Do you know how your clients spend their time? You should. That information can help you in numerous ways. First, it will reveal their priorities, and to a large degree, their priorities are yours, too. You want to work on things that are most important to them. And knowing how the client spends her time will sometimes reveal opportunities to cross sell other services your firm offers. A lawyer I know, who was trying to schedule a meeting with a client, learned as a byproduct that the client was planning a trip to Boston. “What takes you to Boston?” asked the lawyer. “We’re thinking of acquiring a firm up there,” responded the client. The Boston office of the lawyer’s firm ended up doing the legal work associated with the purchase. If the lawyer hadn’t been curious about how the client was spending this time, this never would have happened.
Knowing how a client spend her time can also tell you when your priorities are out of sync with hers. A management consultant I once worked with couldn’t understand why a client delayed authorizing a project that would save his company over $40 million. When he finally asked the client what was holding things up, the client replied that he was currently working on two projects that would each save over $100 million. He would get to the consultant’s project once those efforts were completed and he had more time. With this knowledge, the consultant was able to shift his own priorities away from making an immediate sale.
The way a client spends her time has implications for how she interacts with us. A client who spends ten percent of her time meeting with service providers to keep abreast of what is going on in the marketplace will respond differently to your calls and requests for meetings from one who rarely does so. One who spends all his time in internal meetings will want to interact with you quite differently from one who prepares legal documents, crunches numbers, writes reports or creates drawings under deadlines.
Knowing how a client spends leisure time can also be helpful. An accountant learned that an executive he wanted to do business with teed up at the golf course at the same time every Saturday morning with three friends. The accountant, a member of the same golf club, took to hanging around the first tee at the right hour on Saturdays. Sure enough, one Saturday one of the foursome failed to show, and the executive and his friends invited the accountant to join them. The executive ultimately became a client.
So how do your clients spend their time? If you don’t know, you had better find out.