By Terry Corbell
The Biz Coach
60 Ground Rules for Effective Client Service
My article entitled, “Five Tips to Generate Short-term, Long-term Sales,” generated this response from a reader:
Q: “Terry, that is a great right-to-the-point article that emphasizes the weekly/daily/hourly consistent effort that is required to generate the sales. I am doing well but want to do even better. A whole collection of great points, time allocation, organization, just a lot of useful info.
“I noticed in the article “60 ground rules for client service.” Can you send me those? I want to serve my customers/clients better. Thanks!”
A: The ground rules have been effective for me as a business-performance consultant in marketing, human resources and special projects. They have been a catalyst allowing me to profit from long-term client relationships.
They’re an adaptation of those I received from Cork Platts, a retired iconic marketing genius in Los Angeles, when I launched my firm in 1992. Cork has launched many successful enterprises. He has been successful in helping his clients generate profits, and he is well-respected by his associates. He is also the founder of Consultants West, www.consultantswest.com, a group of esteemed consultants mostly based in Los Angeles. I’m proud to be a member.
With thanks to Cork, here are the ground rules:
- Always lead the client; preferably with questions. Be assertive without being aggressive.
- Always use a status report, or at least an agenda. Always have a current report in effect. Always mail the status report in advance.
- Always have a deadline/schedule for every action. Always have a person responsible for the next step.
- Always deal with the President or CEO. Always deal with others only when you represent the CEO’s authority. Do not let others carry your plans to someone else for approval.
- Always keep the discussion on target with questions. Avoid letting the discussion waver off the target.
- As a consultant, you are the catalyst for ideas…always try to make it the client’s plan or idea, not yours.
- Never offer any excuse. Never be defensive or try to justify your actions. If you do make a mistake be the first to admit. Flaunt it.
- Always try to listen 90% of the time and talk 10%.
- Always find an honest compliment for the client personally, for the company and employees.
- Always rehearse each meeting before you conduct it, preferably the day before.
- Always avoid last-minute deadlines. Do not allow yourself to work against deadlines, which are huge time wasters.
- Always do it now. Do not procrastinate. It takes less time to do it now.
- Always keep the client fully informed. Never let the client worry about whether the job is getting done.
- Always find some way to let your client know discreetly you need your “strokes” too. Be sure you get them.
- Always present our invoices personally. Look the client in the eye when you do. You’ll get your report card on the spot.
- Always go for the sales jugular vein. Avoid eyewash, jargon, whitewash, or boilerplate. Sales are all that really count.
- Always make your client meetings brief and businesslike. It is not a social hour. Make the client feel the time spent with you is the most profitable time possible.
- Always buy half the lunches. Make lunches working occasions. An occasional social lunch is fine, but haul out the agenda at the table. Don’t finish the meeting back at the office.
- Attack problems immediately; never avoid them. They never go away unanswered. They will always come back and be many times worse.
- Always handle correspondence, e-mails, and phone calls the day you receive them. If it’s a big job, block out future time to get it done. Put it on the calendar.
- Always carry a daily calendar and always post your work and appointments on it.
- Always remember your time is worth at least $200 an hour. Treat it carefully. Soon everyone else will put the same value on it.
- Always make arrangements to have permission to enter the client’s offices un-announced and to use any (or special) desk and telephone that aren’t in use.
- Always plan to be in the client’s office at least three times weekly. Contact by phone should be almost daily.
- Always have an in-box or in-file at the client’s office and always go to it first when you enter the office.
- Always remain standing in the client’s office if you are there without an appointment. Avoid taking more than 60 seconds in such a meeting unless the client obviously wishes you to stay longer.
- Always get a secretary or someone to do the job for you if it is something they have proven they have the skills to do it and we can afford it.
- Always avoid running errands, making deliveries, etc., but never be too important to do it yourself when it is logical and more efficient.
- Always make your own telephone calls, photo copies, and coffee, etc. (except during a client meeting). Don’t play God in your office or anyone else’s.
- Always try to set your meetings well in advance; 3-10 days, if possible. Never schedule a meeting with a prospective client less than 3 days in advance, so that the person values your time. On out-of-town client meetings, schedule your meetings so that you make at least 2 client contacts on every trip, 4-5 contacts per trip are best.
- Always do the distasteful jobs first whenever practical. Then do the fun stuff.
- Always bunch your work for the secretary. Avoid interrupting her. Let her work.
- Make sure you’re copied on everything. Keep the lines of communication open.
- Make sure complaints or problems are always carried to you. Get them out in full view. Never let them fester.
- Always look for opportunities for our clients. Offer to do them…carry the ball. But, do not get stuck with a job that isn’t really important to the bottom line.
- Always strive to add at least four times the cost of services to the client’s bottom line. For example: a $2,000 monthly fee should equal at least $100,000 annual profit to the client.
- Always try to get the client company to do jobs that should be done logically by them. Do not let them treat us as a source for other services or a substitute employee.
- Always avoid “war stories” or telling your own experiences just to enhance your image or just to bolster your self confidence.
- Always say you don’t know the answer when you don’t. Promise an answer at a later time…make sure you follow through.
- Always admit you don’t have the relevant experience when you don’t. Ask (your name) how to handle it.
- Always remember the client is expert in his or her products or services. You are the expert to show the client how to sell it profitably.
- Always be sure budgets and estimates are approved or at least discussed up front. Never let a client be surprised by you or a supplier.
- Always take criticism without being defensive; listen closely; you don’t have to agree. Acknowledge the person’s comments; listen and take notes.
- Always thank the client after every meeting. Every written communication – letter, fax, or e-mail – should also express an attitude of gratitude (i.e. “Thank you.” Or, occasionally: “Thank you for the opportunity to be of service.”)
- Always compliment and encourage the client’s associates and suppliers…give them recognition they deserve. Be sure the client gives them recognition, too.
- Always compliment employees, too. If you do not have anything good to say to the boss about an employee, don’t say anything. Never get involved with client politics except when you’re absolutely certain it will build the organization…even then, avoid it if at all possible. (The obvious exception is when we’re conducting human resources training.)
- Always be in constant communication with the client. Make phone calls only when necessary but do send materials, newspaper clippings, etc. Demonstrate your interest in him or her.
- Always review the objectives with the client. Start any meeting with a quick review of current objectives and strategy as well as the objectives of the meeting.
- Always encourage “blue sky” sessions with the client and his staff. But identify them as such well in advance and mentally prepare for them. Conduct such sessions without interruption. Do not let them drag out.
- Always try to be positive. Try to make marketing and managing a business fun. It is, you know.
- Always be in control. Be in control of your meetings, your client, time, and yourself. The client subconsciously expects this – and when the client takes control, you lose it.
- Always be a consultant. Do not act as an employee. But do advise the client how to get work done with the very best use of his or her investment.
- Always try to source sales. Try to find out what client dollar time investment produces the most profit.
- Always be disciplined and concentrate on the objectives. Go for the jugular. The client will often want to go for the capillaries. Turn the client around.
- Always make sure the entire organization knows these goals.
- Always stay on top of these details. Any job should be finished, killed or deliberately put “on hold.” Work or jobs should never be put in limbo.
- Always adhere to the company dress code: Dark business suits (preferably white shirts unless we’re going to appear on television, which means blue shirts). We don’t observe casual Fridays but casual dress is obviously fine for golf or weekends.
- Always maintain composure. It is never okay to get angry. By getting angry, you would be giving away your valuable personal power, which inhibits productivity.
- Always practice the art of making suggestions to clients, such as: “You might wish to consider…”
- Formality works to help you stand out. For the first five meetings, address the client or prospect formally – Mr. or Ms. – or until told to address the person by first name. Periodically, address the client formally in a light-hearted manner (to remind the client how much you respect him or her).
From the Coach’s Corner, here’s another money-making tip from the esteemed Cork Platts: Look for ways to develop multiple revenue sources. Such an approach will help you to have fun and enjoy success on your proverbial, business roller-coaster ride.
Additional reading for consultants:
- Frustrated in Looking for Clients or Job? Soften Your Approach
- Consultants / Service Firms: Why Hourly Billing Isn’t Best
- Consultants – Strategies to Build Trust with Clients
“Well done is better than well said.”
Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.