After no less than a year of wooing a particularly big client in South Africa, they – at last! Hooray! – gave the go ahead for running a workshop on building trusted advisor client relationships for their Senior Partners. It’s been a long time coming – several proposals, flights to and from their offices, conference calls and, virtually, candlelit dinners – but today they said yes. It just goes to show that it can take a very long time to be proposed to in these marriages to a client, but it is entirely worth the effort. I’m looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them.
The programme – Creating High Value Client Relationships – has already been run in other parts of the world for this client, one of the big four professional services firms. It’s hugely successful in their UK, Europe and US regions, and we have also been implementing it for them across seven countries in Central Africa. It’s based on David Maister’s work The Trusted Advisor, but takes it to a whole new level by also getting you to take a strategic look at your client relationships, planning which relationships needs to be shifted, and practising the skills of how to engage with your client in order to do this.
Those attending learn the skills of moving from a market space in which their clients see them as the solution suppliers (come to me, I’ll give you one of those for X price) to a trusted advisor relationship (let’s talk about your business more broadly and see where I can help). The one is highly competitive, price-sensitive and you are easily interchangeable with your competitors. The other gets you the opportunity to act as a trusted business advisor and engage in conversations about their future. Not only is this a hugely interesting space within which to operate, but it differentiates you from your competitors – and the cross-selling and business spotting opportunities are immense.
Next week I’m off to deliver a similar workshop for a big banking client in Nigeria. It’ll be interesting to see how the notoriously upfront Nigerian culture receives this notion of deep, trust-based client relationships. The last time I was there delivering a workshop, the participants worked us as facilitators far harder than we worked them. Herding cats comes to mind – or perhaps more like those dog races at Dagenham in London. As a facilitator you throw in a hare of an idea, and they’re off! Chasing it and arguing loudly and good-naturedly amongst themselves, and very hard to bring them back on track it was too. I’m looking forward to seeing what next week brings.