How easy is it for a new competitor to emerge in your industry. The answer, of course, is VERY EASY. All you need is ‘an Internet connection and one client.' (and a good relationship with your accountant).
If it is that easy for a new competitor to enter the market, how do you protect your business and clients so that they are not susceptible to the advances of competitors (old or new).
Do you get a bit slap happy with your existing clients? Maybe you shouldn't? To protect your clients from being susceptible to the advances of competitors why not treat them as they were new? Why? Think about it, when you bring in a good new client and everyone ups their game. Phone calls and emails are responded to quickly.
All efforts are made to exceed expectations regarding deadlines set. Everyone working on the job shows an interest in the client’s situation. Client service levels go through the roof. But sooner or later, that new client becomes an ‘old’ client and the attention is transferred to the next, new, shiny object.
Given upwards of 80% of new clients come from referral (80% is a big number), it makes sense to consider how to better manage your existing clients.
One way to do that is to mind your language; if a client asks you ‘how’s business?’, a response of ‘we’re flat out’ is unlikely to result in a referral. Instead, ‘business is good and we’re looking to grow - if you happen to know anyone like you who would benefit from our services, please feel free to introduce them’, might at least put you top of mind if your client does happen to come across anyone looking for what you provide.
Perhaps more importantly, however, are your processes around client management. Remember, with any referral, the risk sits with the referrer - if it goes wrong, who is the new client going to think badly of?
So with that in mind, it’s critical that every interaction you have with a client is supported by strong, client-focused processes in the following areas:
- Project execution: whatever the project, big or small, consider how well you scope the work, price the job, gather information needed, communicate during the work, deliver the finished ‘product’ and wrap up the engagement. You might know this as ‘workflow management’ and it is a core competency that every professional service firm needs to work on constantly
- Client classification: this could be interpreted as non politically correct, but client service suffers because either the wrong sort of client is accepted or because there is no way to determine how important a particular client is to the firm. Not all clients are equal. Do you know which clients you want to target? Who will help you achieve your goal? How will you determine your ideal client?
- Size of client
- How active they are in their business
- The extent to which they are open to using your products and services
- How frequently you interact with them
- How often they refer new clients to you
- The extent to which they are easy to work with
- The longer term outlook for the industry in which they operate
- How profitable the client is for your firm.
- Ensuring every client is offered every service they need to achieve their goals. Once you have determined who your ideal client is, you will be able to serve them better to achieve their goals. The prerequisite here is that you understand what their goals are, of course. This also speaks to soft skills that often need further development, such as client interview techniques and sales skills, not to mention developing products that your clients need (and being able to deliver those products adeptly)
- Client administration: making sure that the right people are doing the right things. Efficiencies and client service can both be driven by employing professional administrators to take care of all of the administrative tasks that are a part of any professional service interaction, leaving the accountants and other high level team members to do what they are best at.
Managing clients is often overlooked as firms gravitate towards finding new clients. But when you shine new light on your existing client interactions, you’ll likely find that not only will client service improve, but also referrals will increase and your firm will grow as you develop those important relationships already in your client base.
The information provided in this BLOG is of a general nature only and has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this you should consider whether the information is appropriate considering your objectives, financial situation and needs.