Many people today take some timeout with their spouse over a bottle of red or even a weekend away to constructively discuss how their relationship is going and how to keep improving it. It's a chance to reflect on the luvvy duvvy bits as well as those endearing behaviours such as 'talking during the football' and 'leaving your undies on the floor'.
At the start of a new financial year, there is also an opportunity to do this with our executive clients (minus the undies bit). Most importantly, it should be without the attendant agenda of 'can we sell you more stuff' and instead be an honest assessment of how you're both faring in this business relationship.
Here's a sample format of a discussion/presentation. You decide if you need the bottle of wine to go with it.
1. Client Update. Share your knowledge of what is going on in the client's company and industry including public information, analyst findings and things you've heard about from employees and managers. Remind them how much you understand them.
2. Your Company Update. Keep it brief, but bring the client up-to-date on any relevant developments at your organisation - new, strategic changes that might affect the client, a new approach to customer service, relevant R&D work and so on. Don't assume they get it because you sent a newsletter via email last month announcing Mr Nakadoodo is now head of operations.
3. Activity Review. This is a quick review of activities and projects on which you and the client have worked since your last update. Address successes, challenges and the value your client has seen as a result of your work. Include both anecdotal and quantified evidence of this value.
4. Challenges. Honestly discuss issues you might generally avoid. For example: 'We noticed you've been asking for more discounts in the last quarter as well as fast turnaround - what's causing this?'
5. Disneyland Opportunities. In our personal relationship we may have discussions around how we can plan and get excited about taking the kids to Disneyland. Lay out Disneyland opportunities you've found to help the client be successful. These opportunities can emerge from the more public information you've outlined in your 'client update', or from gaps you've observed and heard about from employees within the client.
6. Group Hug - Sing Kumbaya Together (actually, a quiet drink will suffice). The key to this relationship review is removing a 'sales' agenda and being honest as equals should be in a relationship. It also keeps your customer from committing adultery with that conniving vendor down the road.