Growing Client Relationships

On why consultants should do client planning.

Retaining and delivering more and bigger projects to your existing clients is one of the most effective ways to grow your business. Sounds obvious, but few consultants have a system to make it happen.

From a business development perspective (excluding the delivery of your work), creating long-term client success depends on doing two things well:

  1. Ensuring every client meeting is effective, productive, and positive.
  2. Doing targeted client planning.

The former is a short-term activity, while the latter is a strategic, long-term one. Thinking next week, and thinking next year.

For those of you who have several large or ideal clients you haven't worked with for a while, I want to share a good tool for client planning. But first, the why.

Successfully delivering the first project is a great joy. It's the first step to open and solidify the relationship. But what often happens is that, as you get busy delivering the work, neither you nor your client invest time to think of new ways to create even more value together.

The client gets anchored on what they bought from you in the past, not what they should hire you for in the future. And you tend to assume that the client will call you when you're needed. That's a bad combination.

As Mo Bunnell says:

"Do great work, and the phone will ring" might work sometimes, but it won't grow the relationship as quickly as you'd like.

The reasons are many:

  • You might be working with middle management, while the people you really want to know at your client are the senior directors.
  • They might be hiring you to execute some tasks but not using your services in the best way, leaving money at the table.
  • You might be delivering good results for one business unit, but not in others that could benefit from the same offering.

This is the goal of doing client planning: It helps you map out a long-term plan for a new client the moment you get hired for the first project. For large existing clients, you and your partners should do this once a year.

If you're interested in doing this exercise, feel free to drop me a line. I have a "Client Planning" PDF you can use to map your current state and brainstorm tactics to grow the relationship which I'm happy to share with subscribers for free.

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