... remember the wisdom of Socrates:
I know that I know nothing.
... remember the wisdom of Socrates:
I know that I know nothing.
I have been gone longer than planned. I apologize to those of you who reached out to me for leaving you hanging for so long. It was not my intention to be gone for quite this long. However, life gets in the way. Mostly good things going on, but its so easy to get distracted.
I am putting the finishing touches on my latest book: 'Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!' It's a labor of love that has taken many incarnations over the years and I am grateful that the timing for this book's release and publication coincides with some of the most advanced technology Amazon.com and Createspace have ever done for publishing platforms and authors.
On with the Show!
So, back to the business at hand. In my last post, I had mentioned that I would share with you the thing you need to be focusing on more deeply than the relationship you are developing with your clients. It doesn't matter if they are prospective or existing clients or clients who are now former clients. For every single one of them, this is the number one thing that they are looking for in the relationship with you, your employees and your company.
Too often, the focus on relationship-building and relationship-building activities in the form of dinners, rounds of golf and everything else take center stage before and even during the working relationship between provider and client. The level of trust seems to increase as likability increases. The problem is that many times, the prospective client confuses likability with competence. Eventually, after all of this relationship-building your business development reps and you do, the client wants to fire you anyway?
Cutting to the Chase
No matter what industry you are in or what kind of professional services you provide, the thing you need to focus on more than developing relationships with prospective and existing clients is to provide solutions to the client's problems.
Your client came to you because he or she had problems that needed solving. Most clients, if they really care about their business and livelihoods, could care less about a nice round of golf or the type of gift basket you gave them at Christmas if their problem remains unsolved.
I know this isn't the sexy answer you might be looking for, but it's the reality. My years working for and owning my own professional services company proved time and time again that my competitors could outspend me at every turn, but if I was able to solve the problem more quickly, more effectively and at less expense, we were the choice every time.
Don't get me wrong, we did take people out to lunch and for rounds of golf. However, there were many times that a lot of my existing clients would meet me for lunch or golf and laughingly tell me about a nice trip they took or a cool, expensive party they attended and it was all a competitor's expense. Even more crazy, I would get the reassurance from that existing clients that we were still getting all of the business.
The least expensive way for my competitors to have taken our business was also the most challenging. That's why many of them failed at it. It was working on solutions for the prospective clients and continuing to deliver solutions to their existing clients.
Had they done that, it would have killed my business.
You can find out more about this soon in my new book 'Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!' soon available on Amazon and Createspace.
If you've worked in business development for more than a month, you'll know that CRM stands for 'Client Relationship Management.' CRM is a catch-all kind of term that covers the strategies, practices, tasks, software and related activities in the customer/client-buying experience.
I think it's making us lazy.
Relationships ARE Important
Client relationships are important. Without the relationship that exists between the client and their chosen service provider, there can be no exchange of services for money. No money means no profits. No profits means no business.
However, what if I told you that your focus on the client relationship itself has been the reason you fail to keep so many of your clients?
We've all seen it time and time again. A client relationship begins to develop and go from the prospective client stage to the existing client stage. Throughout the development of this relationship, there have been lunches, a few dinners and numerous rounds of golf. All of this has been intended to strengthen the relationship between the client and the business provider.
But does it?
We Used to Beat Our Competitors... A Lot!
I had many competitors who spent gobs of money on lavish dinners, gifts and even trips out of town to win business. Often, some would skirt the laws and regulations connected to such business development practices and decide the risk was worth the potential reward. Yet, most of those clients still chose my little rinky-dink company over their lavish dinners and expensive inducements.
What were we doing that was so different from them? I mean, it was crazy. We had client after client tell us about how they would go to dinner or lunch with a competitor and while it was nice to be showered with attention, there was really only one place they would send business: us.
A lot of companies will hire a business development manager to go out and get new business for the company and continually beat past sales figures with more and more growth. That's what the business development manager does in conjunction with his or her marketing department and a few other professionals who will help win the client. Eventually, after the client is won, they will fall out of love with the company and its professionals and fire the company to go look for a new service provider. This cycle can take anywhere from a year to three or even five years to complete.
Why is that?
Honestly, have you ever questioned why you can see a million dollars in new business walking through the door in any given year while there is a simultaneous exit of a half a million or more during the same time period?
What if I told you that focusing on the relationship has led you to miss the mark over and over and over again?
What if the relationship between you and your client is NOT the highest priority?
What if its something else?
In my next post, I'll tell you what it is. It's late and I'm tired. When you realize what the true secret to strong client relationships are, you will likely smack your head for not realizing it beforehand.
Let's get one thing perfectly clear: There’s no secret to ‘hack’ your way to success in the professional services arena. You can't nor should you attempt to manipulate your way into long-lasting, profitable relationships. This goes double for when you’re working in the arena of business-to-business marketing and selling. After all, this is the ‘service’ industry.
It can be brutal sometimes. I get it. It’s an ongoing, demanding process.
As a professional, you are in the business of serving your clients. You may be wondering how you can outsource that. If that’s on your mind, then professional services might not be for you. You're working in the arena of professional services and this isn’t the same thing as selling a product like supplements online from some remote location overseas. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t work really hard setting up your practice for 3 years to reach the pinnacle of success and then decide you will outsource the hard stuff so that you can drop off the map halfway around the world.
This One Time, It Really Is All About You!
This isn’t about selling gizmos or gadgets. You’re marketing and selling something else. You are selling ‘YOU!’ That’s right, Y-O-U. You are your product. You are your brand. You are the promise. What you have to offer might not be traditionally tangible. Your offering is based on the results you promise your clients.
Your product is your knowledge, your experience, your wisdom, your judgment, your commitment, your follow up and your desire to improve things for your client.
Time and time again, I have seen professional women and men who achieve success in their firm, only to flush it down the metaphorical toilet by allowing distractions to take hold. These distractions might appear in the form of longer vacations, later arrivals to work, three-hour lunches or personal drama that creeps in.
There may come a time, if you do things right, where stepping away from your business and returning repeatedly, without seeing major disruption in the systems and processes you’ve established could be a possibility. However, you're not there yet.
There is no shortcut to get to the peak you wish to climb. More than one professional organization has imploded when the founder or founders stepped away prematurely to explore other business opportunities, retire or just ‘find themselves.’
Commit yourself seriously to the reality of your situation for now. If you’re going to do this, commit to it. I mean really, really commit. If you commit, it means you’re going to be involved.
Your desire to make things better for your clients should override your own comfort most of the time and it should be something you are conscientious about on a frequent and regular basis.
If you are committed to the simultaneous cause of building your business while helping those clients who seek your help, you will wonder where the hours and the days went.
You could even lose track of time. I know I have.