In this follow-up to You Can't Win a Fight with Your Boss, Tom Markert returns to provide clever, timeless advice on how to offer exceptional service. The most important rule? You can't win a fight with your client!
As American companies large and small have shifted their focus from manufacturing to providing services, keeping clients satisfied has become critical to the survival of every business. Yet, very few people have mastered the art of managing clients successfully. In You Can't Win a Fight with Your Client, Tom Markert argues that the secret to great service lies in understanding and applying a few fundamentals. In fifty small doses, he provides practical advice on how to manage your relationships with your clients and ensure they receive the kind of service that will keep them coming back for more.
A perfect resource for anyone working with clients at any level, You Can't Win a Fight with Your Client is the no-nonsense, straightforward guide to keeping clients happy in today's hypercompetitive and demanding business environment.
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About the Author
Tom Markert is CEO of Ipsos Loyalty Worldwide, a Market Research provider to many Fortune 500 companies and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of State Auto, a publicly traded property and casualty insurer based in Columbus, Ohio. He has held leadership positions at ACNielsen, Citicorp, and Procter & Gamble and has held positions on the board of directors of the Australian professional basketball team the Sydney Kings and the American Chamber of Commerce in New South Wales, Australia. He lives in Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
You Can't Win a Fight with Your Client
& 49 Other Rules for Providing Great Service
Know Your Products
You can never be truly effective with a client if you do not have a solid understanding of your product portfolio and the full capabilities of your company. There is no shortcut or workaround on this one. Clients want their problems solved as fast and painlessly as possible. Your ability to supply a solution is critical. A superficial understanding of your products and their range of capabilities simply isn't good enough. For example, when a client says, "Here is where I need your help. Is this something that you do?" You can't answer, "I'm not sure. I'll get back to you." Why? Because the client will surely assume that even if you do offer a service that can help solve that particular problem, it must not be core to what you do or surely you would have known immediately. Credibility crusher!
Perhaps worse, not fully understanding your company's range of capabilities can cost your company dearly both in terms of immediate and long-term sales. Imagine if your company had a product or capability you were unaware of and thus failed to bring it to your client's attention. As a result, your client brought in a competitive supplier who did a great job on the project. You now have a problem or at least a worry you didn't need to have.
If you are running a large account, take the initiative to ensure that you and everyone who works for you is fully trained on all your products and offerings. This sounds basic, but it isn't so easy in today's environment. Most companies have dramatically cut back onformal training programs that for many years were a staple in business. This is not true in every business, however. If you read Fortune magazine's (January 23, 2007) list of the 100 best companies to work for in 2006, you would see that many companies offer 40-plus hours of training each year. But these are the exceptions and certainly not the norm in today's environment.
You may want to test your team or certify them in each area of your business. But let's face the truth. Learning your products and capabilities is basic in any business, and it takes personal initiative. It's not something you can delegate. It is something you have to want in your belly and something you are willing to go for. The fact that your company does not make training broadly available can't be used as an excuse.
Chase product knowledge because it will pay dividends.
Never Bad-Mouth Competition
Almost every industry today involves multiple competitors, and yours is probably not the exception. Every competitor has some point of differentiation or, stated another way, a reason for being. It's important to know their product line as well as you know yours so that you can effectively sell the benefits that your offering provides in the context of what else is available.
But remember that you never win over a client by trash-talking a competitor. You win contracts by effectively selling your own products and services. And, of course, by selling yourself. Clients almost never buy things from people they don't like. Think about it. When was the last time that you bought something from someone you disliked or who had bad-mouthed someone else? Not anytime recently, I bet.
Professional servicing requires you to always stay on very high ground. You can effectively communicate your advantages to a client without ever belittling a competitor.
Understand Revenue and Profit Targets
Your primary job is for the company you work for. The trick is always in balancing the needs of your employer and the sometimes overwhelming needs of your clients. A critical first step toward that is to be intimately acquainted with the revenue and profit targets you have been assigned by your company.
So many account managers I have encountered have little or no understanding of the financials of the accounts they manage. I hate it when I hear "I'll do everything I can for my client and just see how the numbers turn out." No, no, no. You need to own your numbers and understand every single detail about them.
There is an old saying in many service companies: "Mix matters." You have an obligation to do everything you can to get the numbers to land just where they were set to land by your company. The reason is simple. Each component of your business likely has a different profit contribution, which means that if you are not careful, you might sell lots of low-profit items and reach your volume goals but miss your overall profit goal!
It is important for you to achieve your overall number but equally important that you get there by following your company's expectations. You can do that only if you know your numbers cold.
It has been my observation that most people in the servicing game are more qualitative than quantitative. Translation . . . they go for the softer skills versus math skills . . . which makes sense. But truly good client service folks need to be proficient in both areas. Both the soft skills and the business math skills are easily learned with a bit of effort and some practice.
Don't be embarrassed to ask for help if you are uncomfortable. A few good questions later and you will fully understand your business and financial objectives.
Know Contract Details
One thing I have learned over the years is that clients will always throw a contract in front of you if the terms and conditions of that contract favor them. But if a client wants something and it's not in the contract, there will be no mention of the contract. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
It amazes me how many times people managing a large account fail to fully understand the details of the contract between their company and the client. Carefully reading through the contract only makes good business . . .You Can't Win a Fight with Your Client
& 49 Other Rules for Providing Great Service. Copyright © by Tom Markert. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
Know Your Products 5
Never Bad-Mouth Competition 8
Understand Revenue and Profit Targets 10
Know Contract Details 13
Take Advantage of Being the New Guy 16
Know Your Client's Objectives 18
Read the Annual Report 20
Establish Key Performance Indicators 22
Offer a Total Solution 25
Be a Client Advocate 27
Deliver on Your Promise 29
Build Relationships Everywhere 31
Win Over Frosty 34
Be Switzerland 37
Entertain Clients 39
Work On-Site 41
Go Coach Class 44
Get Invited to Meetings 46
Practice Presentations 48
Call with "No News" 52
Answer Your Phone 54
Give Out Your Phone Number 56
Stick to Your Allotted Time 58
Respect Your Client 60
You Can't Win a Fight with Your Ghent 62
Accept Criticism 64
Speak the Truth 66
Make the Best Out of BadSituations 68
Never Give Up Your Company 70
Don't Embarrass the Client 72
Respect Confidentiality 74
Learn Whom You Can Trust 76
Educate Your Owner 78
Never Say No 81
Find Ways to Make Their Lives Easier 83
Make Recommendations 85
Empower Clients with Self-Sufficiency 87
Do the Unexpected 89
Don't Be Afraid to Sell 90
Learn From Those Who Are Doing It Well 93
Know Other Key Suppliers 95
Get Sticky 97
Collect Advanced Intelligence 99
Ask for Help When You Need It 101
Roll Up Your Sleeves 103
Showcase Success 105
Keep the Internal Team Updated 108
Go Home When the Job Is Done 110
Exude Quiet Confidence 112