Language and communication have limitations. These limitations can be as far away as the end of the Milky Way, and as near as the sphere of escape velocity that gravity creates, stopping you from getting off the earth. Cognition and semantics weave this fascinating, ever paradoxical space.
We navigate the complexity of Business World,nay all human endeavors, through similar limits and virtual limitlessness, created by the language.
In a Client-Obsessed culture, a huge spectrum exists across which Organisations manifest their specific flavour of client relationship. It is not a normal distribution but one which has a fat tail. The fat side is largely composed of getting the relationship right with the Client point-of-contact and influencers.
In this skewed distribution, the majority occupies the band of Client Servicing. As the name denotes, there is a sense of uneven relationship. While Service is coined in the noble spirit, the common picture has deeper shades of a master-servant relationship.
“Customer is always right”….as long as her being right is contributing to the top-line, the bottom-line or both.
So what would that other small band of organisations have? The rare organisations which are given to doing something more than supplying what is asked for? These organisations are able to advise the client sufficiently to impact, and at times even get changed, the RFP or Tender details before these are even finalised. More than anything else, it seems to be a function of the Client Partner’s relationship and the ability to push the envelope. This is also the place where Account Mining can flourish and Up-selling begin to have a field day.
The game is still confined to pushing, based on the premise that supply will create its own demand.
And it does. Most leaders in the market expand like this.
Even rarer is the position where the supplier understands the clients business sufficiently to suggest expanded solutions from the the catalog of offerings. When done well, supplier has critical understanding not just of the client, but also of the other forces of clients’ strategic ecosystem. The interactions and the relationship brings this trust.
In a fast changing environment, though you cannot, you are still expected to know all. So you need to continually probe, draw interpretations and insights from it, and connect it with other insights from your research of the clients’ internal and external ecosystem, vis a vis your catalogue of offerings.
The emphasis is to be consultative, open and probing first, and definite in a reasonably short time, to create expansion of the engagement.
One off-shoot approach in client relationship is Client Education. Education does not translate as “No Competition”. Pharma industry is a good example of this. Among other things, customer has traditionally been educated by the supplier. (The Doctor being the customer and the Patent the consumer. How many times does a patient buy beyond the prescription?) In many technology heavy industries too, this approach is the norm.
Let us push our view even further to the extremely rare end of the this spectrum, where an insane amount of influence takes place: Client Mentoring.
When Client Mentoring is the flavour, Supplies, delivery and the impact on revenue or profitability is incidental. These are not ignored, but are inevitable.
They do not need a definite planning, projection, tactics, deliberation or even tracking.
Though it is somewhere on the spectrum of client relationship that we have been referring to, somewhere along the spectrum a BIG switch has to take place. This switch separates the men from the boys so to say.
Many of the requirements are so different and edgy that they are actually the exact opposite of what was needed and desirable for the rest of the spectrum. Even up to the nearest neighbor Consultative Engagement.
For starters, the supplier needs to become unfocussed.
The emphasis has to be on what appeared on the vision of the client, and was still, only on the peripheral vision of the supplier. Or even the peripheral vision of the client itself.
This means all the peripheral issues are to be acknowledged and clients’ own attention needs to be taken to those other horizons. And the peripheral horizons of the overall industry, economy, ecology.
Client mentoring is not for the faint of heart. Certain strategic and structural positions would need to be taken by the organisation which takes it on. Not all of the supplier organisation would be required to be engaged in mentoring the client directly. But that would be an over arching driver of the relationship into which all others contribute. Client Service inside of Client Mentoring…advisory and consulting inside of mentoring, in the sense that whenever in doubt, Mentoring would take an upper hand.
Client Mentors, never explicitly called so for obvious reasons, would given highest respect, power and authority to establish this.
La Voila, all of a sudden, all of the exhausting and impossible associates of your organisation become your key resources now. Their attitude and approach and mindset become reward-able, even worthy of emulation. Their ramblings become worth paying attention, even if peripheral attention, till they leave for a client mentoring organisation. Or till your organisation embraces Client Mentoring.
Who are these people in your team? Do you see your organisation ever becoming a CM Org?