If you asked your clients to rate your review meetings with them on a scale of 1 – 10 (for quality of experience and impact), how do you think would they rate them?
Would they give a 10 out of 10 – the meetings are always fresh, inspiring and never fail to touch upon something highly important to your client? Despite knowing each other well you are always able to deeply engage your client.
Or would the rating fall short of this because things have begun to get a bit stale and repetitive?
The beginning of a relationship
When a client relationship is new it is fresh and can be quite intense. You are getting to know your client, they are getting to know you and important issues are getting dealt with.
But once this period is over how do you consistently keep it fresh and inspiring over the long-term?
As a practitioner you can be:
Product and investment centred
Problem and solution centred
One of the reasons that a client relationship can easily get stale is because of a loss of interest by one or both parties.
This is far more likely to happen with the first two because if financial arrangements are now in place and the financial problems solved, then what is there to talk about?
In fact, this is how relationships become reactive – only responding to events after they have occurred. Of course, it is not possible to anticipate every eventuality but allowing a relationship to slide like this is the first step to losing a client.
If you read the research in Michael Leboeuf’s excellent book, ‘How to win customers and keep them for life’, it demonstrates that when a customer quits, 68% of the time is because of:
‘An attitude of indifference towards the customer by the owner, manager or some employee.’
Being ‘Client centred’ does not mean you are not putting in place appropriate products and investments or solving their financial problems; it means that the focus of the relationship is on your client’s ultimate outcomes, quality of life and well-being.
The paradox of relationships
One of the things that makes a relationship work long-term is that there is both certainty and uncertainty.
Clients want certainty in the sense that they trust you implicitly, like you and know they can rely on you. They feel safe with you.
Paradoxically, unless there is uncertainty things can easily get stale. By uncertainty I mean that you consistently surprise them, delight them and challenge them. You contribute to their growth as human beings.
How do you do this?
I call it being in the ‘don’t know mind’.
Just because you know your client and have met many times before does not mean you know everything about them, does it? There will always be far more you do not know.
Jiddhu Krishnamurti (regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of all time) said:
‘The most difficult thing to learn is something you think you already know’
It is extremely limiting to see and communicate with others though our assumptions and judgements about them. This is the primary cause of a relationship going stale.
Being in the ‘don’t know mind’ means dropping what you think you know about someone and allowing curiosity to guide you. There is no substitute for real human connection and deeply listening to clients.
The biggest barrier to being in the ‘don’t know mind’ is our own discomfort with it. This is especially true for people who derive their sense of self-worth from being the expert.
As we realise that a completely clear mind is our greatest asset then dropping thinking becomes easy.
Ultimately, the ability to constantly re-invent, revitalise and reinvigorate your client relationships is to find the balance between sharing what they need to know about their arrangements and, at the same time, treating them as a brand-new client you know nothing about.
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