Business Development in Professional Services – Do you have the right tool for the job?

Steve Tyndall Articles Leave a Comment


For decades, firms have attempted to implement CRM systems, often hitting up against a range of challenges that limit the success of these initiatives.

A common issue is what is often considered a lack of engagement, staff simply not investing the time in updating or maintaining accurate client, contact and referrer records.

So, are the lawyers, accountants, consultants, engineers or other professional staff to blame, or could it just be a simple case of using the wrong tool for the job?

We know CRM systems work elsewhere

There are countless very capable CRM systems which can be purchased today, Salesforce, Hubspot, Zoho, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign, Insightly and many more. These systems are popular amongst a range of businesses and for very good reason.

CRM systems have proven to work exceptionally well within other industries, so what has kept these systems from working equally well within Professional Services?

A typical CRM system is designed to support sales teams in managing the acquisition of a new customer and the conversion of a sale.  The problem is that commercial firms typically do not have dedicated sales teams (their professional staff are the ‘sales team’) and they have mostly clients, not customers.  These two subtle, but critical differences underpin many of the challenges traditional CRM adoption has faced within Professional Services firms.  

Sales teams vs professional staff

The trust and the relationships that professional staff develop with their clients is often built up over years. These professionals are advisors and experts, they strive to deliver high-quality services, yet they can struggle to sell their services.  Sales people inversely are themselves rarely responsible for the product or the services they are selling, their sole focus is on sales, not the delivery.  For sales teams, updating a CRM system is not an inconvenience or interruption to their work day, it is their work day, the CRM system is key to supporting their primary objective, selling and meeting their sales targets.

Clients vs Customers

Often overlooked when firms begin considering CRM systems, is that these systems are fundamentally designed to manage ‘Customer’ relationships, not ‘Client’ relationships.  If you Google ‘what does CRM stand for’, you will see that CRM providers make no apology for the fact that they are offering ‘Customer’ management. Managing a customer relationship is very different to the subtleties of a client relationship.

A ‘customer relationship’ typically involves tracking the interactions and transactions with an organisation. According to Keith Dugdale – Sales and Business Growth Coach & Co-author of Smarter Selling Customer is typically the language used when what is being sold is a commodity‘.

The context of a ‘client relationship’ within a professional services environment, differs significantly.  Client relationships are often long-standing, ongoing, advisory and are established over-time through trust and proven expertise.

The objective

The goal of increasing firm revenue through existing relationships compared to winning over brand new clients, is proven to be both strategically effective and efficient. So do firms interested in increasing revenue, winning more work from their known network and protecting their existing key client relationships, still in today’s data-driven world, really need to rely on manual data entry from busy, non sales-focused professionals. In short, no.

Is there a better way?

Yes there is, I know this because our team have worked closely with firms over the last two and a half years developing Client Sense, specifically to address these challenges.  As technology consultants to the legal industry and having years of in-house Professional Services experience, our team have designed Client Sense to solve the unique Business Development challenges specific to Professional Services firms.

Client Sense offers a unique, efficient and cost effective approach to Business Development and Client Retention. Client Sense automatically captures relevant external communication data, automatically providing a range of strategic and operational benefits.

Powerfully simple

Removing the need for data entry not only removes the need for costly and complex software deployments, lengthy data migrations, Outlook plug-ins and ongoing manual data entry from busy professional staff, but it results in more accurate and up-to-date information that can be used to make better, more informed decisions. 

Client Sense provides immediate and automatic visibility over a firms’ client, contact and referral networks. Many firms today are benefiting from the strategic benefits Client Sense delivers such as supporting key client initiatives, improving cross selling, assessing relationships depth and being able to quickly address staff changes.

The information that Client Sense automatically provides is also providing some very practical and operational gains, such as faster and more accurate event invitation lists and the ease of maintaining relevant and up-to-date email marketing lists. Client Sense is a modern solution to an old problem.

Irrespective of whether Client Sense is used to supplement a CRM system or in place of a dedicated CRM system, Client Sense can help to drive firm growth and protect key relationships, in what is an increasingly competitive market.

For more information on Client Sense you can download a solution overview here Client Sense – Overview, schedule a demonstration online here or contact me directly to discuss how Client Sense can help your firm


Header image: Pixabay

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