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Relationship Marketing: Influence Clients by Developing These Three Habits

1st April 2015

Professional Services Marketing Handbook Contributor Susan D'aish Explains How to Stand Out from Your Competitors by Developing Three Habits to Influence and Persuade Your Clients

Professional Services Marketing Handbook (9780749473464)Clients' expectations of their professional services firms have changed. While it used to be enough to provide a high quality professional service at an acceptable price, these days, clients expect a lot more. They expect a business consultant, not just a service provider. They know that if their existing provider falls short of their expectations, there will be a line of competitors clamouring to get through the door to provide them a better service. Woe to the professional services firm that does not fully understand their client's expectations!

When we think of client relationships, many partners, directors and business developers claim to have excellent relationships with multiple clients. This is good news. It's the first step. But it's not enough to know our clients, we need to be able to influence and persuade in order for these relationships to generate meaningful results. We need to really stand out from our competitors who are offering the same service, often at a cheaper price. Our clients need to know us. We need to be the first name they think of when they need the service we are offering.

What are some of the behaviours, the habits we need to develop, in order to influence our clients?

1. Giving – Rule no 1: don't look for a sale. People don't like to be sold to. It's transparent. It suggests you know what your client needs better than they do. I know of no client who would respond well to that rather arrogant assumption. Genuine client focus means looking for ways to help their business. Theirs. Not yours. Forget about what's in it for you and your firm. That will come. A client is likely to remember if you bring them a new opportunity or a new contact for their firm. It may not result in immediate business for you and your firm and that's ok. When professionals make a habit of taking things to their clients, having meaningful dialogue with them about their business needs, these clients will want to give something back. When the opportunity arises for them to use your professional services, they are much more likely to do so because they want to, not because you want them to.

2. Negotiate win-win outcomes. We've all been there. We pitch to a client, they say they love our pitch, they want to use us, but we'll have to come in with a cheaper price. We want the work, the proverbial gun is to our head so we drop our prices to get the work. This runs the risk of disappointing our client at a later date by not being able to give the level of service they expected. If we want a win-win outcome, it is far better to engage with the client at the point they ask us to drop our price. This requires a collaborative discussion around what element of the work we priced for the client would be happy to do without. If our client genuinely wants to use us, this will ensure an open, collaborative working relationship throughout the project, with no nasty surprises when we bill the client. If the client refuses to budge and wants us to simply give the same service at a lower price, they are looking for a commodity. Cheapest wins. Do we want to trade on our cheapness?

3. Consistency. The service our client receives from any member of our firm needs to be consistent in quality, cost, client communication and customer service. This is what is meant by a company brand – a personality, a way of working that it consistent right across the business, like cutting open a stick of rock. Quite a challenge when dealing with a diverse variety of personality types. We need to clearly identify, articulate and embody our brand, our culture, the identity by which we become known for as a business, and not just individually. This highlights the importance of internal relationships and being able to work together as a consistent unit, that is stronger than the sum of individual parts.

This article is an extract from an article which first appeared in the PSMG Magazine.

About the author: Susan D'aish is a chartered marketer and qualified coach with over eighteen years' experience working in professional services. Susan has successfully transformed business cultures around client and account management, resulting in multimillion pound increases in turnover. Susan works as Business Development Director for MacRoberts LLP, a Scottish multi-service law firm, and is a contributor to the Professional Services Marketing Handbook.

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