Winning clients over - A Quick Guide
Today, I am writing about a topic that is close to my heart. Winning with clients and building strong relationships. This is one of those topics where we come across more fluff than real advice. Advice that is actionable and can be put into use often is rare and hence the post.
A lot of content and advice I see about winning with clients tend to be about research, follow-up, etc. but there are time-tested methods that go much deeper and focus on things that truly matter. Let us look at what those are.
1. See their Human Side
No matter how high or low a person is within an organization, they are all human. The most important thing to do is see the human being in your client. In the beginning, many people may seem that they are all about transactional and professional stuff. However, one of the key things to understand is that clients are humans too and more often than not, their human side is ignored. Their needs emotions, motivations, ambitions, etc. are never enquired, let alone understood. Seeing clients as humans with their own unique set of needs, emotions and ambitions create a powerful connection. They will realize that you care about them and not just you.
2. Reflect their personality
This may perhaps be one of the best-kept secrets about relationship building. Since we grow up with 2 parents who have different styles and siblings, friends, and classmates, we will have dominant traits that will shape us. A child who grows up in a home with relationship turmoil might develop maturity early on and become an amiable personality. On the contrary, a child that grows up in a home with stable relationships might grow up to be an expressive personality.
Human beings like to hang out and be with people who are like them. This manifests in myriad ways and even in small things such as people that work for us and people we work with. A sense of instant understanding can develop if you can understand and reflect their personality. If you are someone with the same traits, it comes easily. If you're someone with a different personality, you should put in the time to understand their personality type.
You can make out a client's personality even in the small things that they say. For instance, a client that says "I am ready to get started" might be the Dominant kind. A client who says I need more information might be the Analytical type who has to dot the i's and cross the t's before saying yes. Whatever their type, you'll have greater success if you can understand and reflect back.
The 4 Types of Personalities
The beauty of this is that a lot of things can be asked and understood. Clients have a variety of traits: communication styles, writing styles, belief systems, and a whole world of expectations. For instance, one client may require constant communication of progress and another client may require no communication till it's done. One is likely the system type and the other the steady type. Knowing what type they are will help you immensely
3. Help them win
An extension of seeing the human side of a client is to understand that they have motivations, needs, and emotions. Too often, what you are doing for them is perhaps part of a large project or goal that they are trying to accomplish. Sometimes, it may even be tangential to what they are trying to accomplish. Common motivations include showing his or her boss that they can get things done or find great people or execute with less hassle.
The key thing is to find out what may be driving them and their motivation. Too many failed relationships with clients are a result of not seeing the larger picture of what the client is up against. Understanding the larger picture will not only endear you but develop a strong bond with the client.
In the book The Hard Things About Hard Things, well-known founder Ben Horowitz narrates the story of a client manager who was out to get his company for poor software (Opsware). The client manager was constantly ignored by his prior employers and feels that his current employer was going down the same path. His recommendations for a particular software go unheeded. Ben Horowitz's team finds out that this is making the client miserable. Despite his company's product having no relevance with the other software, Ben acquires the other company and includes the other software for free. This helps his client win at his company and in the process, Ben's company comes out a winner. In the long run, that acquisition turns out to be an acquisition that adds 100s of millions $ of value to his company although not intended at the time.
4. Make them part of your World
True relationships are the bedrock of great businesses and professionals. Networking is one thing but making them a part of your world is a totally different thing. Making them part of your world means you include them in some of your activities. It could be something as simple as a lunch that you take them to, getting to meet your family, or even making them part of a professional group that you are a part of.
When you share a part of your world with your client, they will feel special. When I won a large contract about a decade ago, my client took me out to dinner with his girlfriend that he was seeing at that time. Today, she is his wife but back then, none of us knew they were going to get married. He found it important that I should be introduced to someone that was special to him. To this day, although we have not done business in a while, it is a strong relationship. That one relationship alone had led to 10X business eventually.
5. Do something special for them
Have you ever had a client who did not ask you a single question about your price or what you delivered? You both hit it off from the time you both started interacting and started doing business with each other. But have you done something special for them yet?
Derek Sivers, An internet entrepreneur who started the company CD Baby used to send out a flowery email about a CD baby shipment. They used to send out a standard - Your Shipment is on its way - email when a customer's CD was shipped. It occurred to him one day that people loved hearing about their stuff being shipped and he decided that it would become special. The shipment email was eventually worded to include all kinds of flowery language. Even today, this is held out as a phenomenal move and talked about as an example of amazing marketing practice. A simple google search returns about 159 Million results on this.
CD Baby's Shipping email to buyers
When was the last time you did something special for a client?
Keeping it all together by staying relevant and in touch
A friend of mine once told me that he collects interesting people. The first time he said that I felt weird. It felt like a game. Eventually, when I met some of his friends, I realized that his friends were amazing and interesting. From painters to artists to athletes to wine sommeliers, he truly has an eclectic circle of friends. What's more, he brings them all together to an annual event that has now become so big that it attracts people outside of his circle and puts the event on the world map. He keeps in touch, goes out of this way to bring them all together once a year, and makes it fun.
The fine art of relationships is to keep in touch, stay relevant and have fun. When you do this consistently, relationships only get stronger! Now that you know what it takes to win with clients and build strong relationships, go ace it.