Client engagement is a funny thing. It doesn’t directly bring in any money, but if your clients don’t feel well treated and start thinking of moving you can find yourself competing with other recruiters on a daily basis. Spend too much time on client engagement though, and you take time away from the activities that directly make you money. So how do you calculate the right amount of time to spend engaging with clients, and how do you know which clients you should be spending that time with?
Engagement needs to result in value
In a previous blog we discussed the correct way to measure the value of a relationship, and that’s going to be crucial when determining how much time you can afford to spend on a client. Hopefully you’ve used that formula to determine which clients to prioritise, and identified who you need to start engaging with more to ensure the best ROI. Next you need to identify how much time you should be spending to keep them engaged and working with you. Consider what you’re doing with that time as well. While wining and dining a client may make it feel like you’re taking positive steps, you may actually be digging yourself a hole in terms of future business. You want the client to think of you as someone who will help them build their company and find great talent, not take them to restaurants and be their best friend. When deciding how you want to engage with a client, always ask yourself ‘how will this help us both to progress and move forward?’ If you can’t justify it in those terms, find another method.
How do I know when a client is engaged?
When a client values a recruiter, the most obvious sign of that is they give them time. This could mean meetings, drinks, or phone calls, but whatever form it comes in, you need time to develop a relationship. The length of time that is afforded to you by the client speaks volumes; are they rushing you in and out of the office? Are they taking a long lunch with you? If you have a high-value client who doesn’t seem interested in spending more than five minutes on the phone with you, alarm bells should be ringing. Step up your game and make sure you’re doing the right things to keep them invested, but also make sure that they’re giving you an equal amount of time themselves. This comes back to measuring the value of your relationship, you want both parties to be equally invested, or you’ll have problems down the line.
What can I do to engage a client?
Think about who that client most commonly speaks to at your agency. People tend to associate with (and relate to) their peers, so if you have an MD speaking to a junior recruiter, then they’re not going to feel a real connection. MD’s talk about MD stuff, HR people talk to HR people, so use that. Set up some peer-to-peer meetings with crucial clients. Make sure they feel you’re invested, and understand their position. That recruiter may be a good main contact, but set up a monthly meeting with a senior partner to check that everything’s going smoothly. The client will feel much more that they’re being looked after, and – if your recruiter decides to move on, or their relationship turns sour – you’ve established a relationship that reduces the risk of losing their business.
You need to build peer-to-peer relationships that not only promote business in the short run, but remain strong in the long run. The nature of how business works means that you will shift your attention to different clients depending on where the action is at any one time. Yet another reason why you want to develop real connections which survive even as other recruiters start to contact your client in search of new work.
Engagement tips and tricks
- Whenever you have a meeting with a client, do a temperature check afterwards and see how they’re feeling/if there’s any new business coming through. Take note of any positive or negative impacts you think came out as a result of that meeting, and use that information to improve your next meeting.
- If a client mentions a piece of personal information to you, make a note of it. Humans are notoriously forgetful, so remembering something like that, and showing you care goes a long way to forming strong relationships.
- Just because you may not meet someone face to face for a while, doesn’t mean you can’t enter them into a personalised mailing list, or follow them on social media/share their updates online. This makes it much easier to pick up a cold relationship down the line as well.
With a better understanding of who you should be spending time with, and the end results of that investment, you will be better able to manage your time, and the time of your recruiters. Resulting in a much better ROI from your best clients, and allowing you to further identify those clients who are a drain on your resources. So what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and book yourself a productive meeting with your most valuable client now, before someone else does!
Alan is an advisor here at Firefish with experience in both sales and marketing.