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A partner at a professional services firm discusses transitioning his key accounts with a younger male and female employee to retire as part of strategic account management.

The Advantages of Strategic Account Management in Succession Planning

Succession planning is a proactive strategy that professional services firms can take to future-proof their organizations for the long-term. But there are many factors that organizations must consider when developing a succession plan, including their business structure, existing client and partner relationships, and projected growth.

Incorporating strategic account management into this process is essential. Without a full picture of their firm-wide dynamics, professional services organizations risk creating a strategy that has the potential to cause friction, damage key client relationships, and negatively affect revenue.

To inform their succession strategies, there are a number of tools that firms can leverage, with some of the most useful ones being client data and relationship intelligence technology. Utilizing these resources helps contribute to organizations’ strategic account management, which is essential for the succession planning process

Below, we recap on our recent Succession Planning Webinar and newly released guide, “Navigating Succession: Steering Your Firm Toward Strategic Continuity,” to explore how leveraging relationship intelligence and data-driven client insights can help firms ensure their succession plans are agile, innovative, and resilient.

Cultivating a forward-thinking succession mindset

One of the most important parts of developing a succession strategy and maintaining strategic account management is ensuring that your organization is proactive in its approach. This means documenting the work of their associates, nurturing the development of their best-performing advisors, facilitating processes that allow for effective knowledge transfer, and planning ahead for potential unforeseen scenarios. When firms proactively plan for the future, they help to mitigate any potential client and personnel risks that come with leadership and staff transitions. Being proactive and fostering a forward-looking organizational mindset also helps firms with contingency planning if their succession strategy experiences implementation challenges.

To ensure strategic account management and successfully plan for the future, professional services firms should prioritize the client experience at every stage of the process. It’s not enough to speak with key advisors a few times to understand the health of client relationships. Firms should be constantly communicating with clients and leveraging objective relationship insights so their succession plans are iron-clad roadmaps for the future.

Succession in client leadership roles should be driven largely by what the client wants and is comfortable with. Having a formal feedback process in place, which continually gathers information on the client’s satisfaction with the performance of the personnel on the client service team after every significant piece of work undertaken for the client, is crucial in making this assessment. Most firms do not have this in place, but implementing such a feedback mechanism ensures that clients feel heard and valued. This proactive approach not only helps in selecting suitable successors but also in maintaining and strengthening client relationships during transitions.

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Ben Hymans, Head of Operations, Platform and Analytics Global Client Care at CBRE speaks to Introhive’s Legal Industry Director about CBRE’s approach to key account management as part of succession planning.
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For more from Ben Hymans Head of Operations, Platform and Analytics Global Client Care at CBRE, as well as insights from Gary Shamis, CEO of Winding River Consulting and Kevin Wheeler, Principal at Wheeler Associates, watch the full Succession Planning Webinar.

Using technology to build a leadership talent pool

A crucial step in developing a robust succession plan is establishing a talent pool that firms can draw from when key personnel leave the organization. One way to simplify and streamline this process is by leveraging client relationship technology to determine your highest earning advisors, who each of your associates are connected to externally, the strengths of those relationships, and any gaps in service delivery.

By understanding the full picture of their advisors’ performance, professional services firms can more effectively select suitable successors for their talent pool and position themselves for strategic account management. For example, a firm may utilize client insights to analyze which junior and mid-level associates its top clients are connected to. By understanding these connections and these associates’ performance, organizations can encourage continuous engagement between clients and certain more junior or mid-level advisors. Facilitating multiple connections and touchpoints across a reduces the risk for client attrition when key advisors retire, resign, or get laid off.

Fostering professional and leadership development

After professional services firms have selected advisors for their talent pools, it’s important to invest in professional development to ensure their success as future leaders. While this can be done through leadership training and educational events, other development avenues are essential. 

A Harvard Business Review article says firms can prepare potential successors by exposing them to a variety of managers and job positions through role rotation, bespoke assignments that require critical leadership thinking, and ‘action learning.’ The latter requires potential successors to collaborate to address a pressing topic in the market. When junior and mid-level advisors are properly trained, they’re better equipped to assume leadership roles when it comes time to implement a firm’s succession strategy.

Nurturing future activators

Encouraging activators as part of talent pipeline development is crucial for professional services firms aiming to cultivate future leaders who can drive growth and innovation. While investing in leadership training and educational events is essential, fostering activator behaviors among junior and mid-level advisors is equally important. By encouraging these individuals to proactively build and nurture client relationships, seek out new business opportunities, and collaborate across teams, firms can ensure a steady pipeline of leaders who are adept at driving sustained growth and success. 

Activators are not only skilled at balancing billing with business development but also excel at networking, relationship-building, and identifying opportunities for value creation. By prioritizing the development of activator behaviors, organizations can cultivate a culture of proactive leadership and position themselves for long-term success in a competitive landscape. 

The importance of leveraging data for strategic account management

Once firms have selected and developed their talent pools, it’s important to leverage client data and insights for strategic account management. Client intelligence technology provides timely and objective insights of a firm’s connections, helping identify the quantity and quality of their relationships, their most lucrative accounts, and where attrition risks and cross-selling opportunities lie.

By proactively managing key accounts and addressing client needs, professional services firms ensure they’re continuously prioritizing the client experience, helping to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction. This is essential when it comes to ensuring the successful execution of an organization’s succession strategy.

Mitigating client risk and contingency planning

By using client relationship data and insights to inform the development of a succession plan, organizations can objectively assess the health and potential trajectory of their firm-wide relationships. Understanding the full picture of firms’ client connections is essential because it helps stay on top of client needs and preemptively address any attrition risks and concerns related to staffing transitions.

Moreover, relationship intelligence technology and data can also be leveraged for contingency planning if a succession strategy does not play out as expected. For example, firms can continuously look at relationship data to monitor how clients are responding to a succession plan. The results of this data can then help firms create back-up succession plans if necessary.

Next steps

Introhive’s relationship intelligence platform empowers professional services firms to create robust, client-centric succession strategies. Our software helps your firm identify its key rainmakers, most lucrative  accounts, and where client risks or opportunities lie so you can plan for the future and risk-proof your organization. Request a demo to learn more.

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