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Client relationship scenarios described by senior practitioners in professional service firms

The client is being sold...

Q “One of my main clients is being sold. I need to ‘get in’ with the new owners as soon as possible. What’s the best way to go about this?”

A There is no right answer as circumstances will vary enormously but you have to put yourself in the shoes of the new owner. To earn their trust and respect, you need to show demonstrate early on that you are valuable to their business and have their best interests at heart. What issues will immediately be affecting their business? Could you offer something like a “Know your risks talk” specifically tailored to their business or industry? Could you offer to introduce them to other clients/contacts in the sector who would be useful to them? Rather than make direct approaches for work, look to provide useful support, information and business opportunities. It is a fundamental human trait that you earn respect and trust by demonstrating a genuine interest in others and this applies very much to business relationships, particularly new ones.

Before meeting the new clients, do your homework on them and their previous businesses and have prepared some thinking on current issues. You will want to establish their future business goals and you may wish to say that you see your role as helping them achieve their business targets hence the need to know these and understand them very clearly. Where possible and appropriate at this early juncture, try also to establish their personal agendas and interests. This moves you on a little further in the overall relationship. Could you ask them to come and speak to your team about their previous business experiences?

When talking about what you do, prepare to talk in terms of benefits to the client of using you and your colleagues and in terms of results achieved for other clients in the sector. Clients buy the benefits and results of the service.

Third parties who are able to speak highly of the results you have achieved for them will certainly help accelerate the level of respect which the client has for you. The trust will come from your personal demonstration of genuine interest in them and their goals.

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