- Overview of the client (size, services, organization, etc.)
- What are the client's priorities? What are the projected expenditures?
- What are the client's major challenges? How can we help the client be successful?
2. Assess the Relationship
- What work have we done for the client? How have we performed?
- What is the current state of our relationship with the client?
- Who are the key decision makers? What is our relationship with each?
- What are the critical success factors for each? Do we know?
3. Evaluate our Positioning
- What are our relevant strengths, differentiators, weaknesses, vulnerabilities?
- Who are our primary competitors? What is the current standing of each?
- What is our current positioning relative to our competitors? Where do we need to improve?
- How can we improve performance on our current work with the client?
4. Define our Strategy
- What are our goals in terms of services, projects, revenue, etc.?
- How do we leverage our strengths?
- How do we mitigate our weaknesses and vulnerabilities?
- What is our single best opportunity at this time?
- What are the next best actions we need to take to strengthen our position?
Give top priority to improving service to your key clients. There's a tendency sometimes to take our best clients for granted. We work hard to win new clients and address problems with existing clients. But when things seem to be going well with our top clients, we may not give them the attention they deserve. Don't let your guard down! There's always someone trying to displace you, and they may be providing that next level of service and attention. Never be satisfied with the status quo.
Be sure you're getting regular feedback. Only about one-fourth of A/E firms formally gather feedback from clients. Feedback is the bedrock of great service. You can't be sure you're serving your clients well if you don't ask. Certainly, you want to be certain that your top clients are fully satisfied with your performance and service. For more insight into how to do this, check out this earlier post.
Become a trusted advisor and valued resource. In their book Clients for Life, authors Sheth and Sobel describe the path from "expert for hire" to "steady supplier" to "trusted advisor." Obviously the latter is the more secure position. Many firms serve only as a steady supplier even for their top clients. That leaves them vulnerable to being displaced. Trusted advisors are indispensable. They provide valued insight, not just expertise. They work collaboratively with the client, not just perform tasks. Are you a trusted advisor with your top clients? If not, determine what you need to do to become one.