The Importance of Referrals
Buyers of professional services often receive referrals from third parties; these can be from similar organisations known to the buyer or through a third party such as a bank. So it is important for professional services firms to have good relationships with potential referral groups. These can also include the firm's alumni.
How International Clients Buy Professional Services
Many internationally based Clients have sophisticated procurement policies and need suppliers that are able to match their global presence. For example, a global corporation based in New York may have satellite offices and operations in most major cities around the world. The corporation has decided to minimise the number of suppliers used globally and has therefore sought firms that can deliver a consistency of service wherever they do business. Suppliers will be expected to understand cross-border transactions, governance, cultural and jurisdictional differences, and logistics.
It is not unusual for international Clients to establish preferred supplier agreements that span the countries or jurisdictions where they have a presence. The decision-making unit in such Clients is clearly complex and consequently it may take many months, or even years, to become a preferred supplier. Firms that can match the geographical footprint of their Clients' operations are in a strong position to provide a seamless service. However, any firm operating internationally must have in place policies, procedures and systems that can interact with the Client to ensure quality and consistency of service delivery everywhere. Managing international firms and their Client relationships provides additional challenges, requiring attention to detail and sensitivity regarding country differences and cultures. This set of capabilities is discussed in the next chapter along with organising to manage international Clients.
Knowledge of Buying Processes and Structures is Vital to Win New Business
Buyers has shown that as Clients become more demanding it is vital that the firm understands more than just the Client's requirements - they need to know how the Client selects suppliers, how they choose between them, what motivates them and who has power and influence over the buying decision. Talented people attract buyers, so it is important for firms to nurture this relatively scarce resource and expose them to prospective Clients. Enlightened firms have become smarter in their understanding of how Clients buy and DMU analysis; this makes the winning of new business easier. Organising to serve international Clients is becoming more important as buying decisions are affected by global forces.
How Clients Buy Professional Services
CLIENT MANAGEMENT REVIEW QUESTIONS
To what extent:
1. Does your firm explore and record each Client's buying process?
2. Do you explore and record each Client's buying motivations?
3. Is DMU analysis used to determine buying influences?
4. Do you classify buyers with the BACPOD (or similar) tool?
5. Do you map contacts in the Client's organisation alongside yours?
6. Do you know how much business comes from referrals?
7. Does your appraisal process rate performance with Clients?
8. Do you discuss Clients' buying habits and trends?
9. Does your firm develop its employees' competences related to Clients?
10. Does your firm regularly benchmark itself against its competitors?
These questions also form the basis of the Buyers section of the Client Management Profile™, which can be found in Chapter 15.
Client Management Model™