Is Free-Advice Hurting Your Bottom Line?
You may occasionally have clients who call regularly with one-off questions to remove a roadblock or solve an immediate short-term need. For many, as nice as it is to have a client depend on you for advice, doing it regularly with no payoff or chance of additional future work can be disappointing. That disappointment is compounded when you find out that long-term substantive work may even be going to other firms at better rates.
It would be easy to call your client and tell them you want no more save-the-day one-off assignments until you get more long term-business. But this would probably not be very effective and may cause you to lose a client. Keep in mind, receiving such calls is an indication that your clients trust your expertise and is a possible trojan horse for additional engagements.
My advice: if you are tired of getting one-off calls for advice, then quit waiting around for the calls and do something about it.
Follow this plan with your clients who annoy you with one-off calls.
Ask for a meeting.
The stated (and actual) purpose of the meeting is to understand the client’s business better so you can better serve them.
Make sure the right people (general counsel, CFO, CEO, working contacts, etc.) are in the room.
Ask questions to uncover long-term needs and pain the client may be experiencing. Seek out long-term systemic or current critical issues that must be resolved.
As a part of exploring long-term problems, point out how the one-off calls may be an indication of a larger structural problem in the way they assign work. Present the problem in terms of how it is adversely affecting their bottom line, not yours.
After getting a better understanding of current problems or issues, suggest ways you can work with the client in a more regular way to solve problems.
Try to avoid concluding the meeting with “Please contact me next time you have a larger matter we can work on together.” That shifts the burden of finding a matter back to the client and relinquishes your control over the process. Instead, keep a dialogue going to help them identify the right matters for you and your firm.
Waiting around for work makes no sense. Take control of the relationship and explore how you can create more value, solve more problems and increase revenue.