It happened again just last week: Someone said that when he recommends FrogDog, he wants me to work with the referral directly.
This is a constant challenge for entrepreneurs and business owners. So many of my friends have lamented the same problem: Incoming clients want to work only with the CEO.
I can see why they feel shunted off to "second best" when they're introduced to their point person--and she's not the CEO. Often, especially with entrepreneurial businesses, the CEO is the most visible figure. Also, in service businesses that cater to other businesses, the CEO is typically highly involved in sales. Mistakenly, people see us as superheroes who can achieve everything that the company we started achieves.
Well heck, that's flattering. Once upon a time, in the early days, I really did have to do it all. Thing is, those bygone days weren't the best for the client. Clients today get much better results and customer service from the company because I'm now fortunate enough to be able to hire people far smarter than I am and far better in their subject areas.
Given that I want clients to be happy, this misconception poses a difficult challenge.
What have I done to redirect the request? I ensure that each of the below conversations happen before the prospect comes on board as a client:
- I emphasize that working with FrogDog means tapping into a skilled team of professionals who collaborate to achieve greater results than any one of us could realize individually.
- I underscore that I strive to bring aboard people far smarter than me in their focus areas. I reemphasize that working with me won't get the client nearly the results it could get from working with a FrogDog team.
- If a client mentions wanting to work directly with me, I point out that FrogDog provides top-level client care and that, given my role, someone other than me will better be able to give it the attention it deserves. I reassure the client that I get regular updates on what the team is doing on its behalf. I'm very much involved.
- Toward the end of the sales process, we bring along one or two of the people assigned to the client company. This reinforces that the new client will not work with me directly--although it will always be able to access me at any time--and increases its comfort with the caliber of professionals handling its needs.
Have you dealt with this challenge? If so, what did you do to alleviate it?