Pipeline management has been steadily gaining traction in the professional services sector, and it bodes well for business development (BD) departments. To me, it’s a sign of a maturing business function, but also acceptance by firms’ senior executives that a more strategic and data-driven approach to commercial growth is needed.
BD executives confirm that a major driver for pipeline management appears to be the ability to assess the reasons for their firm’s customer wins and losses in the face of increasing competition. Boards are seeking a granular understanding of the firm’s strengths and weaknesses (as perceived by clients) in specific areas of law, the impact of their pricing model in different scenarios, the effectiveness of their referral network, and so on. More importantly, they want insight into trends so they can spot new business opportunities, expand into new markets, or develop new services swiftly in response to client priorities.
Despite recognition of the value that pipeline management offers, a formalized approach to this function is not one that firms embark on lightly. Why? Because it demands a marked cultural change in the firm, taking the idea of sharing valuable information to another level: lawyers now need to share the details of their deals and opportunities. In a sector that is historically siloed in relationship management and promotions based on the volume of business brought in, on the surface it might have been perceived as a big ask of lawyers, but this mindset is changing.
Aligning planning and strategy with pipeline management
Pipeline management, aided by technology, offers firms the best chance of new business success by aligning business objectives, strategies, and capabilities. Firms can collaborate on opportunities by utilizing the most appropriate expertise in the organization—at the right stage in the process—so that the available resources are optimized. In doing so, firms improve the client and prospect engagement experience, which then offers the best chance of achieving goals and targets.
Lawyers can’t refute data insights
The latest study of LexisNexis® InterAction® shows that the future of marketing and BD is digital. In 2020, firms that saw high growth in-year received 24% more leads from digital sources than firms that did not grow. Plus, “data analytics” was one of the top advantages that these firms have over their peers. Firms that have yet to do so should adopt new marketing techniques, such as video content, social selling, webinars, and podcasts, in addition to embedding metrics-based and analytics-led approaches to understand the effectiveness of these digital measures. As a result, near real-time reporting capability becomes important, making managing opportunities through memory, sticky notes, or even standalone spreadsheets wholly inadequate as ways to gain insights and track efforts.
Many firms today that use any kind of pipeline management tools are actively integrating reporting capability, such as Microsoft® Power BI® or Business Intelligence software. At the end of the day, lawyers and partners mostly care about the outcomes of BD, so by leveraging these tools to show successes or gaps, making demands on their expertise and time becomes a much easier sell. BD executives commonly protest about how hard it is to secure wholehearted involvement of lawyers in their initiatives. With data at their fingertips and a penchant for evidence and facts, lawyers will find BD requests for involvement much harder to fend off.
We’ve built a data model that sits between Power BI® and our InterAction CRM system to help customers integrate the pipeline management capability within the CRM system. InterAction customers can access report templates to help them get started on their data-led pipeline management journey. This approach provides BD teams with dynamic reports that can be used to slice and dice the data for their requirements. As the data is continuously refreshed, BD teams benefit from “living” reports to make timely decisions.