When it comes to firm growth, you shouldn’t discount opportunities you can find in your own client list. If you don’t have a system for identifying them, there’s no better time to start. For our AAM High! Webinar, we sat down with Becca Johns, Director of Practice Growth with Rea & Associates, to go through their process and creation of Client Opportunity Plans, or COPs. The goal is to help you see results from dipping into your current client pool. (Members can click here to access the recording. Learn more about AAM High! webinars.)
What is a Client Opportunity Plan?
A Client Opportunity Plan, or COP, is designed to help you identify new opportunities within your current client base. Start by prioritizing the top clients. Perhaps this is anyone who gets billed $10k or more. Set a threshold and evaluate any clients that meet or exceed the threshold. The goal with a COP is to strengthen client relationships and identify risks and opportunities with current clients. There are three parts to a COP – the client meeting, the internal meeting, and the CRM form.
The Client Meeting
The first meeting should be with the relationship partner and the client. In this meeting, you can discuss expectations and needs. The meeting should help you evaluate how you are doing with the client. In terms of frequency, you can plan to have the meetings once a year, as well as quarterly touches in a more informal manner. Any other key contacts that should be present outside of the relationship partner can also be included in this meeting.
During the client meeting, you want to learn more about the client’s goals, challenges, and expectations to better identify what role you can play in solving problems. The goal of the client meeting is not to sell services. Instead, you should be in the room just to listen. Some high-level questions you can ask may include:
- What is your succession plan?
- What struggles are you currently facing?
- How can we do better?
- What would cause you to leave our firm for someone else?
- What areas of the business are most concerning?
- Are we meeting your expectations for our relationship?
Any questions that may help you get to the root of the problems, needs, or possible next steps for your client can be asked. After the meeting, take time to update your CRM and identify which key members need to be involved in the internal follow-up.
The Internal Meeting
After the relationship manager has met with the client, they should meet with the client service team and firm specialists internally. During this meeting, go over what you have uncovered. What does the client need, how can you deliver that service, and where can you provide additional services?
Plan to meet to discuss each client who will receive a COP twice per year. Include the relationship partner, other staff members who work with the client, any specialists who may need to get involved, and other partners or staff members who may help broaden the scope of insight. One week before each internal meeting, set the expectation for which clients will be covered. The external meeting and a report from that meeting should be completed before they are discussed internally.
The internal meeting is your chance to summarize what happened, brainstorm what problems can be solved, and use the CRM to capture and assign action items for the team. This meeting should build on the information gathered from the external session, not be a time to add basic information to your client data base.
CRM Form and Sample COP
An important, but oftentimes forgotten, step is to have a form where you can document all of your findings and next steps. While an Excel form is an OK place to start, you’ll want to eventually move things over to a customer relationship management platform, or CRM. Some basic categories you might want to fill out may include:
- The most recent internal/external meetings
- Date when COP was last modified
- Action plan what you’re going to do, who is responsible, and when
- Advisory team (anyone who is a center of influence to the client
- Team members
- Recent opportunities
The confidence level should be on a scale (1-10, for example) of how confident you feel in the client relationship. This could be based on a gut feeling, survey results, or ideally, both.
Create a scorecard for your clients, using letter grades and a scale of 1-100 and weight the following:
- Confidence level from above
- Treatment of internal team members
- How timely the client is
- Amount billed
- Days to pay
- Number of services you provide the client
- Industry alignment to firm expertise
- Billing realization
- Hourly billed rate
These are ideas, but whatever metrics are important to you should be included and factored into grading. Using a spreadsheet or a CRM with scoring capabilities, use this assessment to give your client a letter grade.
What are the top issues for you client? What are your firms’ strengths and differentiators in relation to these issues, business goals, and weaknesses? You could design this as a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) in relation to the client.
Which traditional services and additional offerings does your client use? You could use the following for categories:
- Existing service
- Not applicable
- Not discussed
- Other provider
Marketing’s Role in a Client Opportunity Plan
When creating a client opportunity plan, you should have one person dedicated to the plan to help keep momentum going and grow new business faster. However, that doesn’t necessarily have to be marketing’s role. The COP champion should ideally be someone who has a relationship with the client.
Where marketing can play a role is by putting the power in the specialists’ hands. Help build a report of opportunities for their service. Marketing may be able to facilitate meetings, create a standard agenda, or create a meeting format, but the leadership of the meetings should go to the COP champions. Marketing staff can also develop nurture campaigns that pre-qualify and gauge interest in services that you may want to bring up during the COP meeting.
How to Ensure COP Success at Your Firm
If you want to make sure client opportunity plans happen, you need to set the standard and ask for accountability. COP meetings can be tied to compensation, and the tone should be set from the top down. Create a report based on COP meetings that include the following metrics for visibility and accountability:
- Number of plans completed
- Top clients without a COP
- Neglected COPs
- COPs added or updated during the month
- COPs without opportunities
The more you report and set expectations, the better results you’ll see. Remember, consistency is key. Meet at regular intervals during the year, keep in mind the cyclical nature of business, and set teams up for success.
About Sammi Dittloff
Sammi Dittloff is the Marketing Director at Chortek LLP. Prior to Chortek LLP, Sammi spent time working in large and small agency settings, and academia.