When we envisage a leader, we tend to think of someone who is a manager and has many minions at their disposal. We think of someone who is leading their employees.
But leading a client, is just as important as leading an employee.
When I go to the hairdressers, I have one thing I look out for:
Is this hair dresser going to ask me what I want, ask me to give them a photograph from Pinterest for them to replicate?
Or, is this person going to tell me what I want and tell me what is best for my hair and my face? Do they know about a hot new way of doing hair, that I don’t?
I have little patience for hairdressers who ask me, down to the minutiae, what I want. It makes me want to ask them “don’t you know what would be best?” They must know what would look good on me, but they’re afraid I won’t like it and will complain if they haven’t given me exactly what I’ve asked for. A good hairdresser will KNOW it will look good on you, and they’ll be able to explain if you don’t like it, why it is best and why you really do look fantastic. A good hairdresser won’t let you walk out of their shop with shitty hair, just because that’s what you asked for.
In the service industry, whatever we do, should be something that we personally are proud of. And our clients deserve this.
When I take on a new client, I know what I have suggested for them will work. And I will be able to prove that it has worked and that they have gotten exactly what they wanted. I know my way works, and that their way probably wouldn’t work, because if it was working, they wouldn’t have sought my consultation. And so, I feel confident to lead them towards what I think is best, and my confidence makes them feel secure in being led.
When I first started out in my job, I thought that my clients would be telling me what they want and how they wanted it done. This only created a sense of insecurity in my client. They’d say, “I don’t know what I want, this is what I want to happen, but I don’t know how to get there, that’s why I’m hiring you.” It’s unnerving to hire an expert who is waiting on your suggestions, just like it would be unnerving to have a boss who isn’t really sure what you should be doing in your role and wants your suggestions/advice.
I realised that my sales meetings needed to involve careful listening to the client, followed by my analysis and what I thought was best for that particular client. Either I hit the nail on the head, and they went with me, or they’d think it’s not right and wanted to seek advice from a different person.
If your client is telling you exactly what you need to be doing they are hiring you as a low-level employee who will do exactly what they say. They are not hiring you as someone who is an expert. This is fine if you’re comfortable in that role.
I have recently been watching a show called Workin’ Moms, and one of the characters is a bad ass PR pro. When she was pitching to a big client, he said that he didn’t like the new logo, and that he had specifically stated they kept the cheesy looking pig in the new logo.
She told him directly (along the lines of) “We have analysed your customers and this is the logo that they prefer. I’m not here to pander to your personal requirements, I’m here to tell you what will work for this business, and this will work.”
When working for a client, I work with the mindset that I am working for the business not the client, and that I am here to improve this business. If that means that something the client specifically wants has to be rejected, then they need to be led, with confidence, to the new idea.