On 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