Posts Tagged ‘capabilities’

Service Tracking (Capability #2)

Once a client strategy has been designed and kicked off, the real work of implementation begins. Relationship managers, salespeople, and all other client facing professionals now have to engage clients with a new purpose. But how do managers know whether the team is executing based on the new plan and gauge whether the new program is having a meaningful impact on clients? The Client Management function should be able to track and monitor service activity. In many ways this is perceived as a painful thing to do, with many client professionals feeling as if there is additional scrutiny on their work with “big brother” makings. Many managers also feel that instituting policies and technologies aimed at monitoring their staff’s work will alienate them from their team and create a breach of trust.

FeebackThe key to success of the strategy is for Client Management to frame service tracking as a productivity tool that will help client-facing teams use information to enhance their interactions with clients.[more…] There is a huge distinction between systems that capture client interactions for the purpose of management oversight and systems that capture data which then feeds insights back to salespeople to make their jobs easier and more productive. I would argue that without a feed-back flow of information, salespeople will completely distrust the system and find ways to game it, or be completely resistant to adoption. The most talented individuals with the best client relationships will probably be the first to push back because they know they have leverage over the organization.

Activities that should be tracked include phone calls, meetings, and emails. Important documents, like contracts and pricing sheets, should also be stored in the same location as other client data so that client-facing individuals have a single repository of critical client information (to the degree that’s sensible and minimizes risks of information leakage from the company, of course). Any notes or client color should also be documented and logged into the system. Call reports should be required to be written and logged following any important client meetings or calls. There is always a lot of resistance to institutionalizing this, but what we have found is a lot of this is already being done, mostly through emails, but these are not being captured in a system that allows for information tracking and sharing.

What’s incredible to see is that once the ball gets rolling and salespeople start using the information collected, productivity shoots up and everyone becomes dependent on the data. Managers will benefit from this virtuous pattern by having robust client service tracking that, when reviewed in aggregate on a periodic basis, brings the client strategy to life.

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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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Four Capabilities for an Effective Client Management Strategy

A successful client management program helps an organization better understand its clients and more effectively service them. Establishing a solid client management discipline entails a multi-year effort of focused leadership, rigorous project management, and well-designed technology. Several key roles and departments need to be involved and they all need to be extremely well connected in order to realize the promise of this process. 

The four key capabilities are a well-articulated and broadly accepted client strategy, diligent service tracking, accurate and timely financial metrics, and robust sales systems.

Capabilities - Client Mgmt

Most if not all sales managers would state that their organizations have all of those capabilities functioning within their organization, but having these functions in place doesn’t necessarily lead to a strong client management practice. We’ve found that the most successful firms have all these areas very well integrated, with all of them functioning toward one clear goal. Whoever leads this initiative has to have a handle on all these areas, if not some level of control across them.

In most instances the head of sales is the person responsible for leading the client management effort, but I’ve seen situations where a senior strategy manager or the head of client management is the main driver and executor of this process. It often depends on how broad-based the strategy is and where the organization thinks its areas of development should be focused.

In my next post, I’ll discuss elements needed to establish a well-articulated client strategy that has broad buy-in and clear expected outcomes.


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