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.  

Y-O-U!

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.’

Recommit

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.

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