Times are changing. No longer is it enough for business support professionals to have a purely transactional relationship with their clients. They must be more proactive.
The focus has shifted to a more 'value added' approach around supporting business growth, not just dealing with various elements in an isolated vacuum.
The reality is that those business coaching, consulting, accounting and advisory businesses that embrace this and evolve for this new paradigm will THRIVE and those that don’t will wither. It might sound harsh but it's true.
KEY SHIFT PRINCIPLE 1: From being reactive to being more proactive
Being reactive means:
1. Waiting for clients to come to you – being passive.
2. Only dealing with issues when they become a problem.
3. Always reacting to a situation, not leading it.
4. Blaming others and shirking responsibility – "It’s their fault, not mine".
5. Having an excuse for everything and often responding, when asked a question, by starting with the words "The problem is …" – too focussed on the problem, not the solution.
Being proactive means:
1. Anticipating the needs of your clients by taking an active, not passive, interest in their business growth.
2. Regularly and consistently contacting your clients, at least once every three months, so you can keep your finger on the pulse of the issues they are facing.
3. Actively being the extended eyes and ears of your clients, looking out for potential opportunities and threats.
4. Always looking for ways to 'add more value'.
5. Becoming an advocate for your client.
Clients will see you more as a trusted adviser and not just a service provider, which means you will likely become their first point of call for any big decisions.
KEY SHIFT PRINCIPLE 2: From transactional focus to being more commercially focused
Being transactional focused means:
1. Being more concerned with ensuring that boxes are ticked rather than with what it actually means for the client.
2. Being more worried about ensuring your 'back' is covered.
3. Being too overly risk focussed, often to the detriment of what’s in the best interest of the client.
4. Seeing a client mainly as a number in your portfolio.
5. Often having tunnel vision and being single minded.
Being more commercially focused means:
1. Embracing technology at every turn to do things better and more efficiently.
2. Introducing clients to each other where a potential collaboration or mutually beneficial partnership could result between them.
3. Understanding and embracing the ethos that 'together we are stronger'.
4. Embracing 'value-based' pricing and avoiding competing on price for the services offered.
5. Understanding the profitability or not of each of their clients and feeling comfortable 'firing' the more problematic or less profitable ones. Having an awareness of client lifetime value.
Clients will be clear on the 'value' that you add to their business, so decisions around how you engage are likely to be taken on more than just price alone, which ultimately will mean more profitable clients for your business.
KEY SHIFT PRINCIPLE 3: From being inflexible to more flexible
Being inflexible means:
1. Being a stickler for the rules.
2. Not thinking 'outside of the box' when proposing solutions.
3. Having a prescribed set of services with no flexibility.
4. Being very rigid about the way the work is done.
5. Not understanding or having empathy for any issues a client may be facing.
Being more flexible means:
1. Offering clients a menu of choice.
2. Enabling clients to scale up or scale down the support they get depending on the stage of their business.
3. Having a higher percentage of 'client growth' focussed support services than compliance type services.
4. Evolving and adapting to the changing needs of the marketplace.
5. Constantly looking for ways to 'add more value' for clients.
Clients will know that you are best placed to support the changing needs of their business, which enables you to increase your fees generated from them as their business grows.
They shouldn’t need to look elsewhere, so client loyalty will likely be much stronger because of this.
KEY SHIFT PRINCIPLE 4: From an employee mentality to a business owner mentality
Having an employee mentality means:
1. Working strictly from 9 to 5.
2. Not having empathy or understanding the way a business owner thinks.
3. Having team members who have no idea of what it’s like to run a business.
4. Doing only what’s needed on a job and clocking off at the end of the day.
5. Not necessarily understanding the bigger picture.
Having a business owner mentality means:
1. Constantly looking at things from the clients’ perspective.
2. Having empathy, and knowing that it is not an easy journey as a business owner.
3. Ensuring that the team is educated around what it’s like to run a business, as most of them will likely have never run a business before.
4. Ensuring that any team incentives are aligned to the success of both your business and that of your clients in a balanced way.
5. Being innovative across all areas of the business.
Clients will have more confidence that you are looking at things from their perspective. This improves their confidence and trust that your advice is relevant, practical and based on the real world.
KEY SHIFT PRINCIPLE 5: From being introverted to being more dynamic
Being introverted means:
1. Being shy and quiet.
2. Being afraid to voice an opinion for fear of being judged.
3. Commonly being uncomfortable as the focus of attention.
4. Fitting the stereotypical mould.
5. Being scared to rock the boat in case the client gets upset. Not saying what needs to be said.
Being more dynamic means:
1. Having confidence in the value offered clients.
2. Being very personable, friendly and approachable.
3. Always having the best interests of clients at the heart of whatever advice is given. Not being afraid to say what’s needed to be said.
4. Fostering the spirit of openness and collaboration – we are in it together.
5. Smashing any stereotypical moulds that may exist.
Clients will know they can come to you with anything and won’t be judged. This means you can help shape solutions for them that also have the potential to benefit your bottom line in a positive way, provided it is in the best interests of the client of course!
Source: Kelly Clifford - Profitable Professional