For the US Democrats to stand a chance in the 2020 presidential election, they must select as their candidate the individual who has the best prospects of defeating Donald Trump. Come the July Democratic National Convention, delegates will be asked to put aside their individual differences – whether they personally prefer the policies of Biden over Buttigeig or Bloomberg, even – and nominate the best person for the job, the job being to win the 2020 race for the White House.
In a professional services firm, the selection of a client relationship manager should be no different: Choose the best person for the job.
Yet, in professional services firms, the appointment of client relationship managers is often highly political. Indeed, many firms continue to limit their relationship manager talent pool to those who have equity in the business.
That’s a mistake.
The effectiveness of a client relationship manager is not contingent upon whether the person is a partner, principal or primary shareholder. Nor is it dependent upon the person’s tenure or hierarchical status.
The factors that are most likely to influence the effectiveness of a client relationship manager are the person’s ability to network (both within your firm and within the client organisation) and their communication skills.
A client relationship manager has two overarching objectives:
- Protect what your firm already has. In other words, defend your current revenue stream.
- Grow the relationship. Grow your network of client contacts. Grow their engagement with your firm. Grow the revenue. And, ideally, grow the profitability of the account.
Client relationship managers don’t achieve these two objectives by exerting their authority or imposing their position.
Simply put, they protect your firm’s clients by obsessing over client service and whether your firm is exceeding your clients’ expectations.
They protect your clients by fixating on how your firm might add further value to its client relationships.
They grow your firm’s clients by understanding and anticipating each client’s needs, and seizing every available opportunity to introduce services, solutions and subject matter experts that match each client’s requirements.
Put politics (and ego) aside and appoint the best person for the role. Appoint the person who knows the client, cares about the client, and who is motivated to protect and grow the client.
One more thing: in some cases the selection of a client relationship manager might not even be within your firm’s control. Sometimes a client will gravitate toward the person they consider holds the relationship. Some clients will even dictate who its relationship manager is to be.
What other traits are desirable in a client relationship manager?
- Client service orientation
- Integrity – you are, after all, seeking to become the client’s trusted advisor
- Interest in and understanding of the client’s business and industry
- High level of familiarity with your firm’s services, solutions, subject matter experts and value proposition
- Ability to organise, to coordinate internally and externally.