Legendary GE CEO Jack Welch passed away this week. He once said, “Only satisfied customers can give people job security. Not companies.”
I’ve taken the liberty of paraphrasing and updating this for my own readers to “Only enthusiastic clients give you job security.”
Today, I would argue that “satisfaction” alone is not enough to build your clients for life. (Of course, nothing guarantees job security 100% these days, but having a loyal, enthusiastic client following is a powerful wind to have at your back…).
Welch was a supremely acclaimed CEO who achieved huge results, and he was also a controversial leader (e.g., the forced ranking of employees into performance bands). But hey, what acclaimed individual is not also controversial in some way? Even the Dali Lama and Jesus are controversial, depending on who you talk to! And so it goes–anybody who truly stands for something will always rub someone the wrong way. And, remember, if you’re not a little provocative or contrarian with your points of view, you may come across as anodyne and bland to your clients and prospects.
I could add many other endings to this phrase: Only enthusiastic clients (and donors if you’re a nonprofit) give you…
Professional satisfaction (for those of you who are in market-facing roles)
Clout and influence in your organization (again, if you’re market-facing)
How do you develop enthusiastic clients? Well, there are many ingredients of course. But if we REALLY boil it down, here are three essentials:
You consistently do high-quality work and deliver on the client’s expectations (key point: you can do great work, but if it doesn’t align with what the client expected, they may not be happy and you may have wasted a lot of time and resources).
You make a personal connection with your client, helping them achieve their business goals AND enriching them as a person through their relationship with you (you create what I call a “personal promoter”).
You stay in touch even if you’re not earning fees, adding value and acting like a trusted advisor through thick and thin.
How do you know if you have an enthusiastic client? Here are some key indicators. I don’t expect every single one of these to be present, but some should be.
In your/your firm’s area of expertise:
When a client has a need, they call you first.
You have a seat at the table for significant deliberations and decisions.
Your client sometimes spontaneously gives you referrals, and will happily provide a testimonial or introduction for you when asked (within the limits of their legal/compliance restrictions).
You have a high “share of wallet” with the client for the services/products you offer.
The client may negotiate with you about fees/prices, but generally has a positive attitude that you are well worth what your services or products cost—versus constantly nickeling-and-diming you.
There is trust and transparency. Your client gives you space to do your work without micromanaging you. Your client shares their plans with you.
Your client respects your expertise and you as a person, and this respect is evident on a day-to-day basis.
How enthusiastic are your clients about you and/or your firm?