Managing key clients

Whilst this is not a new book (it was published in 2006), I thought it was worth including as a review as it is one of the few books on key account management that focuses on the professional services sector. Managing key clients is also produced by the PACE partnership and many firms will be familiar with its sales training covered in earlier books (i.e. “Creating new clients” and “Growing your client base”).

The book takes a pragmatic approach to key client management. In response to “How many key clients?” – it offers the Pareto rule that 80% of the income is derived from 20% of the client base. There are some ideas about choosing your key clients although other authors have provided much more detail on this. However, I like that the authors suggest you talk to the key clients about this process during client review meetings.

There’s a section on minimum standards and understanding client expectations (referring back to the authors’ earlier work about how clients perceive your credibility, competence and compatibility). Differentiation is touched on. It’s odd that in a book for PSFs the example that is used is ICI Colours though. 


The section on marketing to clients has a good quote from David Maister “Clients measure the effectiveness of any professional services marketing by the level of value they obtain from it. A successful marketing tool will give something to the client”.

And the marketing focus is firmly on the promotional and communications element. There’s a helpful breakdown of logical/rational needs, emotional wants and trust (see

Pigeon holing as a barrier to cross-selling is addressed. The authors remind readers of the nearness to client pyramid (corporate marketing, capability marketing and contact marketing). The age of the book means that digital isn’t addressed but there’s a still relevant example of how to make seminars more effective. 


“Too many professionals do not know the business objectives of the clients with whom they work. They do not understand the chosen strategies of their clients. Even if the strategies were explained to them they would not understand the context of these strategies because they do not understand the dynamics of the sector in which the client works”. So the authors point to a lack of general commercial knowledge and client insight to the frequent failure to identify opportunities and poor sales attempts in the professions.

There follows a section on new product development (which might fit more naturally under the marketing section). There’s a reminder of the PACES model of selling (Position ourselves, Ascertain requirements, Confirm our understanding,, Explain a way forward, Seek commitment).

There’s an interesting analysis of various conversations trying to promote HR consultancy. And there’s good material on qualifying opportunities and the opportunity management process.


The silo syndrome is explored with the solution being client and team orientation. And the authors pose a great question “Why is it that firms talk of collective ownership but reward on personal performance?”. It then explores wrong and right techniques for cross-selling (see also


There’s a simplistic approach with SMART goals and an action list which takes a rather inward, short-term view of key client planning as opposed to long term partnership development. There’s later detailed material on client profiling (base, thinking and our information) and research work which really should be at the start of the process. I seem to have missed the section on profitability analysis too.

However, I really did like the section on the Relationship Protection Index (RPI) and the detailed advice on how to construct and use one. The Relationship Analysis Model (RAM) – with its friends, allies, no man’s land, protestors and enemies – is a pre-cursor to modern relationship mapping. Surprisingly, there’s little attention on the Decision Making Unit (DMU – see But SWOT analysis is covered

Using supporting technology

Considering the age of the book it’s not surprising that this section is out of date although there’s useful information for analysing what data you have and need and its application. The database software functionality comparison still holds some value too. The whole GDPR issue isn’t covered obviously.

There’s a nice sentiment about marketing in sales support roles “Skills can be developed through training, but we believe that in future the marketing department should be providing the knowledge bullets for the professionals to fire”.

Issues for the firm

There’s material on creating and operating successful client teams. The AID (Action, Information, Discussion) approach to meetings is explored. And there’s a good checklist of help and hinder behaviours for team work.

The authors also suggest using De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to prompt discussion. Then management vs leadership is explored (see

Values and characteristics

This section – drawing heavily on Porras and Collin’s Bellwether publication “Built to last” – is about embedding client relationship management and key client management behaviours into the firm’s culture. There are hints at how to discover the values and characteristics of the firm.

My conclusion

I like the book. There’s a lot of good, sound, practical advice. And it’s an excellent introduction. But those in larger and more sophisticated professional service firms would be advised to tackle some of the other books below that take a more detailed approach – albeit not from the perspective of professional services.

Contents of Managing key clients (securing the future of the professional services firm)

Section 1: Setting the scene

  • Finding the motivation
  • Clients, key clients and crown jewels

Section 2: Developing the relationships

  • Setting and meeting client expectations
  • Marketing to clients
  • Selling to clients
  • Cross-selling to clients

Section 3: Key client planning

  • Forming the plan
  • Using supporting technology

Section 4: Issues for the firm

  • Managing key client relationships
  • Values and characteristics in key client management

Appendix: Key client management health check analysis

Other books on key account management: (June 2015) (June 2013) (January 2015)

Other books on selling: (August 2013) (March 2017) (December 2018) (December 2012) (March 2012) (December 2013) (May 2017) (July 2018)

Other blog posts on KAM: (February 2016) (December 2017) (August 2018) (June 2017) (August 2016) (December 2013) (October 2015) (August 2013) (July 2010) (August 2006)