Quality operations is what we strive after. Working with our clients day in and day out is something that is very important to me. Here are five things that I have learned along the way in forming great relationships with the companies and people that we work with.
1. Talk less, smile more.
I’m not sure if Aaron Burr actually said this to Alexander Hamilton or if it was an artistic liberty when Lin Manuel Miranda was crafting his Broadway masterpiece, but we would all do well to keep this nugget tucked in the back of our minds when we meet new people.
Most know how to talk, but few of us take the time to really listen in a conversation. Ask lots of questions and be genuinely interested in the answers. Your client will quickly become a friend, and in the process you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what their needs are and how you can meet them.
2. All things being equal, people tend to do business with people they like. All things being unequal, people still tend to do business with people they like.
I’ve learned a great deal from my father-in-law, who has made his career in insurance and financial advisement. After forty years in the business, he has an extensive list of sales strategies and techniques that have proven fruitful over the years. None, however shrewd they may be, trump this simple lesson in human nature.
Obviously, there are times when budget and quality can outweigh personal affinity. But for the most part, clients find a tremendous intangible value in the trust, familiarity, and confidence that has been established with a partner they’ve grown to enjoy and “like”. So, study the data and know the strategies, but remember that you’re ultimately pitching yourself and your team, a human commodity that almost always outweighs a product or service.
3. A good deal is a good deal for everyone.
My first boss had heard these words from her mentor, and she routinely passed them on to me as I was developing relationships in the industry. They’ve stuck with me for over a decade, and are a good reminder to be fair to ourselves without being greedy. When you’re shopping for the best deal on a new pair of jeans or a sleek flat-screen TV, it’s smart to look around for the best price. You might as well pay the least amount possible for the very same item that may cost more down the street.
That’s how the very transactional world of vendors and consumers operates. But, in building an effective and productive partnership, which is what we strive to create with our clients here at Streamline Event Agency, we must remain focused on structuring deals and outcomes that are beneficial not only to our team, but to our clients as well. When our clients win, so do we, and both parties feel valued.
4. Ask not what your client can do for you, but what you can do for your client.
Alright, alright…so that’s not exactly how JFK said it, but the principle is the same. In our personal and professional relationships, it’s good practice to consider what we can bring to the table, and to offer it up in good faith with no expectations or strings attached. Doing so shows commitment to the relationship and a prioritization of your counterpart. The goal is to build them up, help them succeed, and make them more successful than they’ve ever been. In the end, a truly good partner will want to reciprocate and do the same for you, even if – especially if – that wasn’t your agenda from the start.
5. Underpromise and over-deliver.
We’ve all been tempted to “woo” new clients with larger-than-life ideas and promises of results, but this can be an unforgiving trap over time. I’m a musician, and when my wife and I had just started dating, I sang to her all the time. She loved it, and I told her that someday when we were married and living in our own home together, I’d sing to her every night.
The years since that care-free time have brought job changes, mountains of laundry, two kids to raise, errands galore, and the general craziness of family life. We are blessed with a great marriage, but every now and then she’ll say, “remember when you promised you’d sing to me every night when we were married?” Although we joke about it, it was indeed a promise I made in the moment without considering the unrealistic expectations I was giving her or the disappointment she would feel if I didn’t meet them.
Had I not made that promise, every time I sit down at our piano to sing to her would be received as a pleasant surprise rather than a once-in-a-while under-delivery of something that was over-promised. So, I remember that any time I serve on a charity board, or volunteer for a committee at church, or build a relationship with a new client. I only lay out expectations that I know I can realistically meet, and then I make it my mission to find ways to exceed them! This way, my clients get accustomed to the joy of pleasant surprises rather than the disappointment of saying to me “remember when you said you would….”