Everyone would like more of their client’s business—more “wallet share.” But few are willing to invest the time and effort to do what it actually takes to earn that additional share of their client’s expenditures. The strategy to gain more wallet share often consists of introducing some colleagues who then pitch their solutions, without establishing a significant enough connection between the particular product or service they are offering and the client’s agenda. It’s a “me-centered” not “client-centered” approach.
Mind Share Leads to Wallet Share
The real secret to winning more wallet share is to capture more “mind share.” Mind share measures the extent to which the client mentally gravitates towards you and your firm when they are pondering the most important challenges and opportunities they face in the areas you serve. When you have high mind share, you effectively capture your client’s attention. They esteem your experience, insights, and ideas. You are who they turn to when they “just want to bounce an idea around.” You/your firm are seen as the thought leader.
If you have low mind share and low wallet share, you’re a Transactional Expert. You often start in this position, but if you don’t move out of this quadrant, you won’t be very meaningful to your client.
One executive complained to me that although his firm has a large share of one particular client’s wallet, they aren’t strategically relevant to them and continually faced the prospect of competing in RFPs for new contracts. I call this the General Contractor.
Another client of mine talked about how she meets often with an important client to share ideas and perspectives—and is highly esteemed by the executives there—but doesn’t actually generate much business. This can happen when you don’t understand how to move from a general conversation with the client to a specific solution that helps them solve an important challenge; and, when you don’t have sufficient commercial drive. This type of client is more like a Friend than a client.
The most powerful position you can achieve is Trusted Partner, where you have built both high mind share and strong wallet share in your area of expertise and strength. The graphic, below, illustrates these four positions.
Question: Where would you put the names of your clients on this chart, in terms of the role you play with each of them?
Growing Your Mind Share
There are two key preconditions to grow your mind share.
First, clients have to trust you and your counsel. This trust is built on the perceived solidity of your experience and wisdom and also on a belief that you always have your client’s best interests in mind when you suggest an idea or course of action to them.
Second, you must be relevant. Your thought leadership and specific solution ideas must track against the client’s strategy and goals. Otherwise you’re just shopping widgets to them and hoping one will, metaphorically, ring a bell.
Here some things you can do to increase your share of mind with your clients:
- Highlight problems or opportunities they have overlooked or that will become critical in the future. Anticipate for them—help them see around the corner.
- Bring them new solutions to existing problems or opportunities. Start by examining the ideas that are resonating with other, similar clients.
- Share points of view that help shape their perspectives. You don’t always have to be right—but you do want to provoke reflection. Senior executives, in particular, like advisors who have a strong point of view about their issues.
- Reframe their challenges. A good start is to say, “With several other clients of mine, I’ve discovered that the real issue is sometimes not X but Y, because…Here’s an example…”
- Give them valuable, competitive intelligence. Show them what respected competitors are doing well.
- Bring them market and customer insights.
- If you know their organization from current or prior engagements, give them ideas for improving their operations.
- Challenge their existing beliefs. Depending on the temperament of the client, you might be able to do this very directly, or, you might have to be more diplomatic and use questions… “How would you assess your current level of collaboration, from other parts of the organization, on this initiative?”
- Help them with a more personal issue, e.g., their next career move; their relationship with their manager; the performance of their team; a nonprofit interest; etc.
Blunt force rarely wins you more wallet share, but growing your mind share through consistent added value can and will.