Tuesday November 25, 2014
  • Three Levels to Outstanding Account Management

    agreement     Q.  I own a small professional services firm. We are struggling with developing and managing client relationships. Do you have any tips?


         A.  Client development and account management is a critical part of our business as well, so we have thought about this quite a bit. We find that there are three important levels at which you must manage client relationships. All three levels are critical, so you need to be clear regarding who is responsible for each.


    Executing work – Obviously, if you don’t do an outstanding job of delivering work, your business won’t last long. Therefore, delivering outstanding client work is critical. This includes fielding requests from clients for work, writing proposals, and conducting the work.

    Set yourself up for success. Be clear with your client regarding specifically what you will do and when you will deliver it. Misunderstandings regarding what will be delivered when have led to the loss of more than one client relationship. Don’t let poor communication be your undoing. If you have made a mistake and committed to do more than you should have, learn from the experience, don’t make the same mistake again, but deliver what you promised in a timely manner. Once a deadline is established, don’t miss it, even if it costs you.

    We look for opportunities to surprise and delight our clients. It may be doing just a little more than was promised—adding a little bit of extra value. It’s important to focus on making your client look good. If you make your client look good, you will become indispensable.


    Expanding relationships with existing clients – This step involves developing personal relationships with existing clients. You’ll often hear people say, “This isn’t personal, it’s just business.” People conduct business. Therefore, by definition, business is personal.

    We know a woman who launched a training business. She was one of two instructors hired by one of the big Fortune 500 companies in town to train their employees on basic skills. Our acquaintance poured herself into teaching the best classes possible. She received rave reviews from her students and her students passed the required tests at a higher rate than her counterpart’s students did. However, the other instructor put significantly more time and energy into developing a relationship with the primary client, the head of HR. When the need for training slowed, the company retained the instructor with the better client relationship. Doing outstanding work is important, but having a great relationship with the client is, at least, equally important.


    Socializing is often an important element of relationship building. Lunches, dinners and perhaps a ball game or other social event can be an invaluable part of this process. Identify mutual interests and include your client in the activities.

    Expanding relationships with existing clients also includes proactively identifying opportunities for additional work and making offers. We often do this by asking, “Would it be helpful if we…?” Your focus should be on genuinely helping your client, not on generating more revenue for yourself. If you make offers that your client sees as helpful and then deliver as agreed, more work will follow and your business relationship will grow. The point is look for ways you can be useful and make offers. Don’t just sit back and wait for the client to ask you to do additional work.


    Developing new clients – Expanding relationships with existing clients is critical, but there is a limit to how much you can grow with this strategy. At some point, you will need to develop new clients. Our experience is that in professional services, this is best done by positioning yourself as an expert in something prospective clients need.

    There are a myriad of ways to accomplish this. One of the best is by doing excellent work for existing clients that leads to referrals. Referrals are great, but you may find that you need more. Writing articles or books, giving speeches and joining boards or civic groups that put you in touch with prospective clients are tried and true ways of positioning yourself as an expert.


    Developing and managing client relationships is critical to the success of a professional services firm. To succeed, you must execute at each of the three levels outlined above. Having a specific plan for how you will accomplish each will increase the probability you succeed.

I HIGHLY recommend Polly and Doug. They have wonderful insight to help small business owners prioritize and identify strategies for growth and improvement. Wish I had met them 20 years ago!

Sharon Madere
Premiere Pet Products

Doug and Polly, I want to thank both of you! The past few months have been enlightening and overwhelming all at the same time. Your guidance, direction, wealth of knowledge, and wisdom have exceeded all my expectations. No words could ever completely describe just how amazing of a “dynamic duo” you two really are!

Dawn Beninghove, RN, CCM, CRP, PN
Chief Executive Offer
Companion Extraordinaire Nursing Network, Inc.
My company brought Polly in as a business consultant resource to provide Professional Skills curriculum to our early and mid-career leaders. It was company leadership that brought her in - it was her success with our associates that continued to bring her back! Using her HR and corporate leadership experience and her ability to connect with people at various levels of the organization, Polly was one of the most effective outside leadership development resources I've come across in my Talent Management years. She was extremely reliable and someone that I could trust to provide solid learning experiences that aligned with our corporate value system and talent development goals.

Scot McCarthy
Director of Workforce Development, CENTRA Health
My team and I have had the privilege of working with Polly on our business. Polly's keen business insight and savvy is something special. She was honest, direct, and tactful about her observations and recommendations for our team and how to grow our business. It was a pleasure having her help us and I would tell anyone that’s serious about growing their business to call Polly. She’s great!

John OReilly
Managing Partner
Base Camp Realty of Richmond, Inc.
Doug White took on an unfocused operation (in the financial services sector) and created an efficient, centralized system dedicated to excellence.  He did this not by driving change from the top down, but by helping the entire team see how their part of the process could be improved. Doug then mentored us toward effecting the changes ourselves. He taught us all how to bring our “A game,” and how to take ownership and pride in what we do.

Donna Levin
Vice President of Operations
I have known Polly for over ten years. As an HR Manager, I have utilized Polly’s training expertise at my former company and with my current company. Polly exceled at assessing the needs of our management teams and tailoring training programs that resulted in visible positive change. I also know I can count on Polly as a resource on any HR topic or bounce ideas off of her when I need a second opinion. Polly has been a mentor to me and I have always appreciated her willingness to listen and offer valuable advice and expertise.

Leigh McCullar
HR Business Solutions Manager
Sheltering Arms Physical Rehabilitation Center
I have had the privilege of working with Polly White for several years on a variety of projects. She consistently provides clear direction on how to resolve a wide range of employment-related issues. I look forward to my continued relationship with Polly.

Elizabeth Wilkins
Business Manager
Manorhouse Management, Inc.
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