At the heart of stewardship is doing what’s in your client’s best interest. For this reason, sales provides governance for their clients. Governance can include putting processes and resources in place to ensure mutual success even after the departure of key contacts from either organization. Governance can include ensuring there’s alignment of vision at the leadership level in your organization and the client’s. Governance can include holding your organization accountable to your client — this is the heart of this brief article. As often is the case when doing the right thing, the rewards are tremendous, a point we’ll address here as well.
Let’s start with what are for some, difficult questions. How good of a job is your organization doing for your client?
Is your positive answer based on sales meeting talk about how -poorly your competitors are doing?
Is your positive answer based on what your engineering team is telling you about the superiority of your firm’s design?
Is your positive answer based on anecdotal survey responses or client testimonials?
Is your positive answer based on a few friends or clients telling you how great your company is in serving them?
Is your positive answer based on the fact that your company is the largest in its space, so therefore it must be the best?
Is your positive answer because your firm’s technology is at the bleeding edge, leaving all others behind?
Is your positive answer based on having the best engineers, lawyers, designers, stylists, etc.?
Is your positive answer based on your firm’s high closing rate?
None of these are acceptable determiners of how good a job your firm is doing for your client. For three reasons:
It’s not based on what your client has told you is crucial, which by the way, needs to be measurable.
It is personal and emotional.
Let’s turn this around. What do YOU want to use as validation of your firm’s performance for meeting or exceeding your clients’ expectations? Before you answer this question, consider what you want the answer to provide. We offer grist for your thought:
What if the you could provide information that was repeatable and measurable, derived directly from the stated deliverables of your client contracts?
What if you could minimize the emotion of decision-making right after your firm had a failure in the customer’s eye? This happens to the very best. Every firm, at one time or another, has a setback with their client due to poor performance whether it be actual or perceived due to poor communication. This is the worst time for them to be making a decision about the next contract, agreed?
What if you could eliminate, or at least greatly minimize, the risk of losing your in-house champion?
What if you could lay your hands on empirical data, formulated with the client’s help, which proves you’re the best vendor in their space, not only enabling you to pursue more business with greater depth and breadth in the account, but also not having to give up margin to get it?
What if you could have a “poison pill” that all but ensured something like cronyism would not cause you to lose the renewal of the deal upon contract expiration?
What if your client readily agreed to discuss long-term strategy vs. getting hung up on short-term operational issues and tactical proposals?
What if you could ensure more consistent access to your client’s leadership?
All of these are made possible by virtue of your firm providing objective, data-driven reporting of results to your client. Having mutually agreed prior to service initiation, what’s to be measured will reflect excellent service. In Paradigm Consulting’s view, sales owns delivery of this to the client, albeit with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) from your team aiding in delivery as appropriate. Sales owns the initial determination of what this data looks like, envisioned before the contract is created, with success criteria negotiated by sales with internal department heads and the client. Sales leads the task in between these milestone events, albeit with heavy reliance on key internal resources in relevant departments, such as operations, customer service, etc.
What happens if the performance data falls short? Hopefully, this will not come as a surprise to the account manager who keeps a pulse on such things throughout the year and champions the client’s priorities with his management well before the situation becomes critical. Similarly, the account manager is in dialogue with the client at the same time, measuring their response to various means of the vendor’s approach to address, etc. This enables sales to come into the meeting with proactive plans already somewhat vetted, thereby avoiding costly surprises and allowing the meeting to stay on a productive track. Ironically, it is often during these most challenging times that the client gains the most respect for the vendor, as it gives them a chance to show their true colors on behalf of the client. Regardless of the challenges, be ready to address the balance of the meeting which should include a section dedicated to looking ahead and strategic planning which will likely be building the sales funnel at the same time.
The Stewardship Meeting
We suggest this data be part of a larger meeting, held on a recurring basis, at least annually. The meeting would ideally include six people or six “hats:” three from each organization, each representing a different function or business unit of their respective firm, and at least one member of leadership from each firm. There is a discipline in a well-framed and well-run stewardship meeting, outside the scope of this brief article, but the key to this meeting is the solid performance data.
Contact Paradigm Consulting to help you form governance for ensuring mutual success thru alignment of vision at the leadership level in your organization and the client’s, as well as holding your organization accountable to your client.