The Care and Feeding of Strategic Clients
Strategic clients require more from you than other clients. All clients are important, but your strategic clients have a different set of needs. They need you to be more engaged, and they need you to deliver greater outcomes than you would for a client that doesn’t have their same needs.
Your strategic clients require more communication. Because your relationship is deeper, they need to you to be aware of what they’re doing, and they need to know what you are doing. This isn’t just a good idea, it’s critical.
You have to communicate with your strategic clients so that you understand their strategy. This is high level communication that ensures that you know where they are going, and that you are aligning the right resources to do your part. You also have to communicate much more frequently at a more tactical level, to make sure what is being delivered is working.
Caring requires constant communication.
You simply cannot retain a strategic client without being able to execute effectively. If they are strategic, they rely on what you sell to a great enough extent that you cannot fail them. The fastest way to lose a strategic account is to fail to execute.
This is about outcomes. You are accountable for the outcomes you sell. The care and feeding of your strategic clients requires that you execute continuously. It’s not that you can’t have problems. It’s not that things can’t go wrong, or that you can’t hit a rough patch. You strategic clients have those same problems. It’s your ability to smooth out those rough spots and execute that allows you retain their business.
Improved Performance, Yours and Theirs
Over time, you have to help your strategic clients get better. Over that same period of time, you also have to get better.
What you do has to help your strategic client get better at producing the results they need. You need to help them improve what they are doing. You will notice things as you execute, and those things will allow you to help them make changes, changes that improve their performance.
You have to get better too. As you work together, you have to get better at delivering the outcomes you produce. As my friend, David Allen says, “The better you get, the better you better get.” It’s not enough to rest on your laurels. Or to believe your contract secures your relationship.
New Value, New Outcomes
But wait. There’s more.
The value that you created when you helped your strategic client understand their world and that led them to choose you is just the beginning. The value that you created as you executed is what allowed you to build the relationship. This is necessary, but not sufficient.
From quarter to quarter and year to year, you have to create new value. You have to generate new ideas and new initiatives that take things up another level, that generate new outcomes. Some of these ideas and initiatives will be small, and some will be transformative. Sometimes the small ideas are what allow you to see the greater ideas. They are all important.
The care and feeding of your strategic clients has always been about creating value.