Build client loyalty – Explore don’t label
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” – Plato
Recently I was treated as a label, slotted into a box filled with generalities suited to a comic book figure, not a flesh and blood human being. I felt it happen the moment I walked through the office door of this highly paid professional. On receiving her advice I expressed my belief that it did not suit my situation, but before I could outline what she had missed, she made it clear that she was the expert and knew best. Mmmm.
The response was astonishing though not surprising as I have received similar responses over the years, from men and women both. I expect that each provider truly wanted to help me, but their inability to include me in the process meant that I ignored their advice and did not return.
A disconnect arises when a provider assumes they understand the client’s situation. This is impossible, as any parent, sibling, lover, friend knows. There are always gaps in our understanding about others.
Only the client knows how they want the engineering structure to be used; what they want the contract to achieve; how they want to experience life; or whatever else your service can provide them. Your job is to help your client achieve their objectives given the situation and their restraints. “It is not until your client knows how much you care will they care how much you know” so avoid the temptation to flaunt your knowledge, though share it by all means.
“It is not until your client knows how much you care will they care how much you know” – Author uncertain
When you tap into the knowledge and unique perspective of your client you will deepen your understanding of your craft, gain a loyal client who may grow to trust you enough to be pushed into places they wouldn’t have previously dreamed of, and likely enjoy the meeting a whole lot more. Factors that all contribute to a stronger competitive position for the firm.
Building skill is not hard:
- Set an intention before each meeting to be patient and to pay full attention to every word your client says.
- Stay present. If your mind wanders feel your breath moving through your nose or feel your chest move up and down. Staying present will dampen desire to speed things up, and get you to the heart of the matter more quickly.
- Frame your comment once your client’s stopped talking. As soon as you start thinking about your response you’ve stopped listening. Initially you may have some silent moments, that’s okay. Silence allows your client to reflect on what they have said, and it gives gravitas to the conversation.
- Validate and check. This can be done through a summary, or using a statement like “What you have said seems important. May I just check that I have it right” at which point you outline what you have understood and then ask for confirmation, you may be surprised at how much you have missed.
- Refer to a list of questions if you’re concerned you’ll get off track.
- Allow sufficient between-meeting time to allow for possible over runs, and to review how each meeting went. It is better to be twiddling your thumbs between meetings than to feel time pressured within them. The latter can push you into solutions mode too soon.
- Decide to get better, meeting by meeting. Your after meeting review will include what went well, why, and what needs improvement and why. Develop one habit until it becomes automatic then go onto the next. Don’t rush it. Being patient with yourself will increase your patience and openness with your client.
It’s the watching and waiting and listening and interrogating that increases relationship strength. Without a strong relationship any big change you put to your client, no matter how well explained, will be hard to swallow – to the detriment of both of you.
Make whammo! moments happen
Recently a client commented that he is amazed by the ideas that come from his people. “Two people independently” he said, “rarely produce original work, but get these same two people working together for the same length of time, and whammo! the ideas flourish”. His firm wins an inordinate amount of awards every year. His strategy obviously works.
You too can experience this whammo! moment, that is if you decide to partner rather than patronise your client.
So next time you meet a client, or indeed an employee or a friend, see them as both your teacher and partner in solving their problems. They will have different skills and experiences to you – that goes without saying – but one plus one actually does make three if you keep your mind open.
What do have to lose?
Jennifer assists executives and business owners to achieve goals without delay regardless of whether those goals are increases in profit, productivity, leadership skills or something else.
It is Jennifer’s belief that personal resilience is at the heart of success. Resilience is determined by one’s ability to regulate emotions (Emotional Intelligence), situational factors, and extent of goal alignment. Applying the services of business, executive and life coaching she helps leaders turn their strategies into results.
To find out how she can help you, call +61 439 520 182 or email.