Your dream client’s company is a complicated web of human relationships. It’s a complex social group, and it’s an organism with a life of it’s own. It’s a tribe, and that tribe has a culture and rules of its own.
If you want your client’s business, if you want to be a trusted advisor, you need to join your client’s tribe. Here’s how:
Build Relationships with Tribe Members
You aren’t going to become a member of your client’s tribe without sponsors. Someone is going to have to vouch for you on your way in. Your sponsors are going to have to prove that you are a valuable addition to the tribe before you are invited to join the tribe. You are going to have to prove that you share the tribe’s value, that you share their goals, and that you will abide the tribe’s norms and customs.
You are going to be tested. Some tribe members are going to be skeptical of you potentially joining their tribe. Outsiders that don’t share the tribe’s culture, their values, their beliefs, or their goals are a threat to the tribe. You need relationships so you can prove that you belong. You need meaningful relationships with tribal members that will support your admission to the tribe.
Understand the Tribe’s Hierarchy
Different members of the tribes have different roles. There is a tribal hierarchy. Navigating your way through the tribal politics requires that understand the tribal hierarchy.
If someone lower in the tribal hierarchy lets you near the tribe, you are going to have to work your way up to the higher-level relationships within the tribe. If your relationship is with a tribal leader, you can expect to be greeted with skepticism from deep within the tribe, at least until you can prove that you care as much about the tribe as you care about your relationship with the tribal leader.
The tribe has a hierarchy, and you joining the tribe means navigating the tribe’s political structure.
Contribute to the Tribe’s Goals
Part of being accepted into your dream client’s tribe is by your being able to contribute to the tribe’s goals. Tribal members have to do their part to make a contribution to the tribe, and everyone has some role to play. Even though you are an outsider, if you are going to join your dream client’s tribe, you are going to have to make a meaningful contribution to the tribe.
You are going to have to prove your worth to tribe members. You are going to have to prove that your presence makes the tribe stronger, not weaker. You are going to again be tested. Can you be counted on when things get rough? Are you going to stand in the foxhole when the tribe is threatened?
If you help to make the tribe stronger, if you make it more likely that the tribe thrives, you will be admitted to the tribe as an honorary member.
How is your client’s company like a tribe?
How do you develop relationships with the complex social organism that is your client’s company?
What tests are you going to be given to prove that you share the tribe’s values, and that will honor their customs and their cultural norms?
How does the tribal hierarchy work in your company? When does your tribe let outsiders join the tribe?
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