Friday, 22 June 2007

Have a few minutes to spare? A Client Focus suggestion...

Have a few minutes to spare?

Call a client. Call one you haven't spoken with for a while.

Say hello, chat, ask them how things are. See if they need anything.

This kind of proactive contact with clients goes a long way towards building up a strong business relationship with them.

Have a little more than a few minutes to spare?

Then it is time for a "Client Focus" session.

We all can get very busy. Even with our PDAs, Outlook, CRM, and more we can let things fall through the cracks.

A Client Focus session is an opportunity to take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes and discover what we have missed or new opportunities with our existing clients.

  1. Let the appropriate people know where you will be and to Do Not Disturb (DND) if at all possible.
  2. A decision must be made by us within to use the following time to focus on client needs.
    • That decision must be a committed one. No distractions!
    • That decision is an internal one and provides the foundation for a successful Client Focus session.
  3. An office or space where the DND time is possible.
  4. Sit down with a pad of paper and a couple of pens or a pencil with plenty of lead.
    • Nothing more annoying than a pen running out of ink during a critical moment.
    • Be comfortable as being relaxed is important.
  5. Relax for a couple of minutes and let the stresses of the day go.
  6. Take a couple of deep breaths to get the blood flowing in the brain and to deepen the relaxation.
  7. On the pad of paper:
    1. Draw one line down the middle of the page.
    2. Write "Client" at the top of the Left Column.
    3. Write "Needs" above the Right Column.
    4. Start listing your clients leaving a large space between each name.
    5. If a particular client need comes up while writing their name down, put it in the Right Column.
    6. Keep writing client names, but as soon as a Need presents itself, write it in the Needs Column beside their name immediately.
    7. Once the client names are filled out, continue thinking about each client's respective infrastructure. More Needs should present themselves.
      • Use different sheets of paper to diagram aspects of the client's infrastructure.
      • Look at the big picture: servers, workstations, switches, software, etc and their purposes.
This method of "stirring" the creative juices so to speak works really well, especially in this digital age.

It gets us to focus specifically on our client's current needs. It provides us with an opportunity to discover things that we may have missed, but also allow client specific ideas that have been sitting at the back of our minds to come forward.

Once one becomes comfortable with this methodology, or some derivative of it, another column can be added for Future Needs or any other aspect of client management.

One factor that is very important for the success of the Client Focus, is knowing our client's environments. That is, having first hand contact with our clients and not being just "someone on the other end of the phone" or e-mail to them.

Whether working remotely or locally, we need to spend time within our client's network infrastructure, but also within our client's business environment.

Clients love it when we ask them questions about what they are doing and how they are trying to do it. They appreciate us taking the time to get to know their given business environment. In most cases, they won't mind spending some time answering questions about their business and the environment they do business in.

In pretty much all cases, a client will be more likely to deal with us as a result of our getting to know their business and its needs first hand over the "other guy". This is especially true when the suggestions we make are based on our actually understanding their business.

We have all probably had the experience of the sales guy saying, "Oh yes Mr. Customer, this product won the Editor's Choice in the Reseller Reviews and it is a perfect fit!" And then turning to us and saying, "Okay guys, make it fit!"

I can hear the Tech department shuddering over that one! ;)

There is no excuse for the lack of knowledge and understanding of a client's infrastructure or the technology needed to make that infrastructure work. None. Period.

In the case of I.T. companies with separate Sales & Tech departments, that means that your Sales people and Tech people are getting together regularly to hash things out right?

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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