The wrong question we ask ourselves
I think it is frustration. There is a bit of anger, amazement, and a pinch of bewilderment. You know that moment, when you finish up an appointment with a client and you feel like you are more invested in their business than they are?
There is an emptiness, and hopelessness. It’s easy to get downbeat about it and feel resentful. Especially when you are doing everything for the betterment of the client and trying to go the extra mile.
So, what can be done? What is the best way forward?
What I have found is that whenever this happens, rather than focusing on ‘who is invested more in the relationship’ (it’s not a competition, so this line of thinking simply has to be shelved), the best thing to do is make the decision to do something different. Simple, but surprising how few times we act on this decision. Here are a few options:
Change the time
In 2010, there was study on parole hearings done by a team of researchers at Stanford. Prisoners having their hearing early in the day received parole 70% of the time, while those later in the day received parole 10% of the time (New York Times, 2011). This is a huge difference and showed how powerful Decision Fatigue is.
If you are hitting brick walls with certain people, then schedule meetings for an earlier time. If you already see them first thing, then maybe they’re personal circadian rhythm is different. I feel this is grossly underestimated, and when considered makes a big difference.
Strip it back
Overchoice is a real thing. Sometimes called Choice Overload, the term was first introduced by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock. In a fast-paced world with so many competing demands we can overload people easier than we think. A gentler more restrained approach may yield better results. I think of Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote “everything in life happens gradually, then suddenly”. This reminds me that small incremental wins will add up to watershed moments ad vast improvements in results over the course of three, six, or 12 months.
Have the better conversation
It takes a lot of guts to have a ‘why’ conversation instead of a ‘what’. Since Simon Sinek wrote the worldwide phenomena Start with Why (video below) the idea of talking about ‘why’ has become a little cliched and has possibly lost its place in workplace conversations. People (especially clients) tend to expect to hear about content in meetings. We can be obsessed by content. So, we talk about the ‘stuff’ we have to offer. But, all too often, the client is not ready for this conversation. They do not understand the context of what is being presented in relation to their problems. They cannot see the path or journey you are taking them on. This can create a lowered motivation to listen and take action.
I fell into this hole myself earlier this week when I was pitching to a client. After the meeting I was super annoyed. On the drive to my next appointment I played the meeting back in my mind and I eventually smacked my hand on my forehead and smiled – I realised I had the wrong conversation! I was talking about all the exciting things I was going do for them, but not why it was important. It was a great realisation.
Having the audacity to make small but significant changes can drastically increase the buy-in from our clients (as well as our peers and our teams too). Take a moment to figure out what you can change in your approach and give it a crack!