In doing research on a couple of presentations for LMA and AAM, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of in-house marketing professionals at law and accounting firms regarding the client experience they were receiving from their service providers (vendors). Many with “long-term” existing relationships were generally happy; while others felt that their providers had strict policies regarding how clients had to adhere to “their” policies and processes. As a result, the firm didn’t have much of a chance to express their firm’s needs, culture and their goals. While this may work with some service providers it could never work in a marketing communication firm.
At the LMA conference in Denver, I heard similar stories over and over; “They just don’t care about what I think. They totally ignored my budget. After the project, I felt as if I had been processed as opposed to being an integral part of the team.” Service providers of professional services firms need to wake up and smell the coffee – it’s about the client, not you!
- ”Know my audience and their clients as best I could before I ever even meet them.
- Develop a skill set to build long-lasting relationships with my clients and prospective clients. Remember that the client that turns you down today may hire you six months later.
- Do whatever it takes to make clients feel as if they were a part of the process no mater what the job was (branding, advertising, website development, executing on the firm’s marketing plans, helping to manage their key accounts); my job was to set my ego aside and make the client look good.”
I learned from Bill and Barbara, that well developed communication skills and a step-by-step instructional approach to consultative business development; a client needs assessment and solution development would serve me well throughout my career. They also hammered into me that I must listen to prospects if I wanted to call them clients and to treat them as if they were part of the process.
Over the years I’ve been able to develop my own style of asking questions that has hopefully prevented the “processing” of my clients, and perhaps even allowed me to be a bit more pampering. After all, clients want to work with clients they like, right? So here are my three simple rules:
1) Always identify with your audience or show empathy. Really listen. And, respond with complete sentences including perhaps something from what you just heard. Try not to just hmmmm or um hum to everything acting as if you’re listening. Clients can tell.
2) Let the client speak! This was the hardest for me to learn, but I soon began to realize that if I wanted my clients undivided attention when I spoke I had to let them speak on, and on, until they were entirely through were their thought. Only then were they ready to hear and listen to the expert advice I had to offer.
3) Mirror and match your clients. Watch how your client acts and moves as they tell you their story. If they walk into the room without a jacket and you have one on, take it off; make them at ease. When it’s your turn to speak mirror some of the clients movements so you seem familiar to them. Also when clients use emotion, respond with words that show that you heard them and “share their pain”. Suddenly you’re an ally not just service provider or a vendor.
All of the above is true for business development professionals at law and accounting firms. Try this and you can radically transform your ability to communicate with current clients and prospects.