My company had failed to keep the promise we had made. We promised our client that we would do something, it didn’t get done, and it put their business at risk. As soon as I discovered that our internal audit showed we didn’t do something we were obligated to do, I picked up the phone and called my client.
I said, “We just did an audit, and I discovered we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. It’s a problem for you, and I need to fix it.” After my client asked a few questions, he said, “Well, we share some of the blame here. We should have done something different on our end.”
I protested, “This was 100% our fault. I am taking responsibility. I just need you to make a call to tell your team what I am doing.” He promised to make the call, and to talk to his team about what they might do to help.
Honestly, his team did nothing wrong. But this client was a terrific, mature, relationship-minded person. In every case, when there was a problem, he tried to find a way to help make an improvement from his side, even when it wasn’t necessary. He assumed good intentions. From our side, we did the same. We assumed that his team had good intentions when something went wrong on their end. Then we worked together to see how we might help to make things better. This made for an exceptional–and exceptionally productive–relationship.
You’ve been taught to look for dissatisfaction, the gap in your prospective client’s performance that would be enough to cause them to change. And that’s good advice. But there are some prospective clients who will bash their current provider, the provider before them, and every provider they have worked with right up to the moment of your meeting. None of your competitors have been good enough, but this prospect tells you that he knows that you are the kind of person that can help them. He tells you how impressed he is that you understand them, their business, and their challenges. And once you take their business, you will very quickly be added to the long list of terrible people and terrible companies that failed them.
The very best opportunities and the very best clients are always willing to accept their responsibility to make changes on their end. And it’s very likely that the very changes that you need them to make are the same ones that would have allowed the company you competitively displaced to succeed, had they helped the client to make the changes.
You have to pick up your end of the stick. But you can’t make lasting change holding your end of the stick with the other end planted in the ground. Your dream client has to pick up their end of the stick.
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