Most entrepreneurs are directly involved in nurturing customer relationships. But once the business grows beyond a few key clients you'll need new growth tactics.
We've decided it's time to scale our business. We've proven our approach with a few key corporate clients and investors over the past two years, and we're ready to pursue significant growth. Here's the challenge: Our "secret sauce" to this point involves the two of us wholly managing each client and investor relationship. Between the two of us, in close collaboration, we have managed to cover all the bases and keep clients happy.
But in order to build a lasting business that creates sustainable value, we know we need to build a team that can, individually or collectively, create their own successful customer relationships. We need our team to cover a much larger pool of clients and investors than we could possibly do by ourselves.
So we've set out to codify the things we've done to create a successful customer relationship. We're in the process of conveying these lessons to our client leaders, and we also want to share them with you.
1. We define who our specific client is.
The client is not an organization but an individual, and we "wow" them by making ourselves indispensable. If we need to define more than one individual as a key client decision maker, we do, but we make sure we make ourselves indispensible to each one.
2. We use our client's time wisely by making meetings useful.
To do this, we push the work forward as far as we can, then engage with them when we clearly need their input to push things forward further. This typically occurs when we need information or data, when we need to align with them on our approach and path forward, or when we need to tee up a set of possible decisions for them to pursue.
3. We fully own a result rather than a project or set of tasks.
Results are what matters; tasks can be discarded if they don't drive the result. Since we focus on results, we end up building alignment and buy-in every step of the way so that the client feels complete ownership over the result.
4. We build relationships with clients outside the scope of the project or investment.
Part of that is understanding an individual's personal goals. This is important context and helps us to identify opportunities to partner more deeply with this individual.
5. We always communicate a story about how we should maximize the value of the business.
So many organizations get caught up in what they've been asked to do, rather than how the client can profitably build their business, or otherwise achieve their goals. We keep our focus on this, which links us to our clients' results.
So far, we've been able to guide our senior leaders to instill these principles into their daily client management activities. Hopefully we'll be able to use these steps to scale the business into something that is sustainable beyond the two founders.
What tools have you used to ensure successful client relationships throughout your organization? Share your experiences with us at email@example.com.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark