Your clients may see you as the "go-to" person in your business. However, in order to keep your business robust you need to bring in new clients while making your existing clients more profitable to your business.
One way to ensure business growth is to share your growing workload. Part of the delegation process involves getting your team ready to manage client relationships that were once your responsibility.
You are facing a two-part process. The first involves preparing team members to work with clients directly. How do you get them ready for their new role and how do you know they're ready to take it on? The second part is to introduce the new working relationship to your clients.
PART 1: TEAM PREPARATION
Here are five steps to consider when preparing team members for new client relationship responsibilities.
Step 1: Lay the groundwork
Start preparing them well in advance of the day when you "pass the baton" to them and make them a key client contact. Rather than "throwing them into the deep end" gradually prepare them in occasional client meetings and slowly expand their role in those meetings. Also involve them in more decisions that affect the client.
Step 2: Get client feedback
Closely observe how they interact with the client by watching the client's reaction to them. Ask the client how they feel about including the team member in your meetings and share the client's feedback with the team member. For example, "Terry felt you were a little too talkative. Perhaps you could dial down the conversation level and focus more on her."
Note how the team member responds to your suggestions in an internal meeting. They may be brilliant but if you feel they may challenge your knowledge or methodology in front of a client to gain attention, you need to work with them to help them become more team-oriented or keep them in an internal role.
Step 3: Build up the individual
Your goal is to make the team member the key contact. You need to encourage them and build their confidence while helping them correct any behaviour that may hurt their ability to earn the client's trust.
For example, do they play well with others? If not, this may flag potentially poor behaviour when working with support teams once their profile and self-importance starts to grow.
Step 4: Coaching
In subsequent meetings with the client, check to see that your team member is contributing to the conversation or meeting, gaining more confidence and gradually earning the client's trust. Consider hiring a communications coach to help with areas that need improvement including listening skills, using appropriate body language, meeting and table etiquette, and other tools that are part of Emotional Intelligence.
Step 5: Let go
You will know when you can largely step back and let your team member manage the client relationship when:
- You are confident there is good chemistry between the two parties.
- Your team member has a clear grasp of the client's business/personal goals and is proactively managing the relationship.
- Your input is needed less frequently to make decisions.
- Other team members are working well with the new point person and the client expresses satisfaction with the new working relationship.
PART 2: CLIENT PREPARATION
The second phase of the delegation process is to slowly "wean" your clients off you and get them comfortable working with others within your business. Here are four tips to help move things along:
- Let the client know up front that you are going to gradually involve a colleague in their account management. Provide assurances that you will be overseeing the shift closely to ensure a productive transition.
- Assuming you feel your team member is ready to engage the client socially, arrange for the three of you to have lunch or meet over coffee (at a place other than your office) so the client can get to know the new point person. Steer the conversation to general and personal interests to help build chemistry between the two. Both parties will appreciate the relaxed introduction.
- Gradually reduce your contact with the client but remain available should any glitches arise during the transition.
- Be sure to stay abreast of all decisions affecting the client and the client's business and remain fully accessible to the new point person as your advice will remain invaluable.
Depending on the value of the client relationship, you can modify these steps. Regardless of the revenue at stake, the transition will go more smoothly when you remain fully supportive of both your client and your team member by keeping promises and remaining accessible to both.
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