Whether you are in sales, service or an executive role, clients are the lifeblood of your business. To keep them happy and to keep yourself top of mind, you need to maintain access to them – especially face to face. Each meeting you must deliver your crazy-nuts-busy clients a high level of return on attention, otherwise you’ll be relegated to “just email me” or quick phone calls.
Trust me: Clients do not want you to ‘check in with them’ or catch them up on ‘recent developments.’ They want to receive value from you in exchange for their precious time and attention. In some cases, they just want to be heard and in others, they want to take an intellectual leap forward.
I’ve studied client loyalty deeply over the last few years, with an emphasis on what it takes to emerge as an essential partner to clients and a must-have meeting on their schedule. To become essential, you need to be a Sounding Board, a Fountain of Knowledge and a Connector of Dots.
Here’s how to accomplish the first two transformations:
Prepare Provocative Questions
Asking ‘how’s it going’ or ‘what have you been up to’ will not open the door for clients to open up to you, revealing their true situation, feelings about it and unmet needs. You need to invest time preparing questions that position a fact with a query in such a way, that clients are motivated to dig deep and truly share with you. For example, a financial advisor might create a question that couches a risk scenario (recession) with a client’s personal strategy for dealing with it. The idea is to ask a question that pushes a button with the client and then asks for a specific answer about his or her response to it.
Encourage Story Sharing
In many cases, clients share headlines and summaries to us as opposed to full blown stories. Sometimes they just want to get down to business with you and talk price or status, in others, they are guarded about opening up too much to you. As your clients answer your provocative question, when a story is offered up in short format, employ the magic words ‘tell me more’ or ‘that’s fascinating, go on’ to get to the rest of the story. Don’t cut off the story by jumping to the topic of you, your company or your products. Provide micro affirmations such as a nod or a grunt until the client moves into deep story telling. Why is this so important? As I learned from reading the book Ask More: The Power of Questions to Unlock Doors and Uncover Solutions I realized that in many situations, as we share stories with others and then relate our feelings about them to our discussion at hand, I come realizations about my attitudes, beliefs and strategies that have a profound impact on my perspective. In some cases, my story sharing has helped me resolve an internal conflict. As one psychologist pointed out: “People forget most of what you tell them, but they remember everything they said!”
Deliver a Game Changing Insight
Dr. Stephen Covey Sr. often counseled, “seek first to understand, then to be understood” when dealing with others. That’s why I save this point for last. If you’ve asked the right questions and given your client a chance to be fully heard, you’ve earned the floor and will have his or her full attention. Approach each meeting with a fact-based actionable insight you can deliver in the last 25% of your meeting. This insight needs to be fresh to the client, and if possible, surprising. For example, a mortgage professional can summarize rising interest rates to a client along with the fact that many potential buyers are going to wait until later to buy as a result, and that this approach is not the way to go. Here’s the insight: “If the price of the home goes up faster than the rate increases, you’ll end up paying more later for the same home – if it’s still available to you at the time!” In this example, you’ve successfully tackled a potential objection, but at the same time, educated a client in a way he or she can tell forward.
For more on how you can make the Leap to Essential Partner watch:
Bring Tim to speak at your next company, association or client event about how client loyalty and growing your business. Visit this page https://timsanders.com/keynote-booking/ to talk to his manager and receive a free copy of one of his books!