Today we’re going to tackle building relationships. If you’re immediate thought was, “Ugh! Not that! Who has time for this?” then I’d ask that you to stick with me for a bit longer.

Much has been written about the importance of non-sales professionals becoming more involved with customer relationship development. But is this really necessary? Can’t the sales people and support staff manage customers so subject matter experts can concentrate on their areas of expertise? I hear you! You want to be left alone to do your thing. But is that practical, wise, and profitable?

The truth is: sales and support professionals need you. As a consultant, techie or subject matter expert, you are a specialist in your field and, therefore, have both wide and deep subject area expertise. When you work closely with clients, perhaps even embedded at the client site for extended periods of time, you are uniquely positioned to build loyalty and client satisfaction!

STRONG CLIENT RELATIONS ARE INSTRUMENTAL TO THE SERVICE DELIVERY PROCESS.

Those relationships make it easier to navigate the peaks and valleys of life as a billable professional. In fact, services professionals are a firm’s biggest asset, not only because it is their expertise the clients are buying, but also because they spend the great majority of their time engaged with and interacting with clients. We call this leverage, and it’s hard to beat—especially when the biggest asset of the firm performs beyond just service delivery and becomes “activated” to be more attentive to client needs and/or issues! Whoa! Think of the possibilities!

“That’s great for the firm,” you think, “but what’s in it for me?!” Good question. You will be enhancing the firm’s reputation and very likely bringing in additional work. But you will also be enhancing your reputation as a subject matter expert and team player. The value you will bring to your clients and colleagues will positively impact your career, and the increased capacity to develop and sustain relationships will serve you throughout your entire work life. Once again…think of the possibilities!

SEVERAL TRENDS IN THE SERVICES SECTOR ARE ENCOURAGING A GREATER EMPHASIS ON RELATIONSHIPS.

This means ALL relationships– not only by those who would be considered the primary revenue generators of the firm (partners, directors and dedicated business developers)–but by ALL individuals who touch the client and shape the client experience.

Sadly, the first trend is a lack of loyalty.

It used to be said that doing good work would bring in more work…but this is no longer true. Clients expect great service and they want their providers to bring more to the table, value that moves beyond great service delivery. They expect you to take the time to learn their business. Know their concerns. Listen. Pay attention. Be proactive with ideas. Be thoughtful and engaging. Care! These practices will build trust, make you invaluable, and tip the scales in your favor…in other words…you win more!

The second trend is the ongoing commoditization of the sector.

You know firsthand how difficult it has become to differentiate one professional or one firm from the next, based exclusively on subject matter expertise. The truth is: most firms and billable professionals are pretty good at their craft. Your opportunity to differentiate depends on how strong your client development effort is. Who engages more thoughtfully? Who is well researched, proactive and creative, and who is more conscious of building relationships up and down the organization?

TAKEAWAY

So, as you look to the week ahead, keep pushing! Create a plan. Think about a handful of things you can do to up your game in this area. Then, be in action on your relationship enhancement goals and activities, and reflect on how you can better connect with your clients. Ask yourself if you are really listening, really paying attention, and really being proactive.