Client Relationships: The key to winning more business
At the annual SMPS Build Business conference that was held August 10-14, 2016, attendees convened to discuss a multitude of issues they face in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) space. Conference topics included communication best practices, emerging technologies and trends, and mixed-use development. But one session that was particularly helpful to firms looking to win more business was the session on strategic client management.
Establishing strong client relationships are important because these relationships can help your firm stand out against the other firms that have also provided qualifying proposals. During the vendor selection process, the client must ask the question “Who do I want to work with for the duration of this project?” If your firm has taken the time to cultivate a strong relationship with that client, you have a better chance of winning the project than a firm that did not. Especially if the project is expected to last for several years.
Maintaining client relationships is not easy, though. The process can be very time-consuming and many firms don’t realize that it’s not just about establishing the initial contact with the client, but also about maintaining a consistent message. What organizations commonly lack in their client management strategies are established processes, tools, and training; funding to implement programs; and active support by senior management.
In many organizations, the small number of strategic clients represents up to a third of revenue. This means that implementing a successful client management program is critical to ensuring their satisfaction with your services. Client management should involve planning, which means that you need to take the time to learn about your client and their needs. The program should also be a long-term project, which can adapt to the changing needs of both your firm and your client.
Your firm should select targeted clients that it can build strong relationships with, but deciding which potential clients make the cut and which don’t can be difficult. When making this decision, consider some of the following factors:
- How does the client align with your firm’s goals and core values?
- Does the client fill a gap where you want to move strategically?
- Is there a fiscal significance the client can satisfy?
- Is the client a willing partner?
- Does the client serve a strategic significance to your firm?
Once you have identified your client, you must begin to build the relationship. Often, firms have only a single point of contact, limiting their access to information. Try to establish relationships with multiple touch-points, including individuals at different locations, within different functional areas, and at different levels. This will increase your access to the client, as well as to the decision-making process.
Each client should have a designated client team with consistent team members who are included for specific reasons. There is no need to include individuals on the team who may have a personal interest in the client but have no real purpose. Once client-specific goals are identified, each team member should be assigned action items with clear timelines attached. This will ensure accountability and that the program remains on schedule.
It is important to establish the metrics of determining if your client management program is successful in order to track its progress and make necessary adjustments. The metrics you select will be specific to your organization, but can be broad-focused, like determining if goals have been met, or can be more client-focused by measuring increased client satisfaction. Other metrics may be more internal, such as the successful diversification of services, increasing account team effectiveness, and increasing fees or revenue.
However you decide to manage your client relationships, the most successful programs are those that are deliberate, organized, and continue to track progress. Approaching client management from a holistic perspective by picturing how both parties can benefit can go a long way to ensuring the relationship is symbiotic.
Looking to enhance your current client management program? Check out some of Deltek’s products that could facilitate your process, like Deltek CRM and Vision. These products can help you manage your client information and integrate with your business development tools for a seamless workflow.
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