Giving someone what they ask for and actually supporting someone in successfully achieving their goals are very different things.
No matter who you are or who you serve, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of delivering what the client says they want rather than collaborating with them to achieve success.
And working in client success for software that serves accountants has given me a great opportunity to really see the tension between these two ideas in action.
Reflecting back on my first couple of months at GoProposal, I often found myself simply giving the client what they wanted:
They wanted to understand how to set up their pricing in GoProposal, so I showed them.
They wanted to see how to send a proposal, so I trained them.
I was servicing their base needs to start using our software without exploring how we could truly make them successful.
I soon came to realize the understanding of the system was the foundation of someone having a successful journey with GoProposal. It was essential to achieving the outcome, but it was not necessarily always going to be the outcome.
And this was the first parallel I saw with the GoProposal members I spoke to and the work I was doing with them.
Often I would work with accountants who were slogging away with 60 hour weeks for their clients, but still so frustrated at the fact their clients didn’t appreciate their efforts or that they weren’t able to get paid enough or have a balanced life.
And it was the same trap I had fallen into during my first months at GoProposal (and we still do from time-to-time today). They were delivering the foundations and removing the barriers to success, but not collaborating with the clients to actually achieve the outcomes they desired.
The issue stems from not knowing. Not knowing if the work we are delivering day-to-day is an essential step of the most important thing: our client's goals.
Over my time at GoProposal learning from both peers in Client Success and from amazing accountants in the industry, there have been 4 stand out factors that ensure we are always focussed on the goals of our clients. These are not just relevant to software companies or accountancy businesses, but any service industry.
To be able to create value in a relationship and collectively achieve our goals, firstly our values must be aligned.
There’s no better place to start with this point than Ray Dalio’s Work Principles.
Principle 4.7 states that:
“If you find you can’t get in sync with someone on shared values you should consider whether this person is worth keeping in your life, a lack of common values will lead to a lot of pain and other harmful consequences.”
GoProposal’s whole offering is built on values that we believe are essential to operating in business.
Every time I’ve worked with a potential client who has opposed these or not seen them as important, I’ve known from the outset that we would not be able to offer the level of success to them that was required for a long-term productive business relationship.
Clearly defining your values and making them known to your clients from the outset can help us avoid the ‘pain’ and ‘harmful consequences’ Ray Dalio refers to.
The second point here is a continuation of the first. Values are massively important, but are just one ingredient for finding the right clients. Another key aspect of this is what Lincoln Murphy refers to as ‘success potential’.
The accounting businesses I have been most in awe of have always nailed this. They know the types and size of businesses they can bring the most success to, they know what software their clients need internally, and they have the courage to say 'no' to the people that they won’t be able to add the most value to.
But when we’re trying to get new business in the door, this is hard to do. Saying no to someone we know we can charge can feel counterproductive. In my experience, it is those that have their own ‘success potential’ process defined that have the framework for providing the most value.
Lincoln Murphy’s article linked above has ‘6 potential outputs’ that are a great place to start if you want to start mapping this out for your own business.
Establishing the true goal as the starting point of the relationship is something I’ve seen our most successful members do extremely well, and it has also proven to be important in our internal process.
Many people seem to understand that knowing what the people you serve are trying to achieve is the only way to add real value and make good money, but have no real process for asking what the client really wants, recording it, and working towards it.
If we can get the clients goals clearly on the table, we can be completely open about our own goal, which, for most, is to make money.
Making the client’s goals central can be scary, because if we come from the angle of ‘the more goals we help you to achieve the more you’re going to pay us’, the goals can feel like an axe hanging over our necks that the client can swing at any point if we do not help them achieve that goal.
This brings us back to the first two points. Aligned values and good success potential will mean we are best positioned to serve the goals of our clients. If we can follow this along with a consultative goal-setting approach, then positioning the relationship in this way can seem much less intimidating.
The final ingredient here can cover so many different ideas when it comes to client success, so I just want to refer to it in the context of understanding our client’s goals.
Many businesses will have regular contact with their clients, but not as many will regularly try to understand how well they are helping the client achieve their goals.Share on TwitterShare on Facebook
I have even seen some businesses operate in a contradictory way when it comes to hearing the voice of the customer. They may have yearly review meetings but charge for the client to speak to them on the phone. In my view, it’s hard to get a true sense of what value we’re adding if we put barriers up to conversations in that way.
I appreciate that sometimes resources can be drained in unproductive ways, which again brings us back to why establishing good fit clients, and being open and honest about how the relationship will work at the start is paramount.
Businesses need to consider how they can maintain regular channels of communication that are specifically designed to understand how ‘successful’ they are helping them be, and that is a mutually beneficial conversation that should not come at a cost.
None of these ideas are particularly new or groundbreaking, but they are foundations to success that I see overlooked every single day, and ones that I am guilty of overlooking myself.
These are not SAAS-specific or even accountancy-specific, any service industry that needs long term relationships with their clients to survive and thrive should consider how they can apply these concepts.
Some service industries have the room to be more complacent than others due to the industry they are in, but ultimately, those that see the greatest long-term success will be those who have their clients’ success at the centre of their value proposition.