Relationship Breakthroughs (No. 7): Focus

You have to focus if you want to be more than an arms-length vendor to your clients. This means favoring some clients and prospects over others with more of your time and attention. That may not seem fair, but it’s best for both you and your clients.

A few years ago I was working with a large global bank. Each managing director—each “coverage” banker—had a group of 15-20 client accounts that he or she had to manage. The message from their bosses was clear: If there’s some deal activity in your sector, we want to have a piece of it! Each banker relentless made the rounds of their 20 clients, visiting them on a regular basis to pitch M&A and financing ideas. But much of this contact was superficial. The meetings offered little real value for the clients.

I went out and interviewed a number of the executives at the client organizations, and the message was clear. They told me, unequivocally, “The bankers who get more than their fair share of our business—the ones that are part of our inner circle—are the ones who invest to get to know our business.” Bankers, lawyers, and consultants, they said, all offer fairly similar services. The ones who stick out have taken the time to understand their business and, just as importantly, understand them as people.

In other words, the message I got from this bank’s clients was diametrically opposed to what its executives were telling its relationship bankers.

Which are your 2-3 best clients? Why? Who else has the potential to become a great client? Are you truly focusing on your highest-potential opportunities?

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