Time to operate in the ‘Fan zone’

One thing’s for sure, these are uncertain times – so it’s no surprise that the Collins Dictionary Word of the Year is ‘permacrisis,’ a word that aptly communicates how it feels to live with inflation, political instability and war.

Under these circumstances, the easy option would be to batten down the hatches, play it safe and not start something new. However, I would challenge you to do the opposite, at least when it comes to your current clients.

This is the time you need to be making the most of those secure relationships you’ve put time and effort into nurturing. But first you need to get clarity on exactly who sits where and this diagram from my friends at The BD Consultancy will help you segment your clients and stakeholders. It’s an easy way of drilling down to an understanding of exactly where you stand.

How to divide your time between relationships

People in the ‘Hopes’ quadrant are those who might be a good fit for you but, with a range of variables that need to be squared before both sides are able to commit, you may be better off not investing too much in them if time and budget are limited.

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Those in the ‘Future’ quadrant are prospects that are aware of your offering. You know they’re a good fit for your business but you haven’t established a warm relationship with them yet. If you’re looking to pursue and win new business, they’re an excellent area to focus on.

‘Friends’ are those who feel warmly towards you but might not be buying from you for any number of reasons.

‘Fans’ are existing clients and people who refer business to you time and again. This is where you need to be focusing the majority of your time and attention in tough times: You’ve already done the hard work in securing them as clients and, in most cases, you’ll want to keep them!

Engaging this group in a client listening exercise is a great way to check in on your relationship with them. You’ll be able to ensure that you’re meeting their current and future needs, and give them an opportunity to raise any issues.

Your initial thought may be, ‘I’ll speak to them myself’ but, will you really be able to make the time to do so? Can you be sure that it’ll be in a way that asks the right questions and creates the circumstances in which they can respond freely? And that you’ll then be able to draw the right conclusions and act strategically on the insights you gain?

Of course, you should be speaking to your clients anyway (and not just for the purposes of feedback!) but a conversation with a neutral third party, expressly designed for the purposes of client listening is more often than not viewed very positively by clients.

Repeat referrers also need to be shown some love, and client listening can work for them too. Find out why they keep referring to you – the feedback they’re getting from those they refer to you and what you might be able to do to help them out – reciprocity goes a long way. There is a plethora of professional advisers in the market so there’s never any shortage of firms they could be referring their contacts to, but if your flow of work ever decreases, you want to be able to stay top of mind with this valuable referrer group.

Operating in the Fan zone may look different depending on the business area you’re in, but investing in client listening brings rewards across the board – from a higher degree of loyalty, to a larger ‘share of wallet’ from existing clients. And then of course, there’s the opportunity to use the insights to help to convert those in the ‘Future’ zone, over the line.

If client listening is on your radar for 2023 but you’ve not yet made a definite decision or are struggling to persuade colleagues, drop me a line.

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