Lately, we’ve been running a series of free 30-minute webinars to help attendees grow the equity value in their consultancy firms and prepare for a sale of their business. Attendees at each webinar submit questions, and we’re going to be sharing and answering these questions in a series of blog posts. This week we’re looking at the questions asked during the webinar on what you need to know to nurture your clients in order to grow mutually beneficial long-term relationships.
- How do you build long-lasting client relationships with a small team?
Every company starts with a small team. Which is why, as a business owner, it is very important that you remain disciplined about where you invest your time. Business owners cannot afford to spend all their time delivering services, but should focus some of their efforts on managing client relationships. Otherwise, the organization will never grow.
A good tip is to book time in your diary to speak with your client sponsor and other important stakeholders once a week. To make these meetings worthwhile, update them on project progress and give them insight into some of the wider hot topics impacting their sector. You could also invite the important stakeholders to your project review meetings once a month so that they can see first-hand the benefit you are delivering. At this point, do not hesitate to ask your clients for referrals.
Click here to find out if your client relationships are building or stunting your firm’s growth.
- When should we invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) system?
Because a CRM system is an automation tool, it is important that the underlying process of data capture is sufficient to keep the CRM data up-to-date and relevant. Similarly, if the CRM system offers more functionality than you need, the whole application can become too cumbersome to manage.
For smaller consultancies, it is perfectly acceptable to manage your client data on spreadsheets. But as the organization grows, a simple spreadsheet will no longer be able to cope with the growing number of clients, client relationships, business offerings and activities.
It would be unusual for a business with yearly revenue of more than $3 million to manage without a CRM system. Given that the service and software is available by seat, it can be very affordable.
- How do you manage relationships with your clients that only need your services every three years or so?
It is common for a consultancy, such a strategy house, to work with a client intensively for a number of months and then move on. However, three years is a long time not to keep in touch with a client or sponsor. Things in organizations can change very quickly, and it is important that you find a way to keep going back, so they keep your organization front of mind.
At the simplest level, you should schedule a time to speak with your sponsor every few months or so; again, go back and share your thoughts on hot topics in the market.
You might want to consider setting up a networking organization or community of clients. This will give you a reason to keep in touch with them and other important stakeholders in the sector you operate in.
- Would you ever really decide to walk away from a client?
It can be painful walking away from a client. However, if a client is too expensive to service, because of geographic barriers for instance, it may well improve your consultancy’s profits by choosing to no longer work with them. Another reason for exiting an opportunity is if a client’s sector is not core to your business offering or if there isn’t any real potential for business growth.
The best way to run a consultancy is where demand for your services is slightly higher than your actual capacity. If you are in that situation, it is easier to walk away from clients that are not beneficial in the long run.
Finally, as with all of our webinars in this series, our key takeout is presented in our Start, Stop and Continue strategies. To immediately improve client relationships:
Start: Classify your accounts and appoint managers for the key ones
Stop: Stop spending all your time in the key accounts on delivery only: make time for account management. Stop spending any senior management time on the exit accounts
Continue: Updating your sales pipeline with forecasts from your client accounts
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