Developing a Client Strategy (Capability #1)

The success of an effective client management function hinges on well-articulated goals the firm is trying to achieve. The clearer they are, the easier it will be for the entire team to buy into them and to stay focused as the program evolves. The goals also have to be realistic given the resources and skill-sets available. It’s tempting to develop grand notions of outsized success, like in the film ‘300’ where 300 Spartans defeated a massive Persian army, but keep in mind that your staff probably was not trained from birth for the single-minded purpose of defeating an enemy. Salespeople especially have to be fully bought in since they will be the ones who will execute the strategy, manage the client relationships, and collect and share information, which are all central to success.

Goals and StrategiesMany managers express concern that if they do not articulate a broad enough scope, they will leave opportunity on the table, but we advise them that creating smaller, achievable targets can actually create more successes over time and prove a faster route to broader goals.[more…]
Once the goals are in place, then managers need to develop a series of strategies and then action plans to achieve their goals. This is admittedly the most confusing step in the whole process as many managers fall into a pattern of endless debates about the difference between a goal, a strategy and an action plan. For clarity, we define ‘goals’ as those that have at their core some external impact you are looking to influence that will elevate your position, e.g., “Increase client revenue by 10%” or “Increase client satisfaction based on xyz survey”.

‘Strategies’ target internal functions and effort that you intend to transform in order to achieve your goals, e.g., “Increase cross-selling in sales team” or “Allocate resources to higher opportunity accounts”. Defining a strategy is largely driven by a firm’s existing and potential future resources. Managers have to look at their capabilities with a critical eye and ask if they are right to compete and make meaningful headway. If they are not, they should have enough capital to upgrade their platform to match their defined opportunity.

‘Action plans’ sit one level below strategies and have the purpose of identifying the work and linkages that need to happen, and assign accountability to that work.

Many managers make the wrong assumption that assignment of tasks falling out of action plans are foregone conclusions given people’s current job descriptions. This is a dangerous assumption especially with brand new initiatives. Creating a list of top new target accounts, for example, could fall under the head of sales because he knows the market, or it could fall to the head of client management because she has all the opportunity metrics. It’s important to be explicit of ownership of all tasks.

It is also critical to perform strategy checks against goals and strategies to evaluate whether they are still achievable, and in some cases still relevant. Both external and internal factors can shift enough to warrant a revisit of the original plans.

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