How to Broaden Your Client Relationships

How do you broaden your client’s perception of your capabilities? This is a complex problem. Clients tend to pigeonhole their providers and put them in little boxes. Often, they are not even familiar with all of what you can offer.

Here are eight things you can do:

  1. First, have broad conversations. Always take the Deep Generalist perspective in your client conversations, tying your particular expertise and solutions to the client’s broader agenda. You limit the conversation—and the client’s perspective on your capabilities—when you talk narrowly about your expertise and methodologies. You broaden the conversation—and ultimately, the relationship—when you are also able to converse about your client’s most important business issues.
  2. Second, if you work with a firm, introduce colleagues who have other areas of expertise. You obviously have to do this in a way that naturally responds to an interest or need the client has, as opposed to simply pushing different services on them.
  3. Third, use other clients to persuade. Introduce your client to another client with whom you already have a broader relationship. If your client hears another executive say that your firm has done great work in a certain area, it is far more persuasive than if you are trying to convince them.
  4. Fourth, show breadth through points of view. Invest, selectively, in building a tailored “Point of View” around other issues of interest to the client, even if they are not directly related to the immediate project. As I pointed out in the lesson on going from project to relationship, every individual engagement has implications for other areas of the organization. Show that you’ve thought these through.
  5. Fifth, offer a “capabilities showcase.” Identify an issue of importance to the client, and develop a ½ day working session between your experts and the client’s own specialists in that area.
  6. Sixth, change horses. Think about replacing some of your team members in order to provide a new set of perspectives to the client from individuals with different backgrounds.
  7. Seventh, seek new buyers. Your existing contact may have an overly fixed view about who you are and what you can do for them. Find new buyers and new areas of the organization to build relationships with.
  8. And finally, number eight, always go back to your client’s priorities. Ask implication questions, get the client to talk about linkages to strategy, and test and re-test for evolving priorities.

Sometimes, you have to be a little bit assertive about educating your client about what you can do for them. Don’t be afraid to sit down with your clients and say something like, “You may not be aware that I also help my clients implement and actually make the changes in the systems and processes needed to drive behavioral change…let me give you an example…” “I haven’t told you about the coaching work I do, but I think that some one-on-one work would really help accelerate this initiative…” and so on.   If you don’t take the lead, no one else will.

What strategies have you used to broaden your clients’ perception of your capabilities and grow your relationships? 

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