When retaining an assignment can be a portent of eventual failure

It’s the end of the year and our company is renewing our relationships with clients for the coming year. As we do this, I realize that one of the most worrisome things for me to hear from an account manager is, “Things are really great. The client has signed up for all the same programs in the coming year as they had last year.”

Lambs to the slaughterAt first blush, this may sound like success, like a strong and healthy client relationship that has been extended for another year. But, when I hear this, the question I ask myself is, “Why are we dong the same thing as we did last year? Can’t we improve on last year’s program? Did we learn from last year and increase our knowledge, skills and value?”

And that’s the problem. If we retain clients to repeat programs, that’s a warning that we may not be advancing our own skills and knowledge or bringing the most creative, effective approach to our client’s challenges. And if that’s the case, it’s just a matter of time until the client starts to feel that our relationship is growing stale and begins to contemplate looking for fresh advice.

How do you keep relationships fresh and build on your past successes to do new and innovative things? Do you have practices, disciplines or exercises that you use to help you do this?