It is easy to assume that everything is going swimmingly with a client. You are delivering what you promised. The client is paying your bills. You are talking to the client most days, surely an account review is just a waste of time?
Actually, the more regularly you work with a client on a day-to-day basis, the greater the need to have formal account review sessions. It’s like having a ‘time out’ and gives both parties the opportunity to comment on how things are going, what has gone really well, and any issues that need addressing. Being able to resolve problems and taking proactive action to ensure problems do not arise will really help when seeking to sell more products and services.
A client is unlikely to award large contracts to a supplier that does not perform well with smaller contracts. Often a client will award a small contract to a new supplier to see how they perform. If all goes well then you will open the door to increased possibilities. Perform badly they will see you as a risk and will be unlikely to consider you for bigger projects.
The review sessions are a also a great opportunity to discover from the client their future plans and also ask for referrals. It is important, however, to approach these meetings in a soft selling way. If sales opportunities come up then seek a separate meeting to talk it through unless they specifically want to talk it through there and then. If the client feels that you are just using the meetings to sell to them then they are unlikely to make time unless things are going badly!
How do you broach the subject of having such a session? If you are working regularly on a support or retainer than make sure you build formal review sessions into the contract. If you are working on specific one-off projects then build in a review session at the end of the project. If you are doing lots of different projects with a client then seek a higher level review in addition to project related reviews.
There may be cases where formal account reviews are not possible or appropriate. It is still worth organising informal reviews. Meet for a coffee or for lunch. You might call it a ‘catch up’ or just say you are in the area and you are interested in finding out how things are progressing.
There is no doubt that account review sessions take time. In my experience it is worth investing the time, especially where there is great potential for growth. It’s also important with valuable accounts that might not have significant growth potential but you want to ensure they remain loyal. It’s sales effectiveness Vs sales efficiency.
Is it better to spend all your time chasing new clients and all the competition that goes with it? or is it more effective to invest time developing trusted relationships with existing clients and win projects with much reduced competition?