Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Two Most Damaging Words at a Professional Services Firm

Let's rip the bandaid right off...

The two most damaging words for a professional services firm are:
"My client."
I've actually heard an engagement lead chastise another senior firm member for talking to 'his' client at a social event. The other person was not talking about business, she was just making polite conversation. Even had she been talking business, the lead was hurting his firm and the client by creating this wall.

Why do engagement leads want to discourage access to their clients?
This is their "book of business" (three words that are also harmful to a professional services firm) and they are worried that the other people will, somehow, damage the relationship and, ultimately, the client will leave.

There is no fear the other person will steal the client, since most firms have this part of the compensation well structured.

Playing the odds game, they fear scorched earth, which is very unlikely, and yet do not appreciate the value of having a deeper relationship that leads to more value for both sides and, likely, more sales and referrals. Crazy!

Why should the engagement lead encourage access to their clients?
The value your firm provides to clients includes creating relationships and bringing ideas beyond what the engagement lead brings to the table. Also (see above) these discussions can lead to uncovering new requirements at the client's company ... and hence more business. Call it 'greater wallet share', since the company is likely currently using other firms, possibly competitors, to service these needs.

Why should firms encourage (read: structure and compel) this access?
One word: depth. If the engagement partner gets hit by a bus, wins the lottery or is recruited by a competitive firm you have another point of contact. Also, the other person (or people, since I suggest at least three connections) will be able to see loyalty issues that a single person might miss or, let's be blunt, not bring to the firm leaders' attentions.

Two words: more business. See above.

In short:
If you hear "my client" come from an engagement lead or salesperson (for those of you at a product company), this should be a signpost that the client is being underserved and is less likely to be loyal. Meet with the engagement lead to add more service depth (I recommend creating a 3x3x3* map) at that organization.

Greater client satisfaction and increased revenue will follow.

*More on the 3x3x3 model at a later date.

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