Full Sail Partners Blog

Enhancing the Client Experience - Tough Questions You May Want to Ask Sooner than Later

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, May 02, 2018 @ 03:45 PM

Ask the Tough Questions Your clients need you to be successful. Think about it – would the alternative be a great experience for them? Relationships in the professional services industry are interesting animals that need specific care and feeding to fully develop. It’s not easy, and I certainly don’t claim to have it all figured out. However, you can be certain that your client relationships are getting stronger when asking hard questions doesn’t seem so nerve-racking. So, when the relationship IS there, you can ask almost anything. Here are a few questions that come to mind – and please paraphrase if using them in client discussions.

Are you REALLY ready to commit funding for professional help?

Mama always said, “Don’t talk about your money,” and per Kenny Rogers, “You never count your money while you’re sittin’ at the table.” While money is a very sensitive topic, we know from economics class, that business transactions involve the exchange of goods or services for compensation. Without the compensation part, it’s no longer a business transaction. In that context, we must recognize both the sensitivity AND the importance of money in our client relationships. We can treat it carefully, but we certainly can’t shove it under a mattress. Sorry, Mama.

Some potential clients truly aren’t ready to pay for your help. And that’s OK! Regardless of the reason, you can still give those prospects a wonderful experience. Getting to know your firm and helping them understand the value you bring with your paid expertise offers the chance to keep in touch for future initiatives/challenges/projects.

When the timing and value equation IS a match, keeping your client projects and relationships in good financial health is imperative for all parties involved. The client has expectations about your service delivery and outcomes, and your firm has expectations about meeting its cost obligations and returns on the owners’ equity. Getting that value equation right will reward your clients AND your firm.

How can we best serve you in conjunction with your internal resources?

Part of the mystique of developing business in professional services is finding the right match between the client’s ongoing business challenges and “how much” of your expertise to throw at them. We’ve all been in those situations where the outcome felt like we did too little/too much. Most professionals in their area of practice, of course, are pretty good at assessing whether clients have [no/some/significant] internal expertise of their own. Whatever the case, we can’t just assume no expertise, or worse, stop the pursuit because they seem to have more experts than we do.

Figuring out where and how your firm’s knowledge and capabilities fit in is crucial! You’ll find the need to address this balance in all kinds of professional disciplines – the built environment, accounting, legal, information technology, and many more. One example might be when your client must manage the replacement of a key employee whose role is involved in your area of expertise.

Your engagement with this client might be more focused and short-term, but if you are able to strategically line up a handful of clients who consider you “first call” for that situation, the experience can be very rewarding. Some clients choose to not maintain a certain expertise on payroll. The outside professional may desire an expanding scope, but he or she should still proceed cautiously to make sure there is clarity with the client’s reasoning and expectations of our delivery. As you’ve heard many times, seek to understand before needing to be understood.

What outcomes from our work would cause you to laud us among your closest peers?

This question is more common, and maybe even more uncomfortable, but very important. The professional’s best client development tools are the references, referrals, and introductions from other extremely satisfied clients. While it’s helpful to promote the “50 times we’ve done that before on other projects,” it’s preferable to have a solid group of existing clients who will happily describe HOW you did it for them.

Having cheerleaders for your awesomeness are indispensable. Yet, professionals often struggle with the challenging work of developing a process to nurture, catalogue and leverage them. Starting with the important questions will help. Remember, your clients are also motivated to see successful outcomes from your work together.

Ask, Ask Away

You can probably come up with other important questions that you wish had been asked earlier in certain client relationships. Like with most skills, practice makes perfect. Think of several of your best existing clients and seek their input on how to address the tough topics in new relationships. They’ll likely be honored to help, and you’ll be making that relationship even stronger.

Conferences and Events

Topics: Client Relationships

How to Know if Your Email Marketing is Successful

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 @ 05:59 PM

Email Marketing Image.png

You’ve just spent hours creating a clever email with an enticing subject line to send your clients and prospects. As you prepare to push the button to send this email, you hope for a positive outcome of your campaign. Over the next 24 to 72 hours, you will log into your email marketing platform, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp, to check the performance of this email. But, which numbers really determine the success of an email marketing campaign? Let’s take a look.

Open Rate

The open rate is simple to understand but quite important. This is the percentage of the recipients that opened the email. Knowing how many people opened your email is significant because it will show you if your subject line drew enough attention to make opening it worth their time. Of course, the higher the open rate, the better.

Click-through Rate

Here’s probably the most important metric that allows you to know how successful your email marketing campaign has been. The click-through rate lets you know who actually read your email and took action by clicking on the included link. Seeing who clicked on the email allows you to know who’s interested in your content. This tells you who to target in the next stage of your marketing campaign. In other words, the more click- throughs, the more potential leads that have moved further into your marketing funnel.  

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate tells you how many of the intended recipients did not receive the email at all. There are two types of bounces, a soft bounce and a hard bounce. A soft bounce happens when the recipient’s mailbox is full, the server is down, or the email is too large for the inbox. On the other hand, a hard bounce means the message is permanently rejected because the email address is invalid or doesn’t exist. Obviously, the more bounces, the less potential for exposure to the email content.    

Unsubscribes

Like click-through rates, unsubscribes allow you to assess the quality of your content. If a person signs up to receive your emails and newsletters but unsubscribes, it is usually because the content is not what they expected. So, unsubscribes can show you how many recipients have determined that the content is not valuable or interesting.

Spam Reports

While unsubscribes are bad, being reported as spam is worse. This usually happens for one of two reasons. Either you send emails to people that never signed up to receive them or you send emails to people with irrelevant content. Email marketing platforms can and will suspend accounts that have a high spam rate. Therefore, not spamming is a priority in your email marketing campaign.

Refining Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Using A/B testing is a great way to improve your email marketing campaigns. This is a controlled experiment that compares two versions of the same content to determine which messaging improves your email marketing success rates. There can be a variation of the subject lines, the messaging in the email and the verbiage used in the call-to-action. Remember, in the end, the main goal is to get your email marketing campaign through to its intended audience and have it be well received. How you accomplish this is up to you.

  Battle for the Inbox: Power of Email Marketing for Professional Services Firms

Topics: Client Relationships, Building Business, Marketing

No More Excuses – iAccess, You Access, We ALL Access

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

Business Development Now that I have your attention, I must admit I totally hijacked that title from my good friend and fellow Full Sailor Rana Blair. In January, she presented a webinar on using Deltek Vision’s iAccess features to enhance the project management function of your firm. It was such a big hit, that we decided to continue the conversation in February. We’ll shift the focus to iAccess’ capabilities for enhancing client/contact management, tracking your pipeline of new work, and preparing for Vision’s future.

I’m convinced Rana was right. We’re at a point where there truly are NO MORE EXCUSES. Now is the time for all good client-facing associates in professional services firms to have immediate access to critical client information. If you don’t, no big deal, your competition will figure it out for you.

Commit to Using Deltek Vision as Your Corporate Contact Manager

It still boggles my mind how many Deltek Vision users don’t do this, sometimes even with the CRM module in place. One of my favorite parts of the module is the remote access to Vision CRM through iAccess. You can roll out access to critical client and contact information to anyone with a license and a data connection. While we typically refer to the CRM module as more of a marketing and BD toolset, contact information is used across the entire firm.

While iAccess screens possess many of the same fields and functions as the traditional “smart client” for Vision, you can easily arrange for custom tabs and fields to appear as well. None of this works, of course, unless you’ve done a decent job at migrating existing critical data and launched a good process for capturing additional information as it comes into your firm.

Gain Clear Insight into the Next 6 to 12 Months of New Work

Pipelines do not have to be complicated, but at a minimum, they should allow your firm to pull from existing client information and maintain a weighted list of future revenue estimates. The basic information required to do this (client, name of pursuit, estimated revenue, start date, and finish date) is typically best-known by the individuals closest to the client. iAccess can assist you by minimizing the distance between those individuals and the fields where you house the information.

If you’re already well-versed at managing Opportunities in Vision, consider iAccess as a tool in your bag to help key rainmakers maintain and update information they typically receive first. Dictating updated information about an opportunity directly into a Vision record using your iPad isn’t all that far-fetched anymore. It can also be used for basic reporting to help the same people avoid stepping on each other’s toes with large clients. Distributed pipeline information in iAccess, built on Vision’s core foundation of clients and contacts, could give your business development team a great boost.

The Future of Deltek Vision Looks Like iAccess

If you’ve not heard of Deltek for Professional Services (DPS), the “reimagined” next iteration of the Vision platform, now’s the time to start thinking about when and how your transition will take place. While thinking ahead with your software vendor’s developing capabilities in mind is always a good idea, this transition is particularly important for Vision users. Many key characteristics of DPS are already present in Vision’s iAccess screens. With iAccess in Vision 7.6, you can start getting users comfortable with the browser-neutral and device-agnostic features that will eventually be pervasive throughout the DPS platform.

Not Quite Convinced Yet About iAccess?

Feeling a little uncomfortable with all this new stuff in the Deltek environment? Join me for some more discussion on iAccess and we’ll do our best to help you get there. We believe taking advantage of these capabilities will help you get the most value from your system and allow you to enhance your clients’ experiences with your firm!

iAccess for Deltek   

Topics: Client Relationships, Building Business, Marketing, Deltek Vision

Build Business With Email Marketing

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Wed, Feb 07, 2018 @ 11:45 AM

Email Marketing Ironically enough, despite the advances of 21st century technology, everyone is now busier than ever, and time is a precious commodity. It used to be commonplace to reach out to prospects and clients by phone, but these days it is time consuming and often an annoyance to the people you are contacting. So, what’s a more efficient way to share information on a regular basis with your clients and prospects? There is social media, but it warrants its own blog, and direct mail is slightly archaic. Email marketing, however, is an ideal way to capture your audience’s attention and build more business. Here are some ways your firm can use email marketing to build business.

Newsletters

Whether monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, an email newsletter to your clients and prospects greatly benefits your marketing plan. For starters, you likely create informative material for your target audience such as blogs, webinars and whitepapers. This information is only helpful if people actually see it, so a regular email newsletter provides the perfect avenue to share your content with your target audience.

But wait, there’s more! Newsletters can also contain pertinent announcements like industry events and conferences your firm is attending or the hiring of new employees because of increased service offerings. Marketing via an emailed newsletter to your audience is a fantastic way to draw attention to your firm and build business.

Generate Brand Awareness With a Soft Touch

Building business requires building brand awareness. Email marketing allows firms to reach out to their clients and prospects in less intrusive ways than making a call or stopping in at the office. One way to look at email marketing is to consider it a soft touch technique to connect with your audience. 

There are endless opportunities that allow you to reach out to your clients and prospects via email. It’s a simple method to stay “top of mind” with your audience. Receiving something of interest this way will resonate well with your audience, and when a need comes up, your brand will be remembered.

General Promotion

Email marketing can also be used for general promotion. In this area, there are unlimited emails you can send. Is your firm attending an industry event? Is your firm hosting a webinar? Let your clients and prospects know with an email.

Your firm is already investing in attending an event or creating an informative webinar, so why not make sure you get the most out of it? With email marketing, your firm can promote these events to generate more participation which will increase the overall return on investment. Additionally, from the email marketing promotion of webinars or events, more business can ultimately be gained.

Be Smart With Your Email Marketing

As with phone calls and stopping by offices, emails can become an annoyance to your audience if not used wisely. You should consider some things before you start emailing away. First, you should segment the list of people that receive emails based on role in the firm. Next, you should use an email automation system, like Constant Contact or MailChimp, that allows you to track the performance of your email. You can see who opens your email, what they click on, and who unsubscribes. So, now that you have the basics for email marketing, start using it to build business for your firm.

Email marketing, battle for the inbox  

Topics: Client Relationships, Building Business, Marketing

Winning on All Fronts –Successful Team Management with Deltek

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

Team of Professionals The long-term success of a sports team cannot be determined by looking at just one factor. For a sports team to truly excel, it must triumph on many fronts. From scouting the best talent to strategizing offensive and defensive plays for cohesive team execution, the team manager must create a winning formula that, when utilized, brings continuous success for the team. This is also true for professional services firms, and finding the right formula for your team can become less of a guessing game with the tools available from Deltek. Let’s see how Deltek can help your firm knock it out of the park.

Winning the War for Talent

We all know that finding and attracting the best players for your team is a time-consuming process. Even more, tracking their training and development can be laborious. With Deltek Talent, however, professional services firms can easily overcome these challenges.

Deltek Talent provides a complete view of the entire human capital management process. From recruiting new talent to career development and employee performance management, Deltek Talent is a unified talent management solution designed to help your firm recruit and retain top talent. Using this Deltek tool, your team will be a group of all-stars.

Winning Repeat and New Business

Taking advantage of every opportunity and identifying every weakness in your opponent is how to win a game, and the same can be said for acquiring business in the professional services industry. Using Deltek CRM, your firm will gain visibility into the entire business development process, from prospect to opportunity to gaining the new business. Most importantly, presenting your winning solution in a compelling way to your key contacts is vital to setting your firm apart from the competition.

With Deltek CRM, you can access the actual past performance of similar projects you’re bidding on with the data stored within Deltek Vision and Deltek for Professional Services. This feature easily allows you to create proposals based on actual firm performance, and they are quick to produce with the proposal automation capabilities of Deltek CRM. Now, that’s a game changer.

Winning with Project Delivery

To build your game plan, you must first know who is available to play or whose injury would prevent the best performance. The same goes for project management in a professional services firm. Using Deltek Vision and Deltek for Professional Services, your firm will have the resource planning capabilities needed to ensure staff utilization is being maximized so that you are never blindsided in your projects. Even more, instant access to project metrics and performance data helps guarantee projects will stay on track.

Win with Deltek

In Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis, there is a Pete Palmer quote, “Managers tend to pick a strategy that is the least likely to fail, rather than to pick a strategy that is most efficient. The pain of looking bad is worse than the gain of making the best move.” Fortunately, professional services firms don’t need to play this guessing game when using Deltek tools. Let Deltek help your team find the right formula to win on all fronts. Wouldn’t you like to have the upper hand?

 Reach Full Sail!

Topics: Client Relationships, Building Business, Professional Services

We Love Client Feedback!

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, May 31, 2017 @ 03:54 PM

VC4CFT There is no shortage of ways for professional services firms to solicit and capture client feedback. Some firms structure their initiative as a once-a-year check-in with repeat clients while others hire outside consultants to conduct third-party client satisfaction interviews. In a previous posting, we reviewed why you might want to start a feedback program. Now let’s discuss specific tools that will help with starting one.

The feedback approach we like to use at Full Sail Partners includes:

  • Several “milestone events” throughout the course of complex projects
  • Billing thresholds for clients using a la carte services

By identifying this schedule of feedback events in advance, our clients know what to expect of the process and can effectively participate. We manage our program with The Client Feedback Tool from Client Savvy (CFT).

Surely our Existing Data is Worth Something 

When we first started our program, we strategically knew that:

  • We would need to scale the volume of feedback without a proportional increase in the program’s administration time
  • In Deltek Vision, we already had a system housing key data needed for the program – contact and company names, email addresses, project records, and various other meta data
  • Both Deltek Vision and Client Feedback Tool were designed with available API interfaces 

Enter the Blackbox Vision Connector for Client Feedback Tool (VC4CFT) – a pre-built integration between Deltek Vision and CFT. This solution allows us to leverage the existing information in our database, improve consistency across the two platforms and decrease the amount of time needed to manage our routine client feedback program. 

How Does it Work? 

If you’re familiar with how Vision functions, you already know that all operational activity in the system is oriented around projects. Whether you’re completing a schematic design or purchasing paperclips, your work will eventually hit a project in Vision. Managing feedback is setup the same way and all information needed for the process of requesting client feedback is gathered in a project record. While this is typically a “Regular” project, if we’re seeking general feedback from a cross-section of our client base, we just gather those contacts together in an appropriate general project in Vision, either by creating it for that purpose or using one that already exists. 

VC4CFT allows our project managers to send feedback requests in one of two ways:

  1. Anytime desired directly from the Project record in Vision
  2. As part of the batching function that seeks out eligible projects based on pre-determined rules

For example, during our implementation projects, we first like asking for feedback after we’re about 30% complete. The Connector’s workflows know to look for projects that have recently crossed that milestone based on financial records. Usually about once per month, we have the Connector lookup all the projects that apply under all the rules we’ve put in place. With quick input from the project managers, we’re able to assemble a list of surveys that can all go out at once, driven from a single point of administration. 

Hmm…How Interesting! 

As our clients provide feedback (and we thank you for it!), general information about the feedback history is returned to Vision through the Blackbox Connector. Whether looking at aggregate response rates or figuring out why that one person always opens our requests but doesn’t complete the survey (you know who you are), the most important objective is to enhance the client experience. The combination of Deltek Vision, the Client Feedback Tool and the Blackbox Connector allows us to further leverage our core client information, turn feedback strategies into scalable routine processes, and most importantly, improve the experiences our clients have while working with us.

Blackbox Connector for CFT and Vision Webinar

Topics: Project Management, Client Relationships, Deltek Vision

Why Your Firm Needs Proposal Automation

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

Proposal AutomationMany professional services organizations are under the false impression that proposal automation is not worth the investment. While copying and pasting previous Request for Proposal (RFP) submissions may seem expedient, it is not really the case as firms must tailor them to the unique needs of each new proposal. Let’s review a few reasons why proposal automation will benefit your firm if it is incorporated into the bidding process.

Firms Shouldn’t Depend on Previous RFP Content

Relying on past proposals as your content library is a bad move. Far too often, though, professional services firms fall into the trap of utilizing past RFPs in this way. There are a litany of reasons to avoid copying and pasting past proposal content:

  • A higher rate of human error
  • Past content typically contains other companies branding and imagery
  • A generic approach leads to a generic response
  • Lack of focus on the needs of the individual client

Proposal automation will eliminate human error. It will also create a consistent proposal format that contains details suited for each individual client and ensures proper branding.

Accurate Technical and Background Answers Are Necessary

Proposal teams can expect a list of common questions during the RFP process. RFP questionnaires typically contain background questions (founding date, partnerships, administrative information) and technical questions (performance KPIs, background details, etc.) As a result, copying previous proposals can lead to submitting inaccurate information.

With proposal automation, your firm can make sure that these frequently used answers are accurately reflected and are available for quick reference in your proposal content library.

Review Your Content!

Content reviews are an essential element in differentiating winners from losers. Your firm’s content library needs to be continually refined. Each piece of content should be relevant and error free. Additionally, your proposal team must be notified of pertinent changes so outdated content doesn’t spread into future proposals.

Using proposal automation, common content can be managed in a central location. Whoever is managing the content can ensure that the proposal team has only the most up to date information.

It should be evident now why proposal automation is worth the investment. Check out how Deltek Vision firms are implementing proposal automation to win more projects! 

 Streamline Proposals with Deltek Vision

Topics: Client Relationships, Building Business

Facts about Client Data Integrity

Posted by Ryan Felkel on Wed, Jul 06, 2016 @ 03:59 PM

Garbage in, garbage out! Believe it or not, this is a real term in the field of computer science and it has an acronym, GIGO. More importantly, this theory can be applied to the data integrity in a client relationship management (CRM) software. Marketing decisions are only as good as the data used to make them. If the data in a CRM are incomplete and erroneous, developing strategic decisions becomes nearly impossible. In other words, it’s like throwing ideas at a wall and waiting to see what sticks. According to data experts, many businesses are struggling to maintain a CRM database with consistent and usable information about their clients. Look below to see what these experts have to say about client data integrity.

CRM Data Integrity

Topics: Client Relationships, Building Business, CRM

Client Connections - Create Unique Client Experiences

Posted by Jeff Robers on Thu, May 19, 2016 @ 01:00 PM

Is your business focused around your clients? While some readers may be quick to answer ‘yes’, and others quick to answer ‘no’, the truth likely remains somewhere in-between. Foster more meaningful client connections by understanding client expectations or concerns. Watch the video below to see how your firm can create a unique client experience to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Topics: Client Relationships

Are You Using Feedback to Create a Unique Client Experience?

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @ 11:17 AM

client-experience.pngWe all regularly receive requests for feedback. I think I received at least 10 emails last week that were seeking my participation in a survey, most of which were post-transaction requests. For example, I received surveys after purchasing a sandwich, changing the oil in my car, and getting my hair cut. While I don’t really mind feedback requests from these businesses I use regularly, I’m just not very motivated to do surveys AFTER the transaction. The sandwich was either good or bad; the oil change was either efficient or not (preferably WiFi was provided in the waiting area). There’s very little any of these businesses can do to change my client experience after it’s over. 

Delivering professional services is a different kind of “transaction.” The client experience plays out over the period of time in which we are engaged with them as service providers. From the very first phone calls and kick-off meetings, our clients are experiencing what we have to offer – below, at or above their expectations. For those of us in project management roles with direct client interaction, it behooves us to keep tabs on their perceptions, especially the up or down changes as our work progresses so that we can make adjustments quickly and effectively. 

Quantitative tools are helpful, and can help pinpoint our focus on the movement of the client’s perceptions and our subsequent responses, rather than the particular “score” itself. In this context, ask yourself whether you really know whether your services are providing less than, exactly, or much more than what was expected. 

Managing a Portfolio of Client Feedback

Managing a strategic client feedback program in professional services can get pretty intense. Keeping up with many concurrent projects, all the related people who experience your firm’s work, and the needed follow-up can be daunting without some organizational tools. You should save as much time and energy as possible for feedback analysis and follow-up. Find ways to streamline the administrative part of requesting feedback. One tactic is to use as much of your existing data as possible – you have mounds of existing contact, project, and employee data that should be used to help simplify the mechanics of the program. 

A well-designed feedback program will also leverage the nuances of each major type of project you deliver. Engagements that are 100% complete in two days will obviously have different feedback patterns, or “configurations,” than will those which last three years. Look across the landscape of your projects and mentally divide them into piles. Make a separate pile for each group of projects that could use a consistent schedule of feedback events. These events might be major project milestones, billing percentages, or simply a request frequency that makes sense, like every 90 days. Organizing your program in a way that minimizes the administrative burden of getting feedback requests out the door will go a long way. Even with a response rate of 50%, you have to send 2 to get 1 back, so get busy! 

Understand Expectations to Create a Better Client Experience

You had no idea how [great/awful] your client’s perceptions are of your firm’s work. The client, up until now, had been so [negative/positive] in their interactions with your team. The important next step is to engage with your client in an appreciative way to gain clarity on their [rising/falling] perceptions. The information you gather should help you consider adjustments that will more closely align your service delivery with the client’s expectations. 

Adjustments to align with client expectations can move in either direction. Getting direct client feedback in an organized program can help project managers carry out their primary responsibilities more effectively – if you make follow-up a priority. Sometimes a less-than-stellar piece of feedback can turn out to be a simple misunderstanding – dealing with it quickly can have much more influence on the client’s perceptions than the issue itself. Conversely, when the scores are skyrocketing and the clients are saying, “Wow, you gave us so much more than what we were expecting,” it might be time to go back and review your original scope of work. Either situation can help project managers become more effective at delivering 

Feedback is About Client Experiences / Expectations. Not about YOU! 

Professional services firms who deliver great client experiences are adept at using feedback in a regular recurring fashion. The after-the-fact “How Great Are We?” isn’t sufficient anymore. Taking a strategic approach to systematically tracking the movement of your clients’ perceptions, and diligently responding to make adjustments, will keep you in the loop for good! 

So, what’s the most efficient way to gather client feedback? How often do you gather feedback? Most importantly, don’t forget the all-important final question: What do you do when you get their feedback? Check out this whitepaper for answers to these questions and more.

client feedback

Topics: Client Relationships