How Client Focus Can Go So Wrong

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The quest for the best solution can make even the most savvy, thoughtful professional tone deaf.

Clients think of client focus as you working towards meeting their targeted objective, which may or may not be the perfect solution. 70% of lawyers define client focus as coming up with the best possible solution. And while clients can appreciate this, if the solution doesn’t meet their specific needs, it is a failure.

You can argue both clients and their lawyers are essentially saying, “do what’s best,” but the distinction is in who gets to decide what’s best. The search for the perfect answer often drowns out a client’s targeted outcome. You can see this clearly in the true story below:

World Law enjoyed a strong relationship with long-term client, Sweet Tech Corp, where billings averaged just over $20 million annually. The senior partner at World Law, Lou, was preparing to retire. As the primary contact with Sweet Tech, he openly shared his retirement plans with Sweet Tech’s CEO, Jason. To ease the transition and ensure work was not interrupted, Jason requested a succession and transition plan from World Law.

World Law conducted an exhaustive internal search. Lou, the retiring partner, developed a job specification sheet including technical skills, interpersonal aspects, personal chemistry, and communication style. The firm set up a committee to vet the potential candidates. After a thorough matching of skills and assessment of availability, World Law decided upon Gus as the logical successor to Lou. Lou immediately began incorporating Gus into the relationship—training him on all the processes, bringing him to client meetings, and sharing all the nuances of Sweet Tech one builds from a long-time relationship.

Within the year, Lou retired and Gus took the reins.

6 months later, Jason at Sweet Tech called the managing partner of World Law. Jason was not happy with Gus. Jason acknowledged Gus’s technical prowess, but there were numerous chemistry and personality issues eroding the previously strong relationship. Jason expressed respect for Gus and the value World Law brought, but requested a new partner be assigned to manage Sweet Tech’s account.

World Law responded quickly. The managing partner went to meet with Sweet Tech to demonstrate concern and understand Jason’s every concern and suggestion. World Law initiated a new search.

After several weeks of new partner analysis, the firm reached what it thought was an insightful and telling observation—Gus was in fact the right partner for Jason and Sweet Tech Corp. Every piece of objective evidence—from his location, expertise, past experience, and even understanding of Sweet Tech’s operations—supported Gus remaining as partner.

World Law’s managing partner, Barbara, took Jason to an outstanding lunch—wonderful food, great view, and the restaurant’s well-known power table. Barbara thanked Jason for being such a long-time client and shared the firm’s view on how important Sweet Tech is to World Law. Jason was feeling reassured and sensed he would soon be enjoying a relationship with a new partner. At one point, Jason thought he would be invited in to interview potential partners.

But suddenly, Jason felt empty. He was stunned. World Law was recommending Gus remain as the partner in charge of the relationship. Barbara explained how Gus met every criterion and was clearly up to the task. In World Law’s opinion, Gus was the best partner for Sweet Tech Corp.

Jason politely shared his disbelief and suggested the firm reassess the assignment. Barbara reiterated she was acting in best interest of Sweet Tech Corp.

Jason thanked Barbara for her time and effort. He went back to his office to develop a transition plan to work with one of the 8 other law firms on his roster.

Jason’s targeted outcome was a new relationship partner. This 100-year-old, 1,000-lawyer firm was so focused on the perfect solution they missed the core issue—Jason and his team couldn’t work with Gus.

But maybe the real lesson is different—when a mega client likes your firm enough to tell you they want a new relationship partner—their goal is clear and your only answer is an unequivocal yes.

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This excerpt is just a snippet from my best-selling book Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits. Already in use at over 150 law firms, the 17 activities within Clientelligence are proven drivers of superior client relationships. Based on 14,000 in-depth interviews with clients, this consistent and systematic approach to developing superior client service skills gives you unparalleled access to your clients' most complex—and premium-rate—work.

I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about how you can use these activities to create and maintain superior client relationships of your own while fueling growth and profits—or order your copy—here.

MBR

How Sharing Your Deepest, Darkest Secrets Increases Your Billings

You are your own worst enemy when it comes to delivering superior value to your clients. And not because you don’t deliver it. The overwhelming majority of professionals tend to keep the substantial value they deliver a deep, dark secret.

Meet Darren, and the secret at the heart of his relationship with his client, Jonah:

Jonah felt a sense of panic. As the Chief Safety Officer of Buy Our Products (BOP) Inc., Jonah had just learned an OSHA inspector had found a number of violations at their main manufacturing facility. Out of 273 production machines, BOP Inc. was cited for 63 instances of missing safety devices on their manufacturing equipment.

Jonah conducted his own internal investigation and determined the safety devices weren’t missing, but had instead been modified. After speaking with employees on the floor, he discovered the employees removed part of the safety device to boost productivity (and consequently, their pay). Despite BOP Inc.’s clear policy and intended system for preventing this work-around, employees would remove the devices anyway.

Jonah knew fixing the devices was simple. Keeping the incident from becoming a brand-destroying event was the bigger challenge. In recent years, BOP Inc. had become extraordinarily sensitive to corporate citizenship, not to mention the potential $1 million fine would also raise eyebrows with management and the press.

Jonah called Darren, a renowned consultant for these matters. Darren immediately understood the implications and the issues and jumped head-first into his mission. First, he found precedent to have this infraction treated as a single incident instead of 63. Darren also discovered settled cases where a partial device was acceptable for safety purposes, indicating there may not have been a violation at all.

Darren penned a deal with the regulatory agency. Rather than pay the substantial $1 million fine, BOP, Inc. would pay a $160,000 fee to cover the cost of investigation and the company would have to agree to mandatory training and proof of compliance with the safety regulation. All of this was achieved with little fanfare and there was no need for BOP Inc. to disclose any of the issues or subsequent proceedings. Darren reported this outcome to a quite pleased Jonah.

4 months later, Jonah received Darren’s invoice for a total fee of $134,611.20.

Jonah studied the 6-page bill. The invoice listed hundreds of time entries detailing Darren’s time in 15-minute increments. Virtually all the time entries were categorized as “Meeting/Conference.” Jonah called Darren to ask why the invoice was so high relative to the fee paid to the agency, “Your fee is only $30,000 less than what we paid the inspectors. This feels a little out of proportion, particularly since you spent most of your time in meetings.”

Darren was dumbfounded. After a brief pause, he explained the nuances of how he had spent his time. Darren reminded Jonah of the long hours he and his compliance specialist had spent negotiating with OSHA and the extra finesse needed when dealing with the agency became difficult.

Despite the outcome delivered, Darren’s value was destroyed.

***

Darren is one of a large group of professionals who presume the value they bring to their clients is obvious for all to see. Let me be the first to tell you, what is obvious to you, is oblivion to your client. The client (Jonah) had lost sight of the savings Darren afforded BOP Inc. against a proposed $1 million fine. In the 4 months between the project resolution to the receipt of the bill, Jonah had also forgotten the potential reputational damages Darren had avoided.

Let’s be clear here: Darren also did not effectively articulate the value he was providing to BOP Inc. and Jonah. When a client sees a bill 4 months later without a note or client-friendly explanation, it’s hard for them to remember the original value you delivered.

***

What clients view as valuable, we consider part of the job. We neglect to share the intense problem-solving and challenging roadblocks we overcame in order to meet the client’s objectives. We deliver what the client expected, all while making the most difficult of tasks look easy.

The final insult comes when our client receives an invoice reflecting the hours and hours of hard work we endured. Hours, which due to circumstances out of our control, may not have been included in the original budget. Rather than applauding you for your ingenious solution or ability to avoid a much larger issue, all the client sees is: you blew past the budget.

***

This excerpt is just a snippet from my recently released book Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits—an Amazon Top 30 Customer Service Best Seller and named a Best Book of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews. Already in use at over 125 law firms, the 17 activities within Clientelligence are proven drivers to superior client relationships. I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about how you can use these activities to create and maintain superior client relationships of your own while fueling growth and profits, or order your copy, here.

MBR

Clientelligence Named a Best Book of 2015

We are thrilled to announce Michael Rynowecer's new book, Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits, has been named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2015.

A Top 10 Best 2015 Indie Books That'll Get You Talking, Clientelligence is described by Kirkus as "deftly written and well-presented; principals of any service firm will appreciate this treasure trove of useful intelligence for business improvement."

You can read the complete Kirkus Reviews (starred review) here.

Order your copy of Clientelligence here. Interested in ordering more than 100 copies for your firm? Please call us at 617-439-0333 and ask to speak with Joy Harnois.

About Clientelligence:

People who make things happen make superior relationships first. Relationships are the power source, if not the very soul, of doing good business—the kind of business where clients smile and believe your value simply dwarfs your fee. People who sell don't develop nearly as much business as people who develop relationships. The 17 activities within Clientelligence are proven drivers to superior client relationships. In essence, they are how clients define client service excellence and what they expect out of the providers with whom they have the best relationships. Now you can use these activities to create and maintain superior client relationships of your own and fuel growth and profits.

Learn more here: www.bticonsulting.com/clientelligence.

5 Reasons Rainmakers Book 5 Times More Business Than Everyone Else

A typical child starts asking where rain comes from between the 2nd and 4th grade. New research reveals many law firm partners may have skipped this lesson or this knowledge has been eclipsed by intense legal studies.

True rainmakers book 5 times more business than the average law firm partner. This 5-to-1 relationship crosses all law firm sizes and specialties. In actual dollars the numbers look like this:

 
 

Rainmakers exhibit selected behaviors others have not yet developed. These include:

1.  Extraordinary Self Discipline

Rainmakers are rarely distracted by stray opportunities. They know their best opportunities come from their clients and their networks. These rainmakers are unrelenting in making sure they position themselves to be first in line for new business—often before their client asks or brings it up. The rainmakers are always anticipating needs.

2.  Focus on Forever

Rainmakers say there is no such thing as one and done. They work at figuring out client needs and finding the right firm resources—this includes skills, chemistry and bringing these resources up to speed. The focus is on filling a broad range of needs seamlessly with the right resources so the client need not look elsewhere—ever.

3.  Limited Span of Relationships

As discussed in number 1 above, rainmakers are not impressed by having a large number of clients—they want large clients. Over time some of these rainmakers grow their networks to have a larger number of clients—but this is through careful and orchestrated growth.

4.  Always in Dialogue with Their Clients

Rainmakers are always exchanging information with clients. These dialogues are a combination of phone, in-person, email and simple exchanges of articles and snippets from a broad of array of sources. This ongoing communication not only proves rainmakers are well rounded and understand all aspects of their clients—it teaches clients something new and fresh, as rainmakers have a knack for sending only relevant insights. (Hint: nearly every rainmaker relies on a steady supply of insights from peers and junior staff who see reward when their research is used.)

5.  Value Relationship Building Skills Over Sales Skills

The superior relationship is the real secret sauce behind the rainmaker. Because, behind every great rainmaker (and mover and shaker or leader) are great relationships. In fact, replace the word great with superior. People who make things happen make superior relationships happen first. Relationships are the power source, if not the very soul, of doing big business—the kind where clients smile and don’t think about giving work to others.

People who sell don’t develop nearly as much business as people who develop relationships. New business flows to those individuals and firms who can move beyond a transaction to a relationship. People, especially executives, don’t want to work with the person with the best sales skills. They want to work with those who are emotionally invested in helping them and pay significant premiums for this rare commodity.

MBR

PS. These behaviors are also covered in depth in my newly released book Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits. Already in use at over 100 law firms, Clientelligence provides a systematic approach to developing superior client service skills to give you unparalleled access to your clients' most complex—and premium-rate—work.

Learn how you can create and maintain superior client relationships of your own—while fueling growth and profit—here.

Why Clients Always Hire Pigs and Not Chickens

Question: In a bacon and egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the chicken and the pig?
Answer: The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

Most of the time, being called a pig is not a compliment. But if clients think you are a pig, it is the ultimate seal of approval.

The caller ID flashed on the ringing phone and Jonathan, the Chief Legal Officer of a Fortune 100 company, immediately tensed. The display showed 10:06 AM and Jonathan knew the number was his law school buddy, Lori, now working at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Jonathan picked up the receiver and said a friendly hello.

Lori shared pleasantries, but the tone quickly changed. Lori informed Jonathan that the agency, after months of study, was preparing to launch a formal investigation into the company's accounting practices. Immediately, Jonathan envisioned the disclosures, the inevitable drop in the stock price of his company, the exodus of customers, and the harsh scrutiny of the company’s shareholders. His face went white thinking of the bill attached to managing the investigation and follow-up rulings.

Jonathan wanted to move quickly and decisively. Once he hung up with Lori, he immediately called his go-to legal advisor, Bart. Bart was a litigator at one of the 20 largest law firms in the world. The 2 had worked together for more than 15 years and there was no voice Jonathan wanted to hear more. When Bart picked up the phone, Jonathan shared the news.

Bart, understanding the gravity of the situation, shared his sympathies and quickly reminded Jonathan, “SEC and accounting investigations aren’t in my wheelhouse. However, I don’t want you to worry. Last year, we brought on a new partner who has tremendous experience in these types of matters.” Bart went on, “This guy is based out of our West Coast office, so he’s a few hours behind us. I’ll give his assistant a ring and have an appointment scheduled for the 3 of us as quickly as possible.” Before they hung up, Bart confided, “Now, please understand. This partner’s going rate starts at $1,100 an hour—I just want you to be prepared for a little sticker shock.”

The 2 hung up. Jonathan stared at the phone, afraid it would ring again. He knew his CEO would be calling any minute demanding an action plan and Jonathan had nothing. He reached for the phone and dialed Deborah, another attorney he had worked with recently on a handful of major matters. Jonathon hoped Deborah would have some quick advice for him.

Once patched through to Deborah, Jonathan begain retelling the details of the SEC decision. Deborah quietly listened and afterwards asked if she could put Jonathan on hold for a few minutes. Jonathan placed the call on speaker, muted the line, and responded to a handful of emails while he waited. 11 minutes later, Deborah returned to the line and introduced Jonathan to Gary and Susan—2 experienced SEC attorneys ready to start brainstorming next steps with Jonathan.

Post Script: Later in the afternoon, Bart's assistant called back to schedule a meeting between Jonathan, Bart, and their West Coast SEC attorney. Jonathan was on his second conference call with Deborah and her partners and didn’t return the call.

Jonathan ultimately spent more than $33 million dollars with Deborah's firm.

This a true story and one I’ve heard many times—admittedly on a smaller scale than in the tale of Jonathan and Bart.

Poor Bart. He’s a pig in hiding. His heart was in the right place, but he sent out a bevy of unintended messages suggesting he was a chicken.

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Commitment to help is the single most important factor to C-level executives when they evaluate and hire professional services firms.

Your commitment to help clients will make—or break—the most meaningful client relationships.

Do your clients see you as a pig or a chicken?

In order to prove your pig-ness, a professional must go beyond the boundaries of a typical commercial relationship. Call it engagement, investment, or commitment—clients want you to match (or exceed) their own levels of:

  • Urgency
  • Energy
  • Perceived investment of time, money, and psychic energy

While Deborah, in the above anecdote, addressed Jonathan’s most pressing need in an urgent manner, Bart was talking about rates and overlooked the client’s need for immediate action. Bart was being helpful, not committed.

**********

This excerpt is just a snippet from my newly released book Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits. Already in use at over 100 law firms, the 17 activities within Clientelligence are proven drivers of superior client relationships. Based on 14,000 in-depth interviews with clients, this consistent and systematic approach to developing superior client service skills gives you unparalleled access to your clients' most complex—and premium-rate—work.

I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about how you can use these activities to create and maintain superior client relationships of your own while fueling growth and profits—or order your copy—here.

MBR