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 laid out below…
Client Champion: Responsible for leading internal key client team, as well as delivering all client communications, and signing off any bid/proposal responses.
Client Driver: Who sends actions in internal team members after each meeting, and follows up with each team member between meetings to ensure they are delivering on their agreed actions.
Administrator: Records details (minutes if required) of internal meetings. This should not be a BD or marketing person, and the article ‘Do you ask your BD Managers to take minutes?’ explains why.
BD Coach/Advisor: Helps the team define their key client strategy and coaches individuals to have better client conversations.
Marketing Manager/Executive: To develop content and communications for the key client, as well as delivering their digital/social media strategy.
Additionally, each internal key client team should have committed representatives from all relevant internal disciplines/lines of service. They should meet at least every 6 weeks to update one another on the client, and progress the account plan. Lastly, the team should generate actions for all team members at every meeting, ensure these actions are agreed to, and ACTIONED.
2. Understand your key client
Each key client team member should be familiar with all essential client information (e.g., mission statement, annual reports, media statements etc.).
They should each individually gather and share information about the client, from the client, from other team members, and from external sources (e.g., media and social media).
Through the Client Champion, or other team members, they should invite senior people from the client’s organisation to brief the internal key client team. Or they could workshop ideas and opportunities at least once a year, but ideally every six months.
3. Agree your key client strategy
At the outset, the key client team must agree a strategic purpose and overall strategic objective.
They should develop clear and agreed goals for 6, 12, and 24 months time. Action plans should also be developed and agreed in order to achieve these goals.
1, 2, and 3 year financial targets must be developed and agreed for the team and for each participating discipline.
Discuss the individual team member progress, and overall team progress towards 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
Begin by identifying all economic buyers and influencers within the key client.
Then, 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 relationship between the firm and the client, and prevents one person holding the key relationship with the client solely.
On a regular basis, each members needs to update the internal team on progress with contacts and confirm the next actions.
5. Manage your opportunity pipeline
Develop and actively progress all opportunities. Watch this video if you’d like some support constructing your opportunity pipeline.
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 in each and every meeting.
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, and/or transactions for the key client are given top priority, and than an exceptional customer experience is delivered alongside them.
Update the team every month on current work, and inform them of what has been working well – or the nature of any concerns.
Brainstorm with the team on, or update them about any new opportunities arising from current projects.
7. Measure and Review
Seek feedback – ideally through an independent person, or if not independent of your firm, they should be someone who does not do any direct work with your client. Feedback should be collected every quarter from the key people within the client organisation. This could be one key person in the first quarter, and a different individual in the next quarter
Or you could 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).
Most importantly, once you receive this feedback, your key client team will need to agree actions to improve at regular meetings.
Review progress every quarter against the 6, 12, and 24 month goals and financial targets for the client. If required, 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 pays 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.