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Agency Leadership

4 steps to growing existing business for Client Service Directors

By January 28, 2014 No Comments

Account management skills
So you’ve reached the most senior position of your agency’s account management team and are now faced with the daunting task of having to grow your existing accounts.

Where do you start?

Do you have a strategy?

Do you have time? Or are you too busy ‘doing the doing’?

A Client Service Director’s (CSD) role can vary from agency to agency but their time is often split between the following two areas:

1. Internally focussed activity
For example;managing the team, forecasting, stepping in for absent account staff, managing unexpected emergencies, organising additional resources, managing agency projects, preparing financial reports, administration etc.

or

2. Externally focussed activity
For example; developing RFPs (requests for proposals), presenting capabilities to new business prospects, pitching, meeting existing clients, carrying out client reviews, facilitating strategic workshops etc

Growing existing business often relies on the CSD’s ability to juggle and balance both effectively and concentrate efforts in the right area at the right time.

As a result, growing the existing business is often left to the Account Directors and Account Managers who may not have much experience.

It’s in the CSD’s interests to guide and support the team and therefore it helps to have a systematic step-by-step approach to account growth so that any account manager can follow it.

1. Who are you talking to?

The first step is to establish who from the client’s side is involved in the decision making process for requesting more work?

Who is the ultimate decision maker? Influencer? Budget holder?

Do you currently have relationships with all of these people?

If you do, are you matching each client contact with a different member of your account team e.g. Does the agency’s Managing Director have regular contact with the client’s most senior person?

It’s important to ensure there isn’t just one contact on the agency side who manages the entire relationship with all client stakeholders. Assigning different agency staff to different client contacts helps spread the risk and reduces exposure.

If you find one person at the agency holds all the client relationships, develop a plan to spread this out among key people.

Try this exercise:

Conduct a client/agency relationship mapping exercise to ensure your clients are assigned to the most appropriate person at the agency. Draw a table with 5 columns;

a) Client contact i.e. name and position
b) Role e.g. budget holder, ultimate decision maker, influencer etc,
c) Agency contact i.e. who manages that relationship currently
d) Preferred agency contact i.e. who you would prefer to manage the relationship
e) Action i.e. what needs to happen to ensure the preferred agency contact builds that relationship e.g. if noone is currently assigned then how and when could an introduction take place? Or if the relationship exists but there has been no contact for a while when is the next opportunity to meet up? A lunch? Review meeting? etc.

2. What’s the client’s problem?

The next step is to identify what the client’s current challenges are. These could be business challenges or their own professional challenges.

Some examples of business challenges could be; sales are down, staff are leaving, a competitor has stepped up their marketing efforts, negative PR, customers are disgruntled, low brand awareness, etc.

Examples of professional challenges could be; they are new to the role and anxious to shine in front of their seniors so that they successfully pass their 3 month review, they are interested in learning about the latest digital marketing trends but don’t have the time to dedicate, they are looking for a new job because they are demotivated etc.

It’s the agency’s job to find out what the client’s biggest challenges are so that any solution, project or campaign you propose helps solve their problem.

If you can help solve your client’s problems and challenges your value to them will increase and this will lead to a stronger and longer relationship and that will inevitably lead to more business.

Ask each agency person identified during the client mapping relationship exercise to find out the current biggest business and professional challenges from their assigned client counterpart.

It’s essential that this process is handled sensitively and professionally.

Questions can come across as intrusive unless asked in the right way so it’s important to spend time practising and perfecting your questioning techniques.

Equally important is being able to listen attentively to the client’s response and to encourage the client to provide as much information as possible. (Aim for 70{3e234da05fbbdc43a47fef4bb820620bdc41c4d21ad7649eedb08be0e65da68e} client talking and 30{3e234da05fbbdc43a47fef4bb820620bdc41c4d21ad7649eedb08be0e65da68e} you talking!)

Try this exercise:

If you are in any doubt whether you or your team are adequately equipped to ask good questions, you can find good questions on the internet or books such as How to Grow Existing Business by Asking Great Questions.

Similarly if you or your team have a single doubt whether your listening skills are up to scratch, read Just Listen by Mark Goulston.

3. How can you help solve the client’s problem?

Once the client’s problem has been identified, you can attempt to find different solutions to help solve the problem, preferably, but not always, in the form of an additional project.

For example, you may find out that one of your clients is struggling to obtain budget for a big marketing project from head office.

How can you help come up with a suitable solution and at the same time perhaps grow your account?

Can you help by offering to review and design the client’s internal proposal presentation to Senior Management? Can you inject some interesting facts, figures or even creativity so that it becomes more of a persuasive story?

Can you provide some statistics from other similar marketing projects that have proven successful?

Do you have any examples of work you have done for other clients on a similar scale that could be used as a case study?

The client may have a professional challenge such as they are frustrated that they don’t have the time or opportunity to network with their industry peers to keep up with industry trends.

Could you help solve their problem by inviting them to an industry networking event where you have the chance to get to know them more in a more informal environment?

Or could the agency host an educational seminar and invite other clients and encourage them to network after the event?

There are many ways the agency can help solve problems.

Try this exercise:

Think about the information you already know about the client. What challenges are they facing? What are different, creative solutions you can find to help them?

Set up a meeting with one of your top clients and prepare some questions in advance to help steer the conversation around to any issues the client is experiencing.

Start with questions like “How’s business?”, “What’s your biggest challenge right now?” etc.

4. Create a plan

Once you’ve generated a client relationship map and had the meeting with a client you can then capture the information you uncover in your client development plan.

It’s here that you can include all other general information about the client, their business, the brand etc as well as capture the client’s key challenges and some of your proposed solutions.

Then discuss the client development plan with the wider team to try to generate more ideas and solutions.

Not all ideas you come up with will be implementable but the key to this exercise and process is to aim to help the client solve their problems.

Try this exercise:

Carry out all the previous steps for one client. Capture the results and actions in a client development plan.

Brief your team on the results and ask each member of the account team to implement the process for their clients.

There is no end to the ways you can help your clients. And if you are a client service director it’s important you encourage your team to adopt the same approach so that they are always seeking new ways to identify problems.

Through continuous application of this 4 step process, they will soon realise they know much more about their client’s business than before and are now in a better position to offer solutions.

Please let me know what successes you have implementing this approach by leaving a comment below. Thank you!