Effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) requires a “not too tight, not too loose” approach. Customer opinions, of course, are important, but be sure to handle findings with discretion. Discretion, in my CRM context, requires that customer realities (including their opinions) be filed separately and certainly not co-mingled.
Maintaining this discretion can be quite an effort for businesses operating under the radar. Large customers tend to wield their size menacingly, in an intimidating manner, to obtain special treatment or, worse, to monopolize time and attention. Never succomb to such intimidation. If you’ve set expectations properly, then the issue ought not to come up. If you’re selling products, make sure customers understand that your products are never sold exclusively to any one customer unless it’s expressly in your best interest to do so. If you’re selling services, then never commit to work on any one project full time. Maintaining boundaries between opportunities is the only way to go.
Price work correctly to win the right to execute, simultaneously, on several projects. A colleague who brought several start ups to public offerings once educated me that each of his billable days netted 2% of his annual income expectation. Not so far fetched (nor that greedy) when you consider how much marketing time he required to find a customer for his unique consulting work. At least he remained well fed and sheltered from the elements while he spent the better part of a year to get his consulting practice on track.
The most important objective is to maintain as many ongoing engagements as possible to ensure that the loss of no one customer will result in substantial damage to your business. As I’ve mentioned, set customer expectations properly to obtain your objective. Holding the line on pricing while efficiently executing on marketing during non billable time will eventually pay off.
Failing to implement some version of this method can be dangerous and, perhaps catastrophic. What could be worse than to spend 6 months entirely wrapped up in one project only to complete the work with no follow-on project in hand? This condition (ending a project with no short term income opportunity on the horizon) is referred to as being “on the beach” in the Staff Augmentation business. Who’s on the beach? Typically it’s a fish. We all know what happens to a fish that’s left on the beach for too long. Catch my drift?
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved