When your client picks up the phone and calls you, do you wonder why they have so many demands of you all of a sudden? Or maybe you wonder why their asks are seemingly from left field and catch you off guard?
Take a step back. Why are you surprised with what your client needs? Why do you think their needs are so emergent? Why weren't you able to anticipate their problems?
When we're reacting this way, one thing is obvious: we're not our client's trusted advisor. If they had a choice, they probably would have called someone else to help solve their problem. We're lucky that the client decided to call at all.
What we need to do is to rebuild a foundation of trust, and slowly win back the trusted advisor status so we can turn clients into partners, and from partners to advisors. But how exactly do start to build that foundation?
We can try:
- Mining for anticipatory pain - and truly understanding our clients' businesses and the potential roadblocks they may be facing in the future
- Pattern recognizing across our partners and our market - so we can approach our clients with anticipatory intelligence that they may find useful
But to start, why don't we try being human with our clients? Being human means to treat our clients like human beings rather than just another account that brings in revenue for our organization. Start by just talking to them. It seems like a simple concept, and it certainly isn't a new one. Our colleagues in sales and account management already make it their job to be proactive and be human with their contacts, so why should we get a pass when it comes to building great partnerships with our clients? We should hold ourselves to a higher standard, stop being transactional and start being more human.
But how exactly can we start being more genuine human beings with our clients?
- Be Proactive - Call and meet with your clients without them reaching out. You may think they will brush you off if there is nothing to talk about, but you'd be surprised at how open they are once they realize you value them not just as another number in your contact list but as a fellow human being. Remember: Your client relationships aren't transactional, so be proactive and reach out.
- Communicate Without Agenda - There does not need to be a concrete reason to meet with a client other than to get to know their business and their current pains. Don't be afraid of wasting your client's time, because the most effective way to mine for anticipatory pain is to communicate organically and let the client lead you to their problems.
- Find Out the "Why" Behind Their Pains- Anyone can know off hand how your clients are hurting, but very few actually take the time to understand why they are in the experiencing said pain. Clients (and humans in general) are really passionate when asked "why", and once you understand why, you understand the motivation behind the pain. Getting to the "why" gives us clarity to what is truly important to our clients.
Doing a great job on a project for a client or fulfilling their latest email request is no longer sufficient. It brands you simply as another vendor and makes you absolutely replaceable. Start being human with your clients and build the groundwork to become their most trusted advisor.