The constant pursuit of new business is fine, but nurturing current clients is just as valuable, says Paul Matthews.
Many QS firms devote huge energies to wooing prospective clients, whilst missing new business opportunities within their existing client contacts. Here are some of the practices firms can adopt to effectively manage, develop and protect their existing key clients. Despite the fact that many seem painfully obvious, many firms fail to follow these most basic of rules.
Identify and segment your key clients
There are clients who are vitally important to our business because of their current fee income, their potential fee-income, their referral or strategic value. These clients warrant a more proactive approach to managing their relationship.
Understand the client
Once you’ve identified your key clients, it is essential that we truly understand them. This doesn’t only relate to their technical requirements. We need to understand their businesses as a whole, the challenges and opportunities they are facing, their market, strategy, their clients and culture – to name but a few.
Key client plans
For each of our key clients, there should be a dedicated client manager and team in place with a developed client plan. These plans should not sit on a shelf and gather dust. They should evolve over time and be updated on a regular basis. The best plans focus on the management of fee-earning work, strengthening the relationship, protecting against competitor threat and maximising the potential of additional opportunities. Key client plans typically contain a small number of quantifiable objectives to be achieved over the next six to twelve months.
Client review meetings
The best meetings do not simply discuss the progress on a piece of work, they should be used for much more, such as: testing what the client likes/dislikes about the way the relationship is managed; identifying opportunities outside the expertise currently provided; and keeping in touch, even when there are no specific work being undertaken.
Nurturing key clients means that they continue to provide us with good work at good rates, they come to us when new opportunities arise and pay their bills willingly. All too often there is a tendency to focus on the pursuit of new clients. Whilst this is important, there are often tremendous opportunities in a QS firm’s existing client base. Good key client management is essential for the future success of any growing firm.
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- Holding onto your Key Client Relationships Published 20th July 2009
- How to reel in the right fee Published 5th November 2008
- What makes the perfect pitch Published 31st May 2008