I was working with some friends last week. They are a husband and wife team who are both passionate masters at what they do. They also have a brilliant team who deliver an outstanding service to their clients… If they’re allowed to.
Unfortunately they made the mistake of working for a client who wanted them to deliver an excellent service whilst keeping them in the dark. Mushroom management at its best. My friends had been hired by an events company who out of fear, wouldn’t divulge who the end client was or allow my friends to engage fully with the planning process.
As it turned out, all the attendees really enjoyed the event, although the events company staff were less than pleased with my friends. So although a great job was done, everybody travelling home that night did so with a deflated feeling.
I pointed out to the couple that their first mistake was accepting the work on the terms of the events company. Bending over backwards to get the work is rarely a recipe for a successful working relationship with a client. My friends had lowered their price, been poorly briefed and still managed to upset the event company. You can’t please everybody and you shouldn’t try to either.
When I got home I received a package from Amazon, it was Dan Priestley’s latest book ‘Oversubscribed’. One particular point he made (amongst many) resonated with me, especially in light of what had just occurred.
“Businesses who become oversubscribed know what they want and have no problem saying ‘NO’ to the rest”
(Italics are mine!)
If you want to be the best, you’ve got to realise that a working relationship is a symbiosis. The client has to be the best too. You’ll hopefully have had an experience of working with a perfect client. They love your work, they achieve great results with you and they come back for more, whilst singing your praises to others. I sent my friends a copy of Dan’s book, sometimes you’ve got to hear it from several sources before it sinks in!
In my own work I have made it a pre-requisite of working with people who adhere to certain values:
Virtuous: Don’t work for clients who don’t stand by their word or are trying to pull the wool over your eyes or maybe the client further down the line. The events company we’re trying to convince the client that my friend worked as part of their staff. Trying to keep people in the dark resulted in a less than perfect outcome for my friends.
Accessible: I have clients who run massive operations, but when I call they either answer straight away or return my call within 24hours. I’ve had dealings with people who run smaller outfits and yet they’re impossible to get hold of and don’t return calls for days or even weeks.
Whilst I think of being non-responsive as bad manners, it maybe that they are just very busy. If they’re too busy to return your calls, then they’re too busy to implement the work they’d have to do with me. The value of a communication is the response you get back. If it leaves me feeling frustrated, then I can’t get into a ‘flow’ state in my work with them.
Love: I want my clients to love the work we do together, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. You’re not on this planet forever, you want the time spent here to be focussed on doing something you feel is worthwhile and if clients love and value your work, they’ll want to do more of it with you.
Understand: The prospective clients must understand my terms and conditions, and not only agree to them but agree to them willingly. I don’t want people to feel like they’re being strong armed, but I want the details around when I get paid, when the work will commence, how the work will happen; all to be sorted before we begin.
I don’t want to have to divert my energies on chasing details when I could be delivering excellent value.
Exemplar: Will the client likely be a shining example of what happens when clients work with you?
Ask yourself this question at the beginning and you’ll more than likely have an intuitive feel for the answer. If they’re not going to be a stunning example. Leave space in your diary for the clients who will be.
Sharing: Will your clients share theirs and your success stories of working together?
I had this challenge with a lot of executive coaching clients in the past. They loved the work we did together, but were very reticent around letting others know about me and the great work we’d done together. Once the money gained from working with these clients is spent, you’re left with an empty feeling.
You want to work with clients who share their experiences freely, often without being asked. Who will broadcast to the world how great it is to work with the best.
Whilst many potential clients will have legitimate reasons for not adhering to some of the values stated above occasionally. Overall you want to work with people who do. To facilitate this you’ve got to create a perfect client profile which will kick-start your reticulation activation system (RAS).
The RAS is a filter in your brain that allows what you’re looking for to stand out, including the right people who you’ll meet at the right time.
To get a great reputation, you’ve got to create outstanding results. To do that you’ve got to work with the best clients. It’s a virtuous circle which leave both you and the clients happy to be working together. Happy hunting!