Archive for being different
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that your average client is anything like a terrorist. Having said that maybe that’s what it felt like the last time you were trying to do a deal.
I remember one of my first really hard client negotiations – I was sent in with a single outcome that I wasn’t to agree to – anything aside from that was okay. During the course of that hour or so, I remember thinking very clearly that it wasn’t going well. The client was holding their ground regardless of what I said or offered and he was getting red in the face. So I stopped talking. He talked and I listened…and listened..and finally understood what was at the heart of why he wanted what he wanted.
And then a miraculous thing happened. The client agreed. He laughed and said I drove a hard bargain. Not only did I do the deal I was sent in to do, that client and I…we’ve been good friends for more than a decade.
Anyone who’s been through any kind of sales training has been taught to ‘listen’. However most of the time, the listening is limited to doing it just enough to hear the client’s buying signals and react. We have an excuse to ‘jump back into’ the conversation. In other words, we’re only listening for our cue to talk rather than listening to the person doing the talking.
Yet that approach often leads us to make incorrect presumptions on what the client or prospect is saying based on our own ‘filters’, the need to be ‘right’ and to ‘get on with it’. Hostage negotiators know differently. Here are how their top tips translate to doing better business with clients.
- Establish credibility early – as in prove you’ll do what you say you’re going to do. Hostage negotiators often give something small away early to ‘prove’ their commitment to the negotiation.
- Identify the leaders – we’ve all been there. Lots of work only to find we’ve been talking to the ‘wrong’ person. Make sure you know who’s in control of decision making before you start any negotiating.
- Gain face to face contact. Too much is done by written word today. It’s impossible to read subtle nuances in text. And while phone is better, face to face is best. You’re far more likely to pick when someone’s bluffing, blustering or in pain (especially if it’s emotional) if you’re face to face. It also helps that the other party can see the ‘whites of your eyes’ too.
- Allow enough time to do the negotiation properly. If I’d not stayed until the end, chances are, I’d never have gotten the client across the line. And if I’d rushed the meeting to get to another, that would probably have come off as arrogant and that’s something to avoid at all costs.
- Be observant – notice the feeling of the room and its people (are they nervous, relaxed, arrogant, eager), who’s who in the room/building, do they greet you formally or casually, where do they sit in comparison to you, how are they dressed. Every detail counts in a negotiation – they tell a story you might otherwise have missed.
- Build the kind of understanding that creates trust – make them feel ‘felt’ and get beneath their real issue.In other words – get them talking and really listen. In my client’s case, he was worried that his firm would spend lots of money only to get something they could use once – he’d been burned before – it just took a while for him to really articulate that as his key issue. The previous agency had left him feeling powerless and this was his reaction.
- Take charge if things are really getting out of control. If you’ve reached an impasse pushing harder or longer isn’t going to get you anywhere. Say something along the lines of “I think I need to take a break and consider where things are at (or come back with more ideas). We’ll pick up where we left off at (insert time). Notice there’s not the use of we in the first sentence and it doesn’t ask a question at all. It’s my problem and I’m fixing it. To suggest to a client that it’s their problem is to lay blame and that diminishes trust.
Seek first to understand – most of us are just misunderstood and looking to feel ‘cared about’. Hope that helps with your next round of business negotiations. Feel free to comment on what’s worked or not for you below.
As today is Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to write something on love – customer love that is.
We all know people only do business with people they know, like and trust. Which, when you really think about it, sounds kind of like dating. Except that hopefully what you’re really after isn’t just after one date – you want them to be wedded to you and your business for as long as you both are in business. In a business sense, you want them to love you and I mean really LURVE you.
I mean, come on – it’s you – what’s not to love! But seriously…Do you know what it is that your customers’ really love about your business?
If not, it’s your No1 job to find out – start today. Rather than relying on social media, faceless surveys, etc – call five of your favourite customers and ask them to tell you what it is that they really like about you guys working together – use it as the basis of a good conversation. Ask them who else does anything similar for them (hopefully not one of your competitors).
Then, without using it as a bribe, send them something nice to say thank you for their time – like flowers, balloons, movie tickets, chocolates, wine, champagne – whatever. It just has to be personal. Branded pens and post-its don’t count.
If you already know and I mean REALLY know, what makes your customers’ go gooey and weak at the knees – still send them a gift to say thank you and that you love doing business with them too.
Seriously – everyone from the sweet young receptionist to the CEO of the highest boardroom in the country – loves to feel appreciated.
So, give your clients the gift of letting you know that you appreciate them this Valentines and next year, you’re likely to still be happily counting the years together.
1. Be different – but in a good way. You may have heard the saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Yes, there is – just ask Rupert Murdoch. Make sure that you stand out for the right reasons. Keep the WIIFM principle, otherwise known as what’s in it for me (from your customers’ perspective) at the centre of anything you do.
2. Do something great – either for a client, for your staff or for the world in general and let people know about it. Everyone likes to think that business decisions are based on rationale and logic. They’re not. Everyone – yes everyone, buys on emotion and then backs it up with logic. So do something authentic for you and your organisation that makes someone somewhere feel better about their day – again keeping the WIIFM principle top of mind. You might also want to have some logical reasons for doing business with you handy too. Customers like logic to back up their emotional purchase decision (yep – even the business to business buyers).
3. Keep it consistent - Make sure that every part of your business (and yes, that’s more than just your marketing materials) says the same thing. If you pride yourself on service, but it takes your receptionist 10 rings to answer, there’s an incongruity there. That incongruity makes people feel uncomfortable. If it happens enough, your customers will have a level of discomfort that turns them and their business away.
4. Do what you say you’ll do – so many people don’t. When something goes wrong (maybe it’s outside your control) that’s when keeping on keeping on really counts. After you finish swearing, downing a scotch, panicking, etc – sort the problem and get on with it. There’s no need to share the drama with your client – you’ll know you’ve gone above and beyond – bask in the inner glow of a job well done – problems and all.
5. Give good love – client love that is. Send thank you notes – yes lots of people say it and still so very few do it. Send something nice with your bills to your favourite clients. Send things for Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, big wins, etc that you know they’ll like. I gave a client of mine who was very into beer, a beer tasting box – he loved it. Sure I could have got him a bottle of wine, but it would have gone either in the office kitchen or to his home relatively unappreciated. The trick to this is to pay attention when they speak.
If you have a tale about what you do to stand out, please feel free to share below.