It is vital that you respect your client. But it is equally important that you don’t fear your clients—or your prospects. If you are afraid of clients or prospects, your aversion to conflict will cause no end of problems, beginning with things like not wanting to interrupt a prospect with a phone call, and later, should you get that far, conflicts around the decisions and investments they should make. You cannot hold the position of peer and trusted advisor while also fearing your client or prospect. Here is how not to fear your prospective client.
Not Respect, But Fear
Little things indicate fear. When you say, “What if I call this prospect and someone from our team has already called them? What if they’re upset by receiving calls from us?” Later, this same fear turns into, “When do you give up on a prospective client,” another indication that you fear to bother people, mistakenly believing that your call somehow harms them.
The very idea that “the customer is always right” also isn’t healthy. The skillset of a combative diplomat requires you to teach your clients that they are wrong in a manner in which they can accept. Or something Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “Diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Not fearing your client also means you can say no without fear of losing the prospect or the client. If they are always right, why should they need your help?
You want to respect your clients and prospects; you don’t want to fear them. Fear prevents you from taking action and from having difficult conversations, both of which are necessary for sales.
Develop Your Business Acumen and Your Insights
There are things that you can do to avoid fearing your clients or prospects. There is not, however, a better place to start than business acumen. If you want to be respected as a peer and trusted counsel, you begin by developing yourself into an expert in your space. There is no substitute for business acumen, and if there were, it would not be your company or your product or service. Nor would it be your existing clients.
One of the ways you level the playing field is by possessing more in-depth knowledge about the intersection of your industry and your client’s business. Your client or prospect will almost always know more about their business than you do, but you should always have a greater knowledge of how your company creates value for your clients by helping them improve their results. While your prospective clients decide to buy what you sell a few times, you sell to many people or companies, and your experience means you should know better how one should do things differently and what they might consider.
Possessing and being willing to provide advice is what makes you a trusted advisor. An unwillingness to have a strong opinion you will defend is another form of fear that is detrimental to your results. The fear of being wrong and losing cannot be greater than your fear of not telling the client what they need to do.
You Are Supposed to Be Helping Them
In The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, I included a chapter on storytelling. In that chapter, I wrote about how you are not the hero in the stories you tell. Your client is the hero, and you are the person who helps-or teaches them—how to slay their dragon.
Your clients and prospects have their fears. They fear making mistakes. They worry about being held accountable for the results and outcomes they owe their company and their customers. You are supposed to be helping them with their challenges, which means addressing their fears, concerns, and challenges.
If you believe the statistics that CEOs read 60 books a year, you might ask yourself why they place such a high premium on acquiring new information and ideas. Why do you think they attend conferences and watch CNBC while on the treadmill each morning? Your clients are concerned about not knowing something that someone might believe they should have known, and not doing something they should have done. They’re looking for answers to their problems and ideas that will benefit them.
How much help do you offer your clients when they have concerns, and when you fear addressing those concerns?
The Fear of Difficult Conversations
Your role as a peer and a trusted advisor requires you offer advice and help in dispatching their problems and challenges and capitalizing on their opportunities. Your role is to be proactive and to make a difference for the people and companies you serve.
Recognizing your responsibility to your clients and prospects should be enough for you to recognize that your fear of having difficult conversations is not the real danger to you and your client. The real danger is not addressing the elephant in the room and allowing your client to fail because you wanted to avoid any semblance of conflict. If you fear that telling the truth will cost you your client, I would argue that you tell the truth and lose their business rather than lying and allowing them to fail.
Do Your Homework and Prepare
There are a few simple things you can do to increase your confidence and eliminate any fear that might prevent you from acting, especially when you have to deal with issues or conflict. You increase your confidence when you do your homework, by going over your notes, and by planning your approach and conversation. Preparing for the conversations you need to have with clients and prospects increases for confidence—and your success.
The ability to think on your feet is valuable, and it provides a certain level of confidence. But preparation offers even more. If you haven’t written out your talk tracks, developed an argument for what you believe your client needs to do, and haven’t spent time imagining the questions and concerns they are going to need to address, you will never be as confident as you might be. You minimize your fear by preparing.
Respect your client without fearing them. If you want to serve your clients, you will fear failing them more than you fear the relatively small amount of conflict that comes with helping people make a change.
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Filed under: Sales