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The Doctor Is In

10 questions to help you check the vital signs of your client relationships.

The Doctor Is In

Oct 12, 2012 12:09 PM,
By Andrew Sobel

10 questions to help you check the vital signs of your client relationships.

Many of us use annual checkups to keep tabs on our physical health each year. But checking the vitals of your professional health is just as important. Here are 10 questions you should ask yourself when you are considering the health of your client relationships:

1. Do you have access? Can you actually get in to see important executives in your client’s organization? Some leaders are notoriously busy, and it does take time to get on their schedule. But if you don’t have access, you may not be considered relevant.

2. Do you and your client trust each other to do things without extensive documentation, checks, and controls? If your client is constantly micromanaging you, then they may not trust you, and you need to find out why.

3. Does your client openly share information with you? Does your client give you access to their plans and proposals? In a healthy, trusting relationship, there is transparency.

4. Does your client confide in you and bounce ideas and decisions off of you? It’s not reasonable to expect them to discuss everything with you. However, if they have an issue in your domain, and the relationship is a strong one, they will most likely draw you in before reaching their final conclusions.

5. Are you the first person the client calls when they need something in your area of expertise? If the client views you as interchangeable with other suppliers, then you’re a vendor, and you’ll be subjected to constant price pressure as the client continually shops around.

6. Are you treated with respect—like an important advisor? I had a client who I felt didn’t value me. He asked me to help teach his senior partners how to be better, trusted advisors to their clients. But ironically, he didn’t want a trusted advisor himself—he wanted an arms-length “expert” who would be at his beck and call. I finished the project and moved on.

7. Is working with this client a satisfying, rewarding experience for you and your team? Some clients just drain you. Sometimes, you’re also stuck with a client who is too low in the organization to really appreciate the impact you have. This is not a healthy relationship! If you can’t fix a situation like this quickly, you should get out and double-down on more promising clients.

8. Is the relationship economically rewarding for you? Sometimes, weak profitability is your fault—you have underestimated the scope of the work or underpriced it. But sometimes it’s a sign of a client who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

9. Are you having an impact and helping to improve your client’s business? If, for whatever reason, this is not happening—it’s a warning sign. Are you working on peripheral issues that are not really important to the client? Are you stuck too far down in the organization? Is the client ignoring your recommendations?

10. Is your client referring you to friends, colleagues, and other organizations that could use your expertise? Active word-of-mouth referrals, arguably, are the ultimate sign of a good relationship.

Andrew Sobel is the most widely published author in the world on client loyalty and the capabilities required to build trusted business relationships. He is author (along with Jerold Panas) of the new book Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others. His other books include Making Rain and the award-winning All for One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships.

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