Many professional services firms will have key client programmes. For those firms, be they engineering consultancies, architects, or law firms that have large or complex clients that may require a multitude of the firm’s services, it is common sense to have a key client team to service that client.
Yet while this is common sense, many key client programmes don’t actually produce the revenue results that firms are looking for, despite the endless hours spent internally trying to make them successful.
There are usually two key reasons these key client initiatives fail. The first is that the structure and roles and responsibilities of each team member are not clearly defined. The second is that while individual team members’ actions are recorded, people are not held individually accountable and followed up to do their actions before the next meeting.
To help you address these key issues I’ve outlined the 7 steps to follow, in simple bullet points, to help get your key client initiative humming.
The 7 steps for a successful key client programme.
1. Mobilise your internal key client teams
Ideally, resources permitting, each internal key client team should have:
- Clearly defined internal key client team roles which are:
- Client Champion (Key Client Director)
- Responsible for leading the internal key client team
- Responsible for delivery of all communications to client and sign-off of any bid/proposal responses
- Client Driver
- Sends actions to internal team members post meeting
- Follows up with each team member between meetings and ensures they deliver their agreed actions
- Records details of internal meetings (minutes if required)
- This should not be a BD or Marketing person. This article, “Do you ask your BD Managers to take minutes?” explains why this is important.
- BD Coach/advisor
- Help team define key client strategy
- Coaches individuals to have better client conversations
- Marketing Manager/Exec
- Helps with content strategy and communications for the key client
- Digital/Social media strategy development and delivery
- Client Champion (Key Client Director)
- Have committed representatives from all relevant internal disciplines/lines of service
- Meet at least every 6 weeks to update each other on the client and progress the account plan.
- Generate actions for all team members at every meeting that are agreed to AND actioned
2. Understand your key client
Each key client team member should:
- Be familiar with all essential client information (Mission statement, Annual Reports, Media statements etc)
- Each individually gather and share information about the client, from the client, from other team members, and from external sources, e.g. Media, social media
- Through the Client Champion or other team members, invite senior people at the client to brief the internal key client team, or workshop ideas and opportunities at least once a year, ideally once every 6 months
3. Agree your key client strategy
At the outset the Key client team must:
- Agree a strategic purpose and an overall strategic objective
- Develop clear, agreed 6, 12 and 24 month goals
- Develop and agree action plans to achieve these goals
- Develop and agree 1, 2 and 3 year financial targets for the team and for each participating discipline
- Discus the team’s and individual team member’s progress toward these goals at every regular meeting
Note: If you currently do not have the above, I suggest you gather your key client team together and run an internal workshop to get these aspects clear.
4. Develop your relationships with the key client
- Identify all economic buyers and influencers within the key client
- Understand the status of all current relationships those in the team have with the client
- Allocate a pair of internal people to be responsible for each relationship with the client. This creates a stronger firm relationship with the client, and prevents one person holding a key relationship with the client solely.
- Each member needs to update the internal team at regular meetings on progress with contacts and confirm the next actions.
5. Manage your opportunity pipeline
- Develop and actively progress all opportunities
- Identify new ideas to take to the client every meeting
- Ensure that all opportunities, regardless of stage, are recorded.
- Have a proper capture plan in place for opportunities over a team-agreed threshold e.g. Over $500k.
- Have all formal requests for proposal (e.g., EOIs, RFIs, RFPs, Proposals) reviewed and/or signed off by the Client Champion
- Discuss and improve the quality of the pipeline every meeting
Key Note: For points 5 and 6 and to assist the Key Client Driver in recording and disseminating actions, you can download our Key Client Tracker, for free.
6. Deliver Excellence
- Ensure that all projects/matters/transactions for the key client are given top priority, and that an exceptional customer experience is delivered
- Update the team every month on current work, and inform the team of any concern as well as what is working well
- Update/brainstorm with the team on new opportunities arising from current projects
7. Measure and Review
- Ideally through an independent person, or if not independent of your firm, they should not be someone who does any direct work with your client, seek feedback (ideally every quarter) from the key people within the client. This could be one key person in the first quarter, and a different individual in the next quarter
- Consider running regular online surveys with all contacts within the client and record NPS scores (to understand NPS scores and what they mean read this short article)
- Receive this feedback and agree actions to improve at regular meeting
- Review every quarter its progress against its 6,12 and 24 month goals and Financial Targets, and agree actions to remedy any areas of underperformance
That is pretty much it. When you write it down in bullet points the process itself is pretty straightforward. However, like many things in the world of professional services, the key is in the delivery. It really does pay to have firm rules within your key client teams, and these 5 non-negotiables, that my colleague Elizabeth Petersen has explained in greater detail will really help with that.
While the above may look like a lot of time and effort internally, for those key clients which deliver the majority of your firm’s revenue, the risk of not getting these programmes right is very high. That’s why if you follow the 7 steps to get your key client programme firing, you’re bound to be successful.