You want to be your dream client’s peer, a prerequisite for being consultative, a trusted advisor, and a strategic partner. You want them to respect the fact that you have something to offer them. But you may unintentionally be signaling something that prevents you from being perceived as a peer.
How You Start: How you start the conversation with your dream client is a clear indication of who you are and what you offer. If you try to establish your bona fides by sharing information about your company and your products, you signal that you have nothing strategic to discuss. To be a peer, you must prove your credibility by starting with the big issues.
How You Look: Business casual is now really just casual. If you don’t look like you are successful, then you project that you are not. You may not think it is fair that you are being judged, but you are. To look like a peer, you have to look like a peer. Too casual is too casual.
What You Carry with You: Do you have brochures to leave behind? A catalog? Some form of proof providers? These are what salespeople who transact carry with them on sales calls. People who create value carry a legal pad and a pen. What they have to offer is intangible, being located in the 3-pound pinkish gray matter between their ears.
Lack of Chops: Do you have a point of view on what your dream client needs to change and why? Do you have a set of experiences that inform the recommendations you make? If you are missing the “advice” portion of “trusted advisor,” you make it impossible for anyone to consider you their peer.
No Confidence: If you are uncomfortable sitting across from people in leadership roles, projecting your fear or discomfort will signal a lack of confidence. If you don’t carry yourself like you belong at the table, you make it tough for people to see you as one of them, a business person who deals with the most difficult challenges.
Conflict Averse: If you are going to be a peer, you must accept that the customer is not always right. In fact, if they were already doing everything they should be, they would have no need for you. If you avoid conflict over the big issues, what should be done, how it should be done, and when it should be done, it’s difficult for you to be a strategic partner.
Being Subservient: In The Lost Art of Closing, I wrote about controlling the process with your dream client. One way you prove you are subservient is by allowing the client to control the process in such a way that it makes it more difficult for them to make the change they need to make. If you aren’t willing to persuasively and professionally push back, you are going to be treated like something less than what you need to be—and what your client really needs you to be.
If your goal is to be a trusted advisor and peer to your client, you need to be all in on every aspect of being taken seriously as a strategic partner. The signals you send your dream client, intentionally or not, will open or close the door for that opportunity.
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