When in Doubt...

... remember the wisdom of Socrates:

 I know that I know nothing. 

Is the Term 'Client Relationship Management' Wrong? (Part One)

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.  

Forget about Closing the Sale

How many times have you said one of the following phrases?

  • I need to close the deal.

  • I want to close the sale.

  • We gotta get a close on this client.

  • Close the deal or you're fired.

  • Just get the close.

If you've worked in selling professional services six months or six years, it is likely you've referred to the final step in the sales process as a close.  For over a decade and a half in my work and study of the sales process, I've come to resent the word 'close' when it comes to the sales process.  I think your use of the word might be what's hurting your firm or company as well.

Coming to An End?

To close something implies that things between you and your client are coming to an end.  Once you close this deal, it's on to other things.  If you're a business development manager for a professional services company, that may be partially true.  You will be moving on to other things, but what if the managers and other operations personnel in your firm also take the word 'close' a little too seriously?

What I mean by that, is what if these administrators hear the words 'I closed the deal' and it causes them to relax just a little too much?  Maybe they lean back a little bit and think that the client relationship is now secure and that since there's ink on the page, no one has anything to prove.  

The above example might seem extreme, but I personally witnessed time and time again the immediate slacking off of performance once a deal is closed and it frightens me.  No business development representative goes out to win new business just to watch it slip through the firm's metaphorical fingers six months later.  

There's got to be a better way.

A Better Way

Really, there never is such a thing as a ‘close’ in professional services.  It's always in your best interest to remember that.  Instead of ‘closing’ anything, let’s work to get commitments.  The entire sales process is a series of attempts to get commitments from the prospective client while promising to keep commitments in return.  

You've got to get commitments from your prospective clients to consider using your services and that leads to getting the commitment from them to pay to use your services.  All along the way, you are making commitments to them to make sure the connection is there and it is real.  Getting commitments is what all of this is about and hopefully you will make it into a regular habit.

Brush Up on Getting Commitments

So, how do we work to get commitments?  You're probably pretty good at it now.  If you do feel as though you need to brush up your skills, I go into the process deeper in my soon-to-be-published book: Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!  

Check it out on Amazon soon!

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