Fail to plan, plan to fail

Fail to plan, plan to fail

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In this the final blog in my series on key account management best practice in the legal sector, I explore how the CRP and his/her client service team pull together a client service plan. This plan becomes the ‘contract’ between the CRP and the firm’s management and is the document against which the team’s efforts will be measured.

In my experience, the key to putting an effective plan together is to keep the whole process simple and to minimise the amount of paper involved. An effective key account plan will hinge on the robustness of the research and intelligence gathering undertaken (covered in a previous blog), an objective analysis of what this means in terms of the opportunities and threats facing the team in taking the client relationship forward, and appropriate action planning and implementation to deliver the desired client service strategy.

Account objectives

The front end of the plan should focus on the main objectives being set for the account. These will vary from account to account but are likely to include some of the following:

  • Fee objective, e.g. increase fee income from the client by 30% over the next 2 years.
  • Share of client spend objective, e.g. increase share of client’s legal spend from 5% to 20% over the next 3 years.
  • Service penetration objective, e.g. introduce and deliver annually at least £100K of property advice to the client.
  • Client satisfaction objective, e.g. increase NPS from 60% to 80% on post-matter reviews over the next 3 years.
  • Strength of contacts objective, e.g. increase exposure to the client’s board and ensure that the CRP is well known to the Chairman, CEO and FD within the year.

Service strategy and actions

In terms of the main body of the plan, I tend to structure it around three sections as follows:

Client service issues

Again, these will vary from account to account but may include any of the following:

  • Service team member issues, e.g. the client wants a new employment lawyer on the team.
  • Matter handling issues, e.g. the client is dissatisfied with the speed of response on matters.
  • Communications issues, e.g. the client has had difficulty getting hold of team members out of hours.
  • Billing issues, e.g. the client wants quarterly not monthly bills.
  • Know-how issues, e.g. the client is not getting the firm’s legal updates.
  • Added-value services issues, e.g. the client has voiced concern about a lack of thought leadership reports, seminar invites and secondee offers emanating from the firm compared with similar from other law firms instructed.

For each issue identified, the plan should set out what action is required, who on the team will be responsible for this, and when it will be actioned by.

New business opportunities

A key objective of most account planning exercises will be to identify opportunities to increase the volume and breadth of the services delivered to the client. This part of the plan should set out what actions are required to achieve this. Again, the plan should set out who on the team will be responsible for this and when it will be actioned by.

For example, the client feedback may have identified that the client is dissatisfied with the incumbent law firm providing IP advice. The strategy identified is to introduce the client’s Head of Legal to the firm’s Head of IP via the CRP. Also, to invite those members of the in-house team who deal with IP matters to the firm’s upcoming annual IP conference. The aim being to build relationships and trust with these decision-makers, to impress on them the firm’s desire to carry out IP work for them, and to secure a first small instruction within 6 months to demonstrate the firm’s capabilities.

Contact development

Finally, the plan should outline who the key decision-makers are at the client, what the strength of the relationships are between these and members of the service team and, as a result, which relationships need to be strengthened and how this is going to be achieved. This section of the plan should also identify decision-makers’ preferences for receiving the firm’s various updates and publications, along with invites to seminars and other events.


Appendixed in the plan should be the outputs from the ‘knowledge pool’ exercise including the following:

  • Analysis of the client’s business
  • Client perception and needs
  • Billing and margin analysis
  • Competitor activity

Plan review

Service teams should be reviewing their plans formally at least every quarter. The CRP should report progress on the plan to the firm’s senior management at least once a year, and this should be linked to his/her annual appraisal and remuneration.

Although this approach may seem onerous to some, failure to plan in such a way will almost certainly mean that the firm fails to grow its relationship with the client in the optimum way.

Kevin Wheeler is a consultant and coach with nearly 30 years’ experience advising professional services firms on all aspects of business development. He has particular expertise in designing and implementing KAM programmes for law firms, and coaches CRPs and their service teams to deliver great client service.

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Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all aspects of marketing and business development for more than 30 years. As a consultant he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well as to win new ones. As a Meyler Campbell qualified coach he works with partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills.