There are at least 3 distinct moments in the life of a software services company when it makes sense to look with a critical eye to the list of clients and make some difficult choices.
- When you have to allocate team members to projects (and there are fewer people or skills than you need).
- When you make your annual business plan and budget.
- When you need (or want) to raise the rates for existing clients.
For all these moments, the Clients Matrix tool I wrote about last week can be very useful.
Here is how I would use it.
1. Projects allocation
When you have to assign some people in your team to a new project or you need to decide for which clients to invest more resources (time, effort, cashflow, assume more risks, etc.), it is important to have a high-level picture of how your business is affected by client relationships.
For this end, you can run a monthly discussion with all the delivery managers, project managers, team leads, sales and any other roles in your team who have project responsibility.
The only point of this discussion is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. It can also be an email thread or an asynchronous conversation on Slack, doesn’t need to be a meeting.
What is important is that any new information learned in the past month is incorporated into the client prioritization tool and that there is a clear conclusion and understanding between all team members that need to allocate resources to projects.
2. Yearly strategic planning
This is usually a critical moment that can have a significant impact on the business outcomes for the company in the future.
Any conversation about “the next period”, whether it’s the next month, next quarter or next year needs to start from the customers:
- who are you working with?
- which customers are expected to grow their business, stagnate, decrease or stop?
- what types of new customers are you looking for?
To answer any of these questions, you can use the client prioritization tool to try and have a more objective view of your reality.
You can do this at different levels of granularity, by looking at:
- Customer segments
3. Raising rates for existing customers
If you have decided that you want to try and re-negotiate rates on existing projects, you have to decide:
- for which clients and / or contracts do you want to raise rates
- how much you are going to ask
- in what order you will be approaching your clients
You can either start with your problematic customers.
Or with the ones where you think you have the highest “propensity to accept”.
Or the ones where the negotiation will take the shortest time.
In any scenario, it is useful to have a clear prioritization of your list of clients, to make a conscious decision about the direction that you will take.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
This simple 2-by-2 Clients Matrix can have a big positive impact on the outcomes of your efforts to improve your profits and the margins you are able to generate.