Find Your Client’s Motivation First, Not Yours




Many times, I see people frame their “ask” of clients in this order. Right out of the gate, they speak about a great service or product they’ve come to discuss. They move next to saying that the solution will fix a problem the client has. And lastly, they will relate that solution to something they believe will motivate the client to say, “Yes…I’m in.”

This is all backwards, as a client of mine found out recently.

He asked me for some help in framing an “ask.” He was worried his client would take it as a condemnation of how things were being handle by him, and his team. He knew he had a good solution but, it would involve a new process that dealt with a serious shortcoming. Product….then solution.

The issue here is that you are telling a client they are doing something wrong or, they are wrong for not knowing something could be done better. That’s not a strong motivator for anyone. And there’s the key focus…motivation. That’s really what you are there to do, right? Persuade your audience so that they are motivated to accept your solution?

In business we’re often pressed to produce a result or fix an issue with no time to design our “ask.” Try asking yourself, “What’s the motivator for the person I’m presenting my ask?”
Here’s a hint, 9 out of 10 times their motivator is NOT yours.

By declaring your “ask” too frequently you risk getting the reputation of “its his/her way or the highway/she’s difficult to work with”, or worse “she’s quite selfish”…etc.

Its better to to pause/think and ask yourself, what’s the motivator for my listener?

I did this with my client and he suddenly had a revelation…by instituting the process he was recommending, his client’s head of sales would actually sell more product at the best margin. “That’s how you initiate the conversation,” I said to him. And we crafted his ask by starting with, “I’ve got an idea on how to increase sales with the best margin.” Now they are on the same wavelength.


Try re-ordering your next presentation with motivation as the lead. Let me know how your communication goes!

Before You Call: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

numbers on a gray phoneEmail. Text. Chat. Voicemail. All of these have become common ways in which we communicate with clients and business associates. But what about the big one…the phone call! Lost in our digital age is the importance a phone call can have in determining the future of your business relationships. And yet, many times I’ve witnessed seasoned executives as well as new sales people stumble when faced with talking with their clients.

Three Key Questions Before Calling

Many people have a deep fear of public speaking. So it is no surprise that the phone call, which itself is a mini-form of public speaking, can be intimidating. To help build confidence, I advise that people ask themselves three key questions prior to picking up the phone:

1) How am I memorable?

There must be something that sets your company and its product/service apart from your competition. Do you know what is? And is that based on up-to-date information? What advantages do you bring to the table? This question forces you to uncover the core of who you are and why your offering is worth sharing with your client. Bullet point the key selling points and have them in front of you before calling.

2) Am I prepared?

What will your client, or prospective client, want to know? This requires homework since you will need to know their current challenges. Are you bringing relevant information to them that will help alleviate one or more of those challenges? If not, then why are you taking up their time? You need to be on top of the business landscape in which your client operates. Not doing so relegates this phone call to being just like any other your client has gotten. Remember…you need to be memorable (see above!).

Another thing to consider when preparing is…are you ready to talk with the boss? Various scenarios could unfold that have you speaking to the CEO or another executive in charge. For example, your client contact could answer and, by chance, have the CEO in the room. Is what you have to say today CEO-worthy? It should be and good preparation to that level will pay off regardless.

3) What do I want to happen?

Wow…if you don’t know the answer to this one before picking up the phone, you’re sunk! However, if you know what you want the result of the call to be, then it will be easier for you to make that happen. What goal have you set for the call? Is it consistent with your client’s goals? “I want to tell him about our new product” is not good enough. That’s about you, not them. “I want to solve their inventory management problem with our new product that will save them time and money” is a far better goal, right?

Phone calls have become a bit of a rarity these days. Be different. Call! But be sure you answer these questions first.

How often do you call your clients? Do you find it more, or less, effective than digital communication? Let me know. -SG

Helping Clients Handle the Brexit and Other Dramatic Events 

Union Jack flag wrinkled“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
-Helen Keller

The Brexit for many is a daring event, one rife with stress either real or conjured. Living in a world where the global economy affects so many businesses, right now your clients and business partners may be at a point of panic.  What next? This is your time to demonstrate why they have you as a trusted adviser. Are you going to figure out the answer to the financial crisis? No. But the larger question is how will you allay clients fear, worry and trepidation when these type of events occur. Here are four actions to take right now:

Action #1: Listen

Similar to 9/11 or the 2008 market crash, people will need to vent their Brexit frustrations and fears. Let them. Listen without any bias. Just understand HOW they’re feeling. Don’t fix anything (like we could). The more clients feel you’re there for them the more they will share with you. The more they share their issues with you the clearer of thought they become. Once they’ve turned this corner you can then offer your context to the reactivating event that has rocked them.

Action #2: Over-communicate

Let your clients hear from you…often. Find out what they need. Keep them up to date on your actions. They need to know you are “on it” and that whatever they might be fearing as a result of a major event like the Brexit, you’ve got your stuff covered. That frees them to focus on other areas that are unstable.

Action #3: Be Available

I remember throughout my childhood how available my father was as a surgeon to his patients. Some nights after dinner he’d get dressed and be out the door on his way to a house call. This never went over well with my mother but, throughout the years, it showed me how deeply connected my father was to his patients. Many never forgot my father from his deep empathy and availability. Show that same level of connection with your clients. Answer their calls, respond to emails or texts at any time of day or night (for now…don’t get trapped in that habit). Let them know that you are there for them “in the fox hole” and are operating at the same level of heightened urgency as they are.

Action #4: Understand Their future

Know their future. It’s important to understand the future your clients see. Once they feel you’ve captured their future, they’re then in a position to action the initiatives you recommend to neutralize their upset.

As they say, this too shall pass. For now, you can remain calm and let your clients know that they’ve chosen wisely in you as their partner. They will remember that when they assess how the crisis was handled.

What’s the biggest issue facing your clients as a result of the Brexit? Let us know with a reply below. Thanks! -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

Presentation Tips: Planning, Controlling and Closing

I’ve been coaching executives and sales teams for a while now. And I have found there are three main areas in which people have at least one weakness when it comes to presentations or sales calls. It’s either they aren’t planning their meetings well enough, they lose control of the meeting, or (in some case AND), they avoid closing for fear of “selling” or looking bad.

In this video, I take a look at all three:

If you watched that video and at any point said, “That’s me!”…don’t worry. I get that a lot when I talk about these three areas. Setting an agenda, staying in control of the conversation and then effectively closing are skills that, once developed, can help you produce stronger results. The three combined will help you be heard and create a relationship, which is paramount to gaining and keeping the trust of your clients. What you’ve also illustrated is a good degree of empathy towards your client and confidence to run a productive meeting. They will appreciate that, and you, in the long run.

What area resonates with you the most? Let me know by replying below. Thanks! – SG

Leaders…Think Before You Email

Communication of any type is always open to interpretation. Even face to face conversations are influenced by body language and other factors. Email is perhaps the most prone to misinterpretation as there is no auditory tone nor physical delivery. It’s just text.

So before you fire off an email, especially one that contains potentially tough information, here are four key To-Do’s BEFORE sending to insure that your intent is understood and accepted the way you want it to be:

#1: Know the Climate

You’ve got to know the climate into which you are sending your email. Is it friendly, hostile, or indifferent? And you’ve got to take responsibility for this environment. Ask yourself, if I’m him/her how would I react to this message? What would I intimate from it? Is there a deeper message here? You need to know where your reader is relative to your message. Will they still understand the “you” you want them to understand?

#2: Link Your Purpose to Your Reader’s Purpose

Often what you want and what your reader wants are two different things. By starting out with their purpose, you show your empathy. For example, if you want someone to stop procrastinating with an issue, initiate your message from the value moving it forward will have to them. What this does is it credentials you as an empathetic individual, reminding them that you are there to help achieve THEIR goals.

#3: See Their Reaction Before Their Reaction

You can do this. First, visualize how they’ll read your email, what they’ll think, and how they will react. Then, write it based on this visualization. Once you’re clear on how they will react, make sure they can self-realize your positive intent. If you see too many ways in which the message could be interpreted as counter to your intention, start over!

#4: Tailor Your Next Response

Yes, just like a chess match, know your next three responses from this communication. The more you understand your reader’s world, the easier it is to determine how they will respond. Remember, you are not communicating to yourself; you are communicating to another person with a different agenda than yours. Are you ready for resistance?  What do you believe it will be and what will be your reaction? Conversely, are you ready for acceptance and have your next steps lined up? This level of anticipation will increase your agility, building your reputation as a valued partner.

Try out these tips before your next difficult communique and let me know how it goes. At the very least, you will feel better as you send it, eliminating some of the anxiety that might have accompanied it otherwise!

Five Steps for Improved Client Communication

When most people think about client communication, they picture a presentation with slides, charts, bullet points, etc. However, most people I consult with rarely given a “formal” presentation. Rather, they are called upon to discuss an issue with a client or internal team. But that shouldn’t mean the communication is less important! It still takes preparation and attention to detail.

Whether you are delivering an internal update or an external new business presentation, these five steps will make your communications succeed:

Start with Your Audience’s Objectives

Too often people begin a presentation with background/history versus what their audience desires. Better to state at the start, “As you’ve said, your primary objective is to…”

Two of the most powerful words in persuading are the words ”you said.” It shows you’ve heard your client and realize the importance of their objective. It even helps when a client objects to your recommendation. Answering them with, “I understand your objection but, you said that ___ was important to you. Has something changed?” Now you’re going to get to the bottom of their objection and have new intel to make a revised recommendation!

Pinpoint the Obstacles

Be clear about the obstacles your clients have faced. State what’s prevented them from achieving their objective. This let’s them know you understand their situation and creates urgency to your recommendations. From there, you can collectively arrive at solutions. But you have to know the problem you are solving first, right?

Present an Agenda

Nothing controls a communication more than a clearly distilled agenda. It shows your homework has been done and your ready to edify people of your diligence. It also let’s you know whether you’ve given yourself enough time to achieve your meeting objective. So often, my clients say they run out of time when presenting their recommendations. I’ve found that poor time management begins when you don’t have an agreed upon agenda. Use one to organize your thoughts and ensure that you have plenty of time to accomplish what you set out to do.

Say “What this means for you…”

Once you’ve completed a point in your agenda, you’ve got to link it to your client’s world using this phrase. They may or may not do it on their own. Take the guess work out of it! Make sure that they can see that what you are recommending solves an issue for them. Make their life easier!

Present a Critical Path Forward

Ever leave a meeting not knowing whether you accomplished your goal or what the next steps are? It’s because you didn’t declare the next steps and get agreement on them from your audience. Always present a critical path forward. It says to your client, “here is the next step I’m putting forth for you to accept.” They may not accept it or, may suggest alternatives. But at least you will know where things stand.

Enjoy succeeding with these points and let me know how they’ve helped in the comments below.  Thank you!

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

Keep Your Problem Clients Closer

My grandfather, and I expect many of yours, always counseled me: “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.”

I counsel my clients to consider this adage when dealing with their most troublesome clients and business associates. You know the ones…they offer their opinions constantly, practice inactive listening and have an air of superiority that diminishes your position in any conversation. Put bluntly…they are windbags concerned only with themselves. But they must be managed and, you can do it! Read more

Credentialing, Part Deux…Ask Killer Open-Ended Questions

In my book I talk about how important the voir dire process is to lawyers. In fact, a dear lawyer friend of mine has said, “a trial is won or lost in the voir dire process.” So, are you winning your clients over with your questions?

Investigate Before Proceeding

During the voir dire stage of a trial, lawyers get their one chance to interact with a juror to observe how they think and what their values are to determine how to present/shape the facts of their case. It is this investigation where they will discover new ways to present information that is likely to resonate with the jury. Critical!!

Lead the Witness

Fast forward to us. I recently wrote about credentialing yourself with your clients. It is the act of demonstrating your knowledge by how you engage with them.  One key element is about asking smart, researched, killer open-ended questions that illustrate your diligence performed prior to a client interaction, whether you are persuading or informing them. It’s also a way to “lead the witness” towards the solution you have for their issues!

Case in Point

Here’s a relevant case in point that illustrates this skill:

A client laments they need to put a plan in place for their team to succeed. An easy yet ineffective question to ask is “How will you format the plan?”

A smart question to ask is: “Why is this mission critical now?” Here you will understand what’s essential to your client versus what they’ve been planning. You will know why, not just what, they are planning.

Your client then may say, “We need better team compliance with our process,” to which you might ask, “Any challenges to this?” I would suggest a stronger approach, such as asking, “How has this lack of compliance hurt you organization? For how long?”

I trust you are tracking the progression of establishing public testimony to then synthesize to segue to your idea.

That’s great credentialing!

By the way, since I referenced my book above, you can take a look at it on Though I wrote it a few years ago, the lessons in it are as relevant today as they were then.  Hope you enjoy it.