Despite most agency account manager job descriptions including lines such as “must be able to develop client business” or “you will be required to develop the account” rarely does anyone define what this means.
So what does it mean?
Developing existing business basically means increasing the number of projects an existing client gives you or increasing the amount of times a client uses the agency’s services.
There are many reasons why it’s favourable to focus on the agency’s existing business rather than seeking new business; the cost of selling to existing clients is lower, the cost of selling to new clients is often extortionately higher, long term clients buy more services from you and existing clients tend to recommend you more.
So how do you even begin to work out how you develop business?
You can start by understanding 5 key principles of client development:
1. Help the client solve their problems
Always focus your conversations with the client on finding out what their problems and challenges are. Too often agencies talk too much about themselves, their services, their achievements but don’t listen enough to their client’s issues. Great client development is about your ability to solve problems.
Action tip: Write down and memorise some insightful questions to ask your client about their business, about the company culture, about what they are struggling with e.g. start with ‘how’s business?’, ‘how are sales?’, ‘how are you doing on targets?’ ‘how is success measured?, ‘when is your performance review?’ etc.
2. Clients want you to walk in their shoes
Clients want you to empathise with their position. If they are an owner of the business, the buck stops with them and they are under lots of financial pressure to succeed. If they are employed they may be trying to impress their boss or colleagues. Think about who your client is, what their motivations are, what they want to achieve and how you can make sure you understand their world, their own personal challenges and drivers.
Action tip: Find out about their industry, their company, their competition. Always stay up to date and informed by reviewing the industry press.
3. It’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for them
However much you talk about your own skills, achievements and popularity what it boils down to is that the client wants you to do a great job for them. So while it’s appropriate to provide some social proof through other client testimonials, give the client some examples of your work and an overview of your offering, keep it short. The sooner you focus your energies on the client, the quicker you’ll solve their problem.
Action tip: Re-look at your agency capabilities presentation and for each slide ask yourself ‘So what?’, ‘what point am I making?’, ‘what does this point mean for my client?’. If it’s irrelevant take it out!
4. Agree goals. What does success look like?
You will never know if your client is satisfied with your work unless you agree some goals beforehand and plan how you’ll measure them.
Action tip: Take the time to ask your client (or suggest) what goals you are aiming for, by when and how you’ll measure success. Always build in regular catch ups that are outside of your normal project work time to ask your client for feedback on how they think you are doing.
5. Be pro-active not reactive
One of the client’s top complaints is their agency isn’t pro-active. “They never give me anything I haven’t asked for” is quite a common thing to hear when reviewing client feedback.
Action tip: Put aside some time to think about how you could bring new ideas, thoughts and suggestions to help your client with their role or business. They don’t have to cost much but it’ll show your client you are thinking about their business e.g. new software tools you’ve used and recommend to others, articles you’ve read that you thought they may find useful etc.
What other client development principles do you think are key?