The Client Delusion

The Client Delusion  Written by Kyle Sipkens

This is a “how to” business series to discuss real world scenarios and build better business practices for your client relationships when things go wrong!

It’s the part of business we don’t often like to talk about but can make our break any business! Every business owner has his or her stories from the trenches to share! After spending hours, days or months on a pitch, you finally get a green light from a client to write up a contract. You draft all the necessary paper work with delight as your fingers leap from key-to-key as you type and you check/double-check/triple-check to ensure all the i’s are dotted & t’s are crossed …and every other letter is as it should be!

And then, you wait; to nothing.

Your customer doesn’t respond to phone calls or emails for weeks and you’re left waiting and wondering. FINALLY your inbox dings and BEHOLD the email you’ve been waiting for!

The client has sent a short email “Unfortunately we will not be moving forward at this time.”

Sound familiar?

This series will explore the dark(er) side of consumer interactions many of us have faced -though we hope you’ll never have to. What are they? Where do they come from and how, at all costs, can we avoid them?

These ideas may not make us popular, but it will prepare you to do better business!

An Introduction

“The Customer is always right!” …Right?

Did a boss or supervisor ever teach you this old adage at any point during your early days in the workforce? It takes a while to learn this mantra is counter-productive and undermines the integrity of your workforce and your brand. But, no one wants to intentionally turn away business? Right?

Well… Sometimes being ‘Unpopular’ can help your business. Like Erika Napoletano discusses in her book The Power of Unpopular:

This book looks more specifically at your brand image and how people perceive your brand’s character but – more than that – you may also need to introduce business practices where you take a hard line with your customers!

Sound Scary? It doesn’t have to be!

We can only assume the aforementioned (and unfortunately catchy) tagline emerged out of fear that consumer-facing employees may turn away particularly prickly customers. But it’s a remarkably impractical way to do business and disarms your staff leaving them feeling powerless and like human pylons waiting to get bombarded by speeding traffic.

If you’re a manufacturer – for instance – and a client asks you to change materials or alter the production method for an item, that may compromise the integrity (or safety of the item) and could put both of your  businesses at risk! In cases like this one, your customer relies on your expertise and knowledge to educate and direct your sales interaction and suggest different solutions. Ultimately requiring some investigation into… “What’s the real problem your customer is trying to solve?”

You know your business and how to do it (successfully)! Learning how to communicate through challenges with customers -and how to proactively establish best practices/protocol from the start – can alleviate major roadblocks before they start or at least how to wind up safely on the other side with your ‘Sails in tact’ through rough seas! (See what I did there?)

Like we said:

These ideas may not make us popular, but will prepare you to do better business!

About Your Brand

Why are we concerned about our Brand in this conversation? Quite simply, designing all aspects of how you engage in business with your client will impact your business. Of course it won’t change your logo, but it may change how people feel about your brand. Whether you’re a whole organization or a single person, your Brand is a character!

You mean the Brand itself is a character? Like a person? Absolutely (in a way)!

Your Brand encompasses the relationship interplay between how your clients perceive you and how you want them to see/access you. Your Brand has an image, a voice and a presence that they build a relationship with (and generally have feelings about).

It may help to think of your “Brand” not as a logo or single snapshot in time, but how you engage your audience. The active interplay in this relationship is your brand and how you choose to mould it is branding.

Despite our best efforts, we aren’t able to control to world at large and challenges are bound to arrive. It’s not what happens when everything goes right that will really strengthen your client relationship; it’s how you respond when things go wrong and work through challenges with your clients that really strengthen it!

…But we’ll get to that.

Stay tuned as our business series continue with part two in our series: “A Bad Haircut”

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