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Five Reasons You Need a Client Council

I just finished up a few days with the HTG Advisory Council. The council is made up key leaders from the HTG community. eFolder is privileged to be the sole vendor sponsor on the council. The group advises the leadership and staff of HTG on the current state of the program and on its future direction. On a personal and professional level, it is also very rewarding to rub elbows with such a smart group of people. The council members have great passion for the mission of HTG and no one in the group is shy about sharing their point of view.

My few days with the HTG Advisory Council reminded me of the importance of eFolder’s own effort in this area, the eFolder Partner Council. One of eFolder’s key values is continuous innovation. The insights eFolder gains from our own council fuels innovation, positively impacting partners and customers every day.

Do you have client council? Here are five reasons to start one:

1.    You will enjoy listening

Let’s face it: we spend too much time talking. Too much time selling. And too much time coaching clients on what to do. We need to take a break. All companies and leaders need to carve out time to just sit and listen. As they say, God gave us two ears and one mouth. It is about time we start using both of them at once, with the brain engaged in between. A client council will give you and your team focused time to sit and listen to your clients about where they are struggling, where you can improve, and how you can help improve things. A client council makes “listening time” official.

2.    You will learn where you are unique

Your client council volunteers will be your biggest fans. People’s most precious commodity is their time. If you can gather six to twelve business leaders to give of their free time to share their thoughts with you, they will invariably be your most loyal clients. This sort of client will have tremendous insights into why they chose you, why they stick with you, and what makes your firm and service truly unique. The insights will often come serendipitously and in surprising twists and turns. But trust me, you will gain true insights into the unique value your business is delivering.

3.    You will also discover where you can improve

Don’t worry, you won’t only get positive feedback. A great client council will also hold you and your leadership team accountable for continuous improvement. There is nowhere to hide. Things that are broken must be fixed. Lapses in service and quality must be discussed. Your client council will constructively help identify the most pressing areas in need of improvement. A well run council will foster open dialogue and the candid discussion of problems. You will be so thankful to have clients who speak up.

4.    You will form deeper relationships

Building solid business relationships takes time. A client council will provide lots of opportunities for breaking bread together, sharing drinks, and learning about each other on a personal level. This is the stuff of life on which business relationships are built. It takes judgement to figure how much time you can command with your council. At eFolder, we meet every other month on the phone for an hour. And once a year, we go somewhere nice together for two full days of meetings. No matter how you structure your engagements, be sure to have plenty of social and networking time when people can unwind and enjoy each other’s company. Make it fun and special and really spare no expense; your investment in a nice hotel venue or dining locale pales in comparison to the time your council members have invested.

5.    Who you going to call?

If you cultivate your client council, there will be many opportunities down the road for special engagements or advice. Perhaps you are courting an outside investor? Maybe you are considering acquiring your crosstown rival? Maybe you have run into a crisis and need advice. All of these are opportunities for additional advice from your client council. Whether you are faced with big opportunities or a serious crisis, the advice of your paying clients is priceless.

My last piece of advice is: don’t overthink this sort of thing. The journey is as important as the ultimate destination. Spending time with clients in a focused way is an act of leadership and one of the smartest moves you can make as a business owner.

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