Top 10 client relationship-building tips
FRONT RIGHT SEAT
Clients are the lifeline of the Protective Services Industry. Without them there is no work. How you relate to them and how they feel about you and the services you provide will determine how much and how often the work will continue. Your relationship will determine if a client feels that you and your company are a necessity.
Without a solid relationship they will see you from an “as needed” perspective. Whenever you feel ill you call your family doctor. Why, because of the relationship that has been built. Executive Protection can and should be viewed the same way by your clients.
There is a formula that is used by Internet Marketers: T+C=$. That translates to Traffic + Conversion=Money. After understanding this formula, I realized that I personally have been using a version of this formula for years. Time + Conversion = $UCCE$$
Time: Those vital moments that you have in the private space with a client or potential client. You have to make the best and optimize that TIME because it may not ever produce itself again. When you work a detail with or for that client you have to make sure that you and your team put their best foot forward. You want them to see the value and worth that they are investing in.
You want them to translate what it is that you do as a viable entity in their future safety and success. The same goes when you meet with them for the first time to establish that ongoing relationship. You have only ONE time to make a FIRST impression and that time is critical.
Conversion: The moment that you convince the client that they need you as an integral part of their continued success and safety. Conversion normally happens when you least expect it. Many clients reach conversion when they see you operate and not a word has been spoken. Professionalism is a conversion key. Professionalism comes in many ways, far too many to list here but some examples are: being on time, appearance, work ethics, knowledge of and the ability to communicate the C.R.A.F.T.
$UCCESS: The serpent wrapped around the staff is the symbol for money but it should also symbolize $UCCE$$. When you have used TIME wisely that results in CONVERSION, the
$UCCE$$ will follow
- Fully understand the industry: More importantly you should be able to articulate every sector of the craft and how a client can benefit from your expertise and your services. Be ready to defend the craft and differentiate the difference between your services and what they perceive from the media. Many times you will feel like you are on your heels deflecting shots in order to turn the tables around. That’s fine so long as you know that it could happen and you can intelligently deflect the misconceptions of a professional protection specialist.
- Show your worth: In order to show your worth you have to prove that your services are desired. For the most part clients really do not understand what Executive Protection is and what it is NOT. You have to articulate to them that the vast array of services you provide can assist their company. If they think that you are just another security company you have not done your job nor will you convince them that your services are any different or needed.
- Show your value: The services you provide have to be a fair exchange for what you want to be compensated. The days of the bottomless pit of cash ended with the economy tanking. How you price your services is a direct reflection of whether a client will engage in a service agreement with you and even more so how long that agreement will last. Make sure you have an hourly and daily rate-pricing matrix. Whenever possible try to give the client the better option and explain to them that you are giving them a lower price point or lower option. If a customer [client] believes you have given them a reduced option it adds worth and value to your relationship. For instance if you offer your executive protection services at $65 per hour and you also have a $700 daily rate and the client wants to engage in a long-term 24 hour coverage, this is where you show value. You explain to them that if you billed them at $65 per hour each twelve  hour shift would total $780 resulting in $1,560 per day billable to them. Then you tell them that you choose to save them money by billing at the daily rate of $700 per shift which totals $1,400 per day resulting in a saving of $160 per day. That may not seem much, however that is a $57,600 savings for a year of 24/7 coverage.
- Understand the market value of the services you provide: Daily and hourly rates in non- permissive environments are NOT interchangeable in the United States. Let me say it another way, a rate based upon what you read or heard is paid in a non-permissive environment is NOT applicable to any detail in the United States. Working in any high crime city in CONUS does not equate to a non-permissive environment by definition therefore the rates do not apply. It could be a level of risk in this environment in its own way, but it is not the same as working in Afghanistan where the threat is targeted against everyone on the detail. Moreover, a verified threat to a principal does NOT mean that your daily or hourly rate should be higher.
- Establish a good point of contact: The person you protect may not be the person you interact with on a regular basis nor may he/she want to be. If you don’t establish a relationship with someone within the entity who has the ear of the principal you can risk losing the client as a whole. Someone within his or her company has to be the mouth piece or your cheerleader for a continued and sustained relationship.
- Know the difference between a client and a principal: In short, the entity that contracts your services and pays the bill is the client. The principal is the person that receives the actual protection services from you and/or your team. Many times a client will hire you to provide services for a person that is not affiliated directly with their company. An event planner may contract your services to provide protection for a VIP that is attending their event. You will then need to fully obtain the [client] expectations of the service to be performed. Ascertain if the client has communicated their expectations of you with the principal whom you are protecting. This is extremely important because a principal may ask you to perform or do something outside the scope of work you have agreed upon with the client. Example: You have agreed with a XYZ Event planner [client] to provide protection services for Mr. Jones [Principal] from “X” hours to “Y” hours and the detail ends when you take the principal back to his hotel. When you drop him off at the hotel at the end of the night he asks for you to provide more services on the next day. You need to contact the client point of contact immediately to rectify the request. The principal [no contractual relationship] makes a request that the client [contractual agreement] must authorize or deny. If you misplace the principal’s position in your agreement and perform the services, you could wind up not being paid because the client had not preapproved the extra request.
- Understand the client and principal psychology and culture: Clients have a psychology of their own. First rule is that most of them have not gotten where they are if they were not smart. Understand that and respect it. Once you grasp that you can understand how they think and pre-determine your approach in the relationship. For instance: Most corporate clients do NOT like security personnel around them. In fact, the majority of them have security forced upon them due to their key corporate clause in their insurance policy. Knowing this ahead of time allows you to inform your team that spacing is critical whenever possible. Client culture is another critical aspect that is often overlooked. This is not limited to the culture of their origin but also understanding the culture of the client base. Corporate clients and clients from the entertainment industry often have different needs and expectations. If you have primarily worked the corporate and dignitary clients and transition to the entertainment side of the industry you will find that the culture may be un-expectantly different.
- Assign the right specialists for the job: Now that you [the service provider] understand the client psychology and client culture you have to make sure you assign the correct people for the detail. Every highly trained specialist does not equate to being equipped for every client or detail. Some of the best trained operators and specialists do not understand the sensitivities of varying client cultures and psychologies. Placing the wrong people in front of a client or principal can ruin your relationship quickly. This often occurs after you have personally worked for the client and have been with the principal. A natural comfort level is established after regular interaction. There may come a time when you or another detail member cannot personally work the principal and have to find a suitable replacement. You must consider everything that you have developed over time and educate your replacement of the client’s expectations. Failure to do so could be detrimental to your relationship. Remember, your principal/client has been trained and accustomed to a particular way of service that you have delivered and they expect that service each and every time.
- Follow-up your service detail with an email or phone call: I highly recommend that you follow-up each detail with an email or telephone call before you submit an invoice for payment. The follow-up is to see if they were satisfied with the service provided and if there were any comments or criticisms from the principal. This shows you are concerned about your relationship with the client FIRST. They already know that the invoice is coming, but a follow-up showing that you want to make sure they are satisfied goes a very long way.
- Relevancy is the KEY: You always want to make sure that you have your client’s best interest constantly in mind. You should never wait to hear from them if any current event occurs that could affect them or their business. This is a proactive way of sustaining your relationship as well as affirming your worth and value to them. If your client calls you about a trend before you call them, YOU HAVE FAILED THEM. When politicians were getting glitter bombed and flour bombed it was not limited to just candidates running for office. Shortly after it surfaced on the campaign, Kim Kardashian was attacked in the same way. Trends are not limited to one client sector. Attackers often pick up ideas from other attacks.
These are the ten  philosophical approaches that I have used for many years. They are a summation of years of logical conclusions based on concrete principles I believed in when engaging a client. When adhered to and strictly implemented you will find that a client relationship is far greater than jumping from client to the next and waiting on the phone call in between each.
By Eric Konohia
Eric Konohia is the President of BPI Security. For more information visit www.BPISecurity.com