12.22.09 Stay Close in 2010

I want to stress that as you plan for 2010 with so many people distracted by the economy, there is one major action you can undertake that can neutralize this angst.

Visit Your Clients

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Stay in the Pain

In our zeal to partner with clients, it’s easy to fall short by failing to establish the true impact of the challenges a client is facing. The temptation to shy away from a client’s pain points so that you don’t appear to be throwing salt in the wound may actually be your undoing.

I’ve discovered the longer I stay in the client’s pain the better and further I partner with them. Using key probing questions that force the conversation into focusing on real frustrations, I illicit emotion and urgency. Often these questions will take your client off guard but unveil issues for which your clients need an immediate solution.

Here are some I’ve recently used, which I tailored to specific clients to be effective:
· How has the issue of your team not being in one voice affected your business to date?
· What’s been the impact of the blurred message your team is sending out?
· How has this affected your leadership role?
· How have you had to compensate for this message confusion?
· What client issues are you most concerned about immediately?
· What is your plan to resolve these issues?

It’s only natural to worry about maintaining your client relationships this year. However, if I don’t get underneath the periphery of my client’s challenges and ghosts I’m really not evolving my relationship with them, I’m babysitting it.Given our trying times, the Qs above offer a contextual shift in our client relations. We move from expecting the business to auditioning for the business. The value of stay in the pain questions is that you advance your relationship from a platonic one to a passionate one. By passion I mean the creation of an issue/challenge that is urgent to the client, one that you created and one for which you, presumably, have a solution. In sum, study hard before the client meeting; engage your client by asking and resolving stay in the pain questions. It will strengthen your relationship, position you as a true steward of their business and neutralize any indifference they may have had to you or your organization.

All of this is easily said, not easily mastered. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you to hone these skills as you face the challenges this year is sure to bring.