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Checklist for New Clients

The Boy Scouts and I share a common, urgent message that we have been delivering for years: Be Prepared!

We live in a “need it now” culture. Too often, that means not doing the preparatory work needed before you talk with a potential client. “I just don’t have time” is what I hear most often. Which leads to the dreaded “I just went in there and had to wing it.” For your company, a lot of time, effort and resources went into getting you into that room. Winging it just won’t cut it!

If you’ve worked with me, you know that I stress “systematizing the process,” which is about as far from the above scenario as one can get. But I understand that you, like most everyone, are under time pressure to get everything done. So, let me help a bit. Below you will find a checklist. Use this BEFORE the next time you meet with a prospect.

And don’t cheat yourself…go through each point and check it off once you’ve completed it to your satisfaction. What I predict will happen is that you will enter the meeting more confident, with a better understanding of the client so you aren’t asking Client-101-type questions and can really get to their pain points far more quickly.

New Client Pre-Meeting Checklist

Download Your Checklist

Did it help? Let me know how. -SG

Knowing Client’s Business Helps Your Business

screen-shot-steve-video-core-business

It has certainly helped mine!

Several years ago, I was hired by a tutoring company to design their value proposition and work with their executives to demonstrably strengthen their ability to procure business. Through our relationship together we brought to the surface many of their challenges and neutralized them as they manifested.

Last year the CEO of the organization and I were having lunch together and she asked me an intriguing question; “Would you like to know why we hired you to develop our team?” I was taken slightly aback but automatically said, “Yes, I’d enjoy very much knowing why you decided to hire me.”

She said quite matter-of-factly, “It’s because we knew exactly what we were buying when we met with you. You were crystal clear with your recommendations and what our deliverables would be along with how you’d develop our team. With other consultants, I was never quite sure what I was buying or investing in, they didn’t make me feel confident in their solutions.”

Perception Is Important

I’ve thought a lot about her comment and realized I’m very sensitive to how I’m perceived as a consultant. I’ve modeled my consulting behavior closely to my doctor father’s bedside manner. With him, you always knew how the operation would go, what he’d do first, second, third, etc. He would watch his patient understand and essentially “get it;” then he’d proceed.

I asked him once why he was so tenacious with this process and he said, “I want my patients as confident as I am going into this operation. It’s part of their cure.”

The training and executive coaching I do is also based on that mentality. First, I want my clients to be confident in what I do and how I do it. But secondly, though equally as important, I want them to instill their own confidence in their clients so that they can establish a partnership, not just a vendor relationship.

And that all starts with understanding your client’s core business. Here’s why that’s important to me and my business.

 

Where do you see your confidence lacking when working with clients? Is it based on not knowing their business well enough? Let me know with a “reply” below. – SG

 

Change the Conversation

two business men sitting and talkingOn a recent client assignment, I realized my client’s team could greatly increase their resonance with current and prospective clients by changing their conversations with them. Far too often business development consultants and leaders of teams have too many peripheral conversations, not intimate ones. It happens outside of normal business, too.

Here’s an example from my recent visit to the hospital for what turned out to an appendectomy. While I spent a good amount of time under the care of nurses, the doctor was almost a no-show…except the for the surgery of course. His visit was all of two minutes, during which he diagnosed the issue and said I needed surgery. Never saw him again. Imagine if you tried that with your clients! Sure, he discovered what was wrong but, in no way did he establish any kind of rapport or relationship. Now…his resume/experience kind of speaks for itself or he wouldn’t be a doctor. Yours, however, doesn’t. You need to work at it and you can start by changing your conversations.

Peripheral vs. Intimate Conversations

By peripheral I mean being at the edge of something with a client or direct report but NOT actually inside the issue. By intimate I mean being closely acquainted and familiar with the issue along side the client or direct report. I recommended to my client they forge two types of conversations; a discovery conversation then a solution conversation.

Discovery, Then Solution

The discovery conversation must be facilitated in a confident, wise, unflinching manner. This requires homework. It also requires a bit of curious assumption.

Asking questions that begin with “From my research I noticed that XYZ has occurred…how has this affected your business?” illustrate a good level of homework and courage.

You can also drive an intimate conversation with questions such as these:

  • What is mission critical to your business this year?
  • What are the challenges/headwinds that have prevented this from being achieved?
  • What have you and your team committed to this year?
  • What factors make up your top three challenges?
  • What’s the consequence if you’re not able to surmount these issues?
  • What must success look like this year?

Asking these questions requires a sincere desire to be intimate with your client. They also change the conversation by finding your client’s pain and remaining in it to drive the urgency to resolve it.

What kind of conversations are you having with clients? How is it working? Can you see the questions listed here helping? Let me know in the replies below. – SG

The Four Essential Questions to Ask Clients…NOW!

Well, it’s December. Where did the time go? Here in New York City, we went from a two day Fall to what seems like will be a long time Winter! And we will soon enter the days of company and family holiday parties and other distractions. What might get lost is that NOW is the time for you to establish your position with clients for 2015. We’ve got eight days to accomplish this. Come December 16, it will be “Happy Holidays” and “See you next year!”

In other words…too late!

Hear Them Out First

Yes, you need to be prepared to give a thorough synopsis of your business with your clients. You will have the opportunity to tell them how you believe your team did this year and regale them with all that you’ve accomplished on their behalf. But wait! First, you need to hear how THEY think you did and what issues they are anticipating for 2015. To do that, I recommend the following four questions that you ask (and do it soon!).

Four Client Questions to Ask Now!

Asking these four questions before entering 2015 will illustrate your concern for your client’s world next year and your desire to further your partnership with them:

  1. How did 2014 close out for you and your team/organization?
  2. What is mission-critical for you next year?
  3. What challenges will you have to neutralize?
  4. How do you see our relationship growing/expanding?

Genuinely Listen

Ask these questions with optimism, alacrity and curiosity. Be genuine in your listening, which means that you must really be attentive and responsive to what they are saying. Repeat their issues back to them so they know you comprehend what they’ve said. Ask them if you have captured the issues correctly. Don’t be afraid to ask for more explanation or clarification. I have found that simply saying, “Really?’ can lead to an even deeper look by a client at what their future plans entail…which is great for you to know, right?

Remember, no matter what your client expresses, you’ve credentialed yourself by asking these empathetic questions that further establishes your partnership. The “color” you’ll receive is important to think about throughout the holidays to design/plan your response to their core issues.

And did I mention…do it now!! Let me know how it goes.

Seven Steps for Handling Objections

“I object!”

Your clients are probably not that direct with your team. But often, clients will question your recommendations or the direction your team is suggesting. How well do they handle those situations?

Read more

Credentialing Yourself

There are so many places through the course of daily life where we have to prove who we are. Just think of the numerous times you are asked to show your credentials before boarding an airplane. Have you ever considered how much you have to show your business credentials throughout your client/customer work? A very successful client often speaks about this for his team of advisers. Throughout his career he’s honed the skill of credentialing himself.

Let Them Know Who You Are…Again and Again

Showing, even proving, who you are to your client takes the discipline, and humility, to know that it must be done in the first place. My client reasons that if he doesn’t do it… it won’t get done. Credentialing oneself means illustrating through your adviser-like behavior a level of professionalism and focus your competitive set doesn’t present. It means being consummately prepared before a client meting and understanding how to carry yourself inside every meeting at all times.

That’s the “why” of credentialing yourself, the “how” of it requires homework.

The Process of Credentialing

As I often put forth, being prepared before a client meeting is step #1 of the process.

Step #2 is framing questions to a client in such a way that they realize how prepared you have come to the meeting and you have a solid understanding of their issues.

This requires us to have:

  • deep knowledge of their business
  • the desire to capture their precise objective
  • an ability to frame what is at stake for them
  • the expertise to link how their issues affects their organization
  • the skills to craft a solution with a critical path for them to follow

Keeping those skills fresh and present for your clients will keep reminding them of why they engaged you in the first place and that you are developing knowledge specific to their business. Try this process out this month and let me know how it works for you.

Giving Thanks for Clients

This holiday season I will be thanking my clients and followers.  While the time will come to plan for next year, and hopefully grow your business, this is the time to thank those who helped you get to where you are.  It’s important to acknowledge each and every relationship we have in business…or they won’t last.

Acknowledging Clients

When you acknowledge a client, do your best to thank them for their trust and confidence in you and the partnership you’ve forged together. It’s important that they know that you value that partnership. Sometimes a simple “Thank you for working with me this year and I appreciate your trust,” is all they need to hear.  As long as you mean it!

See the Future

Take this opportunity to also recap this year’s milestones and understand the 2014 direction your client must go in. Don’t fix anything just yet. Listen and just understand it. Think about it through the holiday season and then determine the recommendations you’ll present in January.

Every client relationship needs to advance so you are seen as a true steward of their business never their custodian.

Thank You

And speaking of thanks, I thank YOU for reading my blog this year. You may have noticed that I’ve been far more consistent with posts this year. A lot of that is because of the positive feedback I’ve gotten from you. I truly hope you gain value from reading these posts.  I value your opinion so, if there is any way I can improve this blog so that it is even more useful to you, please let me know.

May your family and you enjoy a fantastic Thanksgiving!