win business then you will be working harder and spending more but achieving less. In today’s business world that is a luxury few can afford.
So here are a few key points about marketing: -
- it’s made up of 1:many activities such as mail-shots; advertising; mass events; PR and broadcasting
- only practical when what you’re selling doesn’t cost very much
- is pointless unless your offering is different enough to pass the “so what” test.
- “here is what I am offering - come and get it if you need it” approach
- typically you do not know who your actual client is going to be
- can help to build and sustain a brand
- is usually expensive and you cannot easily measure a return on your investment
- can be habitual – do the same thing over and over even though you aren’t sure if it works.
- When challenged a common defence is “we need a presence” – I don’t buy this and neither should you!
And the same for sales: -
- it is a 1:1 activity such as taking somebody for lunch; calling them to invite them to an event or asking for the business
- most effective where the average business deal is larger – the bigger the deal the more you should be selling not marketing
- “let me understand what you need and then propose a way forward” approach
- you know the actual name and contact details of your target – or can easily find them out
- is not about establishing a brand – it’s about individual rapport, trust and understanding
- Is very cheap (unless you “lunch” at the Ivy) and you can easily measure the return on your investment
- should never be habitual – you should be “going where the money is” right now or is going to be in the near future.
- In most cases you don’t need a presence or a brand – it’s all about finding a way to get to your target, understand their needs and propose an attractive way forward.
Don’t get me wrong traditional marketing does have its place. It’s very useful as a “poke” or reminder to your external stakeholders that you still exist and you still love them but as a means of winning new business I’m not so sure.
Marketing activities tend to be expensive in time and money and since you can’t really measure their effectiveness I can’t see that it’s sensible to keep pouring money into it especially in these difficult times.
If you’re product or service costs more than a few thousand pounds or has a high probability of a repeat sale then I would suggest sales over marketing. You will spend less, have a clearer idea of which activity provides the best results and achieve more revenue in less time. True, it’s harder (which is why most people don’t bother and rely on the marketers instead) but that isn’t a valid excuse to avoid doing it.
So here’s my advice if you want to sell more and market less: -
- Get a CRM system and add all your clients and prospects to it
- Learn how to sell
- Know what your ideal client looks like
- Go where the money is – put your time and money where you are most likely to make a sale!
So, you’ve got this prospective client in your sights and you’re trying to work out why they would abandon their current suppliers and use you instead. Regrettably there are a whole load of ill-founded beliefs surrounding this very simple question such as: -
- I’m fabulous and if only I can get to speak to them they’re sure to realise this and hire me
- Because I’m cheaper than everybody else (I feel dirty just writing this).
- Because I’m better than their current suppliers (and your proof would be?)
- I’m not sure really but I’ll keep taking them out for coffee and lunch until they roll over and give in.
But when it actually comes down to it there are only three possible reasons a potential client will switch from their current supplier base to you and here they are.
They just fancy a change
Don’t get to excited about this one. Whilst we might say this when selecting a restaurant for this evenings family feast we are unlikely to take the same approach when selecting our corporate suppliers.
In truth we do get bored with the things we buy and the places we buy them from but resistance to change is a factor here. The more effort it takes to swap from one supplier to another and the more risk involved the less likely somebody is to actually do it. Most people fall into the “high resistance to change” bracket so we should not rely on clients choosing us because they “fancy a change”. Sorry.
Deficient Supplier Base
This could mean they don’t have any suppliers at all because they have not actually bought what you are selling before or, more likely though, their current panel of suppliers is not hitting the mark in some way. Consider these reasons: -
- Perceived indifference: in other words their suppliers are not showing them enough TLC and as a result they are vulnerable to attack. Over time a level of complacency has crept into the relationship – it happens more than you think.
- The client’s needs have changed but their current suppliers are not equipped to satisfy their new needs to the required standard.
- There have been changes at the supplier (staff comings and goings; merger or acquisition; hard times etc.) which has caused the suppliers’ performance to deteriorate.
- An event has occurred that has seriously vexed the client: the supplier has dropped a right royal clanger and for some reason the client is not inclined to work with them to overcome it.
Now the important thing to bear in mind here is that we won’t know there’s a problem unless we, or one of our trusted external stakeholders, are close enough to the prospect to glean something is amiss. It is unlikely a prospective client will call you out of the blue and say “I’ve just been let down by one of my suppliers – this is your big chance matey”. Possible but I really wouldn’t bet the farmstead on it, would you?
If you want to rely on this as a way of getting your opportunity you must stay very close to your prospect base and pounce when you sniff an opportunity.
You have something they don’t get at the moment
I’m at the seaside as I write this and was walking along the promenade yesterday when I passed Tywyn’s only seafront fast-food outlet and smelled chips – until then I had no idea I was even hungry but as soon as I was exposed to the delicious aroma of root vegetables fried in animal fat I discovered I was ravvo.
So it is with business buyers too. They are happily sailing along thinking everything is hunky-dory then they sniff the business equivalent of the onions they put on hot-dogs and bingo! they must have it. Quite often they have a need but don’t even realise it until they are exposed to a solution or multiplier (a way of capitalising on an opportunity) and then it all falls into place.
Since my entire business career has consisted of starting businesses in mature markets I have always operated in a competitive-knockout situation and as such I have to say that this is my new-client winner of choice: offer them something they don’t already have.
- Examine the market you’re in and look for any gaps that might be appearing as a result of any external changes. Client preferences are constantly changing and each time they do the market lags behind creating a vacuum and as we all know nature hates a vacuum so maybe you could be the first to fill it.
- Speak to your clients and prospects and get a real feel for where things aren’t working for them. This is not an exercise aimed at exposing your competitor’s weaknesses but rather to discover itches that aren’t being scratched.
- Convert your services into products because they are much easier to differentiate and promote than a service. I know this takes time, effort and a fair amount of creativity bit it is sooooo worth it if you can.
So what is a person to do?
Well in summary if you seriously want to beat down the fortifications surrounding prospective clients here are your choices: -
- Keep in close contact with the prospects you have the best rapport with – some kind of contact every month and wait for your opportunity.
- For everybody else aim for two email/snail-mail contacts every month which add value rather than sell or promote. Let them see what you’re all about and if they need you they might just call.
- Develop some products that nobody else has and promote the bejeebies out of them through marketing and by picking up the phone and selling them to your clients and prospects. This is the option that puts you in control of the new-client acquisition process but is the hardest to achieve.
Whatever you do forget the idea that repeated trips out for coffee lunch, or any other kind of face-feeding event will grind them down. Maybe years ago this was a reliable method of wooing new clients but your prospect base is way more sophisticated than that these days. You really need to do more!
The other day I attended a lunchtime networking event in Birmingham. I had gone to meet somebody who I believed would be there but at the eleventh hour had to duck out (I learned later) leaving me at the mercy of a heaving mass of smartly dressed, enthusiastic and fragrant professionals. My worst nightmare!
I have nothing against enthusiastic professionals (especially if they smell nice) in fact I earn my living from them but to see a huge posse of them all swigging away on free orange juice and engaged in the art of “networking” was almost too much for me to bare.
[ <---- Thanks to Nick Lincoln at V2VFP for the caption]
I deal with medium to large law firms. The decision makers within those firms rarely go to those kinds of event and if they do they aren’t going to make a purchase worth tens of thousands of pounds from somebody they’ve just met over a sausage on a stick! So this is my key message: if you sell to medium to large organisations you are wasting your time attending networking events.
I’m not saying business doesn’t get done at these gatherings because I’m sure it does but the conversion rate is so low as to be laughable. Think about it. You have to meet a decision maker who right now has a need you can help with and a budget that matches your expectations but does not have incumbent suppliers who can already deliver what’s required. Not really very likely when you consider it that way is it?
Of course the argument goes that networking events are also about building relationships which is true but if that’s the best way you can engage with your stakeholders you may find your depth of relationships a bit on the shallow side. If you want to build strong relationships you’re much better off arranging to meet people on a 121 basis; at least they know you cared enough to make the effort.
For my own part I have built all of my businesses (the biggest tipping the scales at a hefty £40m turnover) on the firm foundation of relationship selling; it’s easy, efficient and really quite fun. I cannot recall a single client I have won from a networking event and nor can I honestly say that going to them strengthened any of my relationships. Remember: people attend these events to sell not to buy!
So in closing if you must attend these frightful shindigs learn how to work a room (personally I can think of nothing worse) and get stuck in but don’t expect to win loads of business as a result.
Alternatively you can avoid them like the plague and reinvest the time you have saved into one of four alternative approaches to finding and connecting with new clients that I will be talking about in my next post!
My family have always been fussy eaters but never more so than when they’re ordering steak. Mrs Ames likes it rare with a dash of French mustard; son #1 likes it rare but has to have a sauce on it; son #2 can’t eat it unless it is medium well done with a heavy sauce; daughter can only have plain steak but it has to be medium and me; the bluer the better.
So what, I hear you cry. Well just imagine an Ames family trip to a steak house and all of us being served identical steaks. Quel horreur! Chances are at least two of us would not be happy campers and so more likely to bad-mouth the restaurant or give the place next door a go next time we fancied some meaty comestibles.
Now consider how you serve your “steaks”. If you provide your offering in the same way to everybody you stand a real chance of letting somebody down; similar to a failed trip to the local steakhouse for the hungry Ames’s.
In fact the way in which a product or service is served up heavily influences which way the game goes: deliver what you sell in a way the client prefers and its one nil to you; the other way around and it’s a draw at best.
So what’s an honest broker like you supposed to do about this? Let’s go back to the restaurant for a second visit. The waiter delivers the menus, tells you about the specials then goes away again giving you time to decide. They don’t hassle you and they don’t try and shoe-horn into taking their choice.
A little later they return to answer any questions and take down every detail of your order; they don’t just write down “5 steaks”. This is the nub of it all really. After you have found out what your clients want press on and discover how they would like it delivered and then make a note of it. That’s why God invented customer relationship management systems!
Typically you should look at these 7 key areas: -
- Communication: how often, the method (face to face, telephone, email) and style (no-nonsense, relaxed, friendly).
- Intervention: do they want you to deliver and clear off or do they want you to continue to be involved after the sale even if it is to see how things are going on?
- Omissions: quite often people don’t want the full offering “I’ll take mine on brown and hold the onions”. BMW charge extra for this; cheeky little Bavarian devils!
- Customisation: moving one on from omissions give your clients some choices. The more bespoke you can make your offering the better it will fit and the more they will rave about it. Think Starbucks here; black coffee if you want it but if you want a customised cup of coffee you’ve gone to the right place.
- Driver or passenger: some people like you to drive the process by giving choices and expressing preferences others like to do it themselves. It is important to get this one right.
- Buying process: understanding what people have to go through in their own organisation when they want to buy something is crucial. You can quite often make the buying process much easier for them (and quicker for you) by understanding what “t’s” need to be crossed and “i’s” dotted.
- Interests: and finally what are they interested in both professionally and personally. The more you know of what they like the more you can tickle their individual fancies. This is probably the most important of all – get it right and your clients become one step away from being your friends after which everything changes.
So here’s the skinny on great customer care: it’s probably a good idea to understand your client’s needs and preferences, make a note of them and then aim to meet them every time you sell them something. Not really rocket science but since most people can’t be arsed to serve up anything other than “medium rare” just making the effort puts you ahead of the game.
Hello client loyalty, big revenues and client referrals; good bye indifference, serious competition and hard times.
So here they are; my top 10 TED videos and the reasons why you should check them out. Just on the off-chance that you don’t know what TED is it’s like YouTube for grown ups where the contributors are invited to contribute. Video clips tend to be less than 20 minutes and covering an eclectic mix of subjects – at home we often watch TED instead of the TV!
Read on if you want to be educated, inspired or just plain entertained. Beware though: TED can lead to addiction issues!!!!!!!
1. Steve Jobs – Stanford Address - http://bit.ly/rZL53R
The inimitable Mr Jobs is speaking at a Stanford University graduation ceremony. He recounts three different parts of his life each offering at least one important message but beyond that these episodes provide a fascinating insight into what made the great man tick. Seriously it nearly moves me to tears every time I watch it.
2. Simon Sinek – why do people buy from you - http://bit.ly/vLk0ev
Sinek recounts some real-life examples (again one of them being Apple) of how people buy what you believe above all else. If you have to persuade people or sell to them as part of your job this brief clip WILL make a difference. I changed the way I present what I do after I watched it.
3. Sir Ken Robinson – Killing creativity - http://bit.ly/us1MOy
I’ve seen Sir Ken speak live and he never fails to entertain, educate and perhaps most importantly make you contemplate. Here he is talking about creativity especially in kids but you can relate to what he says no matter what you do or how old you are. Particularly relevant if you have kids at school I might add.
4. Derek Sivers – Starting a movement - http://bit.ly/sZtLY8
Sivers narrates a video clip of somebody who starts an extraordinary movement at a pop festival, of all places, and then draws lessons that anybody who wants to be a wow on the internet will want to learn. Want to grow a community? Well check this out. Also it really is fascinating to watch the community form before your eyes.
5. Malcom Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce - http://bit.ly/tdTAKn
Ever wondered why some people prefer one product over another? Could this help you to promote your offering to better effect? I think so and the way Gladwell achieves it is by recounting how the perfect spaghetti sauce was developed; or not as the case may be.
6. Sheena Iyengar – How to make choices easier - http://bit.ly/x7Wqll
When I watched this clip for the first time I was struck by the simplicity of Iyengar’s argument: put some effort into the way you build features and choices into your offerings and the way you present them to your clients. Love it!
7. Niall Ferguson – the 6 killer apps of prosperity - http://bit.ly/s2vd9z
You may have seen the TV programme but either way this is a great talk which explores a) why the west was so successful in growing powerful and rich nations even though it started later than the east and b) why the east is now overtaking the west. Very thought-provoking and ingeniously presented by using the modern concept of Apps but for nations.
8. Nigel Marsh – how to make work-life balance work - http://bit.ly/sqqQT5
One of the biggest challenges we face in the modern world is getting balance in our lives: how much time for work; how much for our friends and families and how much special time do we need for ourselves? A relatively easy question to answer you’d think but if you can’t seem to get there (you’re definitely not alone if you can’t) then try this talk by Nigel Marsh for size.
9. Paul Gilding – the Earth is Full - http://bit.ly/zhUmyQ
I don’t want to get into the whole green debate but wherever you stand on the subject this talk will certainly make you think. Gilding avoids the easy targets of lonely polar bears, shrinking icecaps and unusual weather patterns and comes from an angle that even made me sit up and think. If you watch it do so with an open mind – the logic behind his arguments is sound and irrefutable.
10. Cat vs Washing machine - http://bit.ly/fFQ6O1
OK so this isn’t a TED video; I’ve watched it a hundred times and it makes me laugh every single time so go on, cheer yourself up and watch the cat who’s left his iPhone in his jeans which are now in his washing machine. One of many TRANSLATION vids by Chris Cohen.
So there you have it; my very favourite TED videos but I’m sure you’ve got loads others so please add your favourites as comments so others can share.
Vive le TED!!!