When can landing new business be a dangerous thing?
We work diligently in our prospecting effort to land the next BIG ONE. I wrote a previous post on how to land your biggest client ever. It’s a topic that is often discussed as a primary goal to your business development action plan. Let’s talk about when it can be a disastrous move for your business.
- Size matters in your prospecting effort.
- Bigger is better.
- More is Good.
- It’s all about Excess in Prospecting.
Every workshop I teach my participants are all about bagging Bear. Not always is it a good idea to go find a big client, let’s talk about why this can be a bad thing. You have a limited reservoir of the most critical aspect of relationship building and management – time.
Every client relationship you bring in – even if someone else does the actual work in delivering your product, requires an ongoing investment of time with you. People buy you, they don’t buy your company. Your reputation and referrability is tied directly to the quality of experience your client has, if it’s stinky, you won’t get referred by them or used by them again. This means you need to know the different transition points within a client engagement – when does the relationship mature. Think of it like dating. There’s the initial attraction stage, the chase, engagement and finally marriage. I’ve been married for more of my life than not married so as the years pass, it’s harder to remember that initial moment when I fell in lust with how he looked in a pair of blue jeans, but I have remained in love with who he is and what he means to me in my life and my children. Infatuation fades and you have to be sure the commitment remains past the initial emotional high when the chemical reaction fades.
Clients buy from you emotionally then justify their decision intellectually. This is tailor made for a short client engagement unless you make sure you design your experience to transition them throughout the initial problem solution phase and into the viewing you as the Trusted Advisor and most important relationship in their business (hint, where you want to be). If you have a ‘love em and leave em’ philosophy with your new clients – stop reading now, you will not like the rest of this post. Knowing there is a time investment in these great relationship, you need to understand the time required to make each client experience all it can (and needs) to be. To get to this number you need to first of all evaluate your client base and recognize that 80% (or more) of your business comes from 20% (or less) of your relationships. These clients are what we consider our ‘Bear’ relationships or those that feed us for the winter, a season, in our business. The ‘Deer’ relationships are those that feed us for the month, or what could be considered your typical client – ideally these will represent the majority of the remainder of your client base.
In this conversation we will talk about managing your Bear clients. For some reason, the best clients seem to be turned over to account managers and then left on auto pilot by the sales person. This is your biggest mistake. No matter how strong your account team, there are always opportunities to expand these relationships. You may have all the business you can get, but are you working with all their peers? Industry contacts? All internal decision makers in the same company you can serve? I thought not.
Suggested account management strategy:
Top clients warrant a quarterly conversation (or meeting). What do you talk about you ask? Hopefully you’re discovering their strategic goals and objectives they’re working on for the next 12 -18 months, identifying their needs, initiating introductions to internal and external resources they will find value in, and helping them connect to other great people. You need to be the conduit of all things good for your best clients. You also need to find topics of interest for them that you can send them info regarding- articles, blog posts, white papers, and also they are a prime source of ideas in developing your own content to engage others who look just like them.
Your deer clients would benefit from seeing you twice (or more) per year. The topics are similar to those covered in your Bear meetings, remember as you conduct these meetings that every client you have represents a great prospect for a competitor, so make sure there are no gaps that need to be addressed in your service offering, also remember that every client also can share ideas on how to add more value to your client experience. So don’t forget to ask ‘what did you wish we could do for you?’
A couple of things to keep in mind during the conversations….
Every client can refer you to someone else who looks just like them. Think of what your business looks like if you double your A and B accounts. Probably experience a nice bump in revenue? Let’s make it happen!
The client profile represents the total business opportunity present. You may only have a small project within a big client, but evaluate what is possible and that determines where they fit. We call this your market share of their wallet. What happens to your business if you attain 100% of the share of their wallet? Another nice bump? You’re welcome. But we’re not done. Discover missed opportunities within this client. Remember your best client is someone else’s best prospect. Also if there is an area of need that is pressing and you don’t address it, perhaps a competitor has that in their service offering and will be calling on them tomorrow. Better you bring them the resource through either your company or a referral partner to keep the relationship secure. If you don’t proactively manage this, your clients are at risk.
Are you connected to them on LinkedIn? Have you reviewed the groups they participate in? who they’re connected to? Many times we hold our hand out and ask – by the way, if you happen to think of anyone who could possibly, potentially, someday be willing to talk to me, please introduce me and consider our ‘asking client’s for referrals box’ checked. Wrong, wrong, wrong. How about if instead you pick your target list of companies and people you want introductions to and then cross reference through LinkedIn to see which of your clients can get you there? Then when you have your quarterly or semiannual conversation you ask your client for an introduction to John Smith at ABC company – that you know they are connected to. See how much more effective that can be?
Last but certainly not least, how many of your referral partners are serving your best clients? My philosophy is the more great resources I bring to the table, the higher the fence I build around my most important relationships and fewer opportunities exist for a competitor to get their toe in the door. You also add great value to your client experience and they continue to come to you for ALL problems they have, not just those in your wheelhouse. Again, it’s all about client retention.
Not only are you optimizing your effort with your current client base, you are discovering additional client opportunities for your own organization and also your referral partners. Now here’s the dangerous part. This all takes time. And as I’ve mentioned in numerous spots in this post, you have gaps in your service offering, we all do. We’re not perfect. Your job is to discover and provide solutions for these gaps. Each client requires a definitive amount of time – on your schedule. Now look at what that time requirement is and place it beside each client, you have now quantified the time investment with your current book of business – before you ever schedule a meeting with a new prospect or attend an event, make sure these relationships are covered. The cost of acquisition of a new client is high, and it is a futile exercise to bring on people you will not serve to the highest and best of your ability. The world is a small place and if you do not deliver, word gets around to the prospects you are pursuing and you will find it an uphill battle.
It’s not my job you say? Then whose is it? Account management and service teams are made up of human beings who are not without error. And people are not always good communicators or perhaps there is not a good chemistry, is it better you catch it while the relationship can be saved? Or wait til a competitor gets in the door?
It’s better to have fewer client relationships that rave about the experience than go get more than you can serve. And if you lose that critical position of Trusted Advisor you become just another product pushing, transaction seeking, snake oiling peddling, used car salesman. And no one wants to be there. Take the time to review your capacity, and be real with what you can take on. Then review your client list for time required to manage deer relationships, identify what capacity you have and make a list of who you would most like to work with. And with your great client relationships you will find ready access to those great people!
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