If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard an AE firm tell a prospective client that they will “exceed your expectations” I’d be lying on a beach in Margaritaville.
It’s a pretty common phrase and, on the surface, it makes sense. “Not only will we do what you expect, we’ll go above and beyond and startle you with the quality of our work and service.”
Nice sentiment, but there’s a flaw in the argument: How can you exceed my expectations if you haven’t found out what they are? And, while we’re at it, exactly when and how do you determine that you’ve exceeded them and by how much? Because clients hear the phrase so often, and since no one ever inquires or follows up, they’ve come to see it for the trite drivel it is.
The idea of seeking out regular, reliable and candid feedback from clients is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. It feels great to get the “attaboys” and the glowing testimonials when things go well, but what kind of feedback do you want or get when you screw up?How often do you actively seek your clients’ opinions about what you do well and what you do poorly? More importantly, what do you do with those opinions when they’re given?
The first lesson in looking for client feedback is a word of caution. Regardless of how you learn what clients think, once they’ve shared their thoughts they fully expect you're going to do something about it. If you’re not prepared to make real changes based on the feedback you receive, don’t ask for it. Soliciting opinions and then doing nothing is far worse than failing to ask in the first place. If they had some concerns before, they’re downright pissed now.
What’s the best way to get honest and straightforward opinions? First, you should make it a regular habit to simply ask your clients for their candid views. No formal focus group session, just a quick question at the end of any (or every!) meeting.
- How have we been doing lately?
- Is there anything you'd like to see us improve?
- How are we measuring up against (your competitor’s name here) this year?
There’s also real value in regularly asking clients for formal feedback. There are a variety of methods including one-on-one interviews, written or online surveys and focus groups. Each one has its advantages and drawbacks and I encourage you to experiment with different methods in order to find what works for both you and your clients.
“We’ll exceed your expectations” is a cornball statement that fools no one… unless you can back it up by describing your program to determine, measure and track client expectations and your action plan to respond to them. Set your firm apart by telling your client how you use a formal onboarding process to identify and quantify their expectations from which you establish goals and procedures to go beyond them by a measurable ten percent. Then, throughout the project, you’ll take regular measurements of your performance against those expectations to precisely determine the healthy margin by which you’ve exceeded them.
Now that’s impressive!
Only 1 PM in 20 knows how to negotiate
Less than 5% of AE leaders and project managers have had any kind of formal training in negotiating. That’s 1 in 20!
Based on the informal polls I’ve taken in countless seminars across the country, this terrifying statistic tells me that there are millions of dollars in lost fees, scope creep and aging receivables left on the negotiating table every day.
These are your dollars. You earn them. You ought to keep them. And the fastest way to keep those dollars in your pocket is by becoming a skilled negotiator.
Next Thursday, in my Win! Win! webcast, I’m going to teach you and your project leaders how to prepare for a negotiation, how to ensure both parties get what they need and how to successfully stand up for what’s rightfully yours.