Sounds good but don’t fall for it. Those who tell you they’ll do whatever you want are what I call ‘order takers’ and you should politely say No, thank you then go find business partners, suppliers, collaborators, colleagues who will consult/coach/advise you on the right things to do — and as importantly, the wrong things to be avoided — and who will openly share their expertise with you without you having to pull it out of them.
Here are a few stories to showcase the point:
1. I was explaining SEO to a new client and showing them that that’s why their site wasn’t performing. SEO had not been considered up front and therefore the site was not picking up traction. Their SEO score was 0%. Turns out that the client never specifically discussed or asked for SEO (because they didn’t know what it was, nor that they should) so the web designer didn’t address it. Now they have a site that looks pretty but isn’t performing. Worse yet, they’ve lost time and money and are not achieving their goals.
2. Calling around to list brokers for pricing on a client project, I dealt with three different companies. All are relatively well known and reputable in the industry. Two of them simply ran counts for me without asking any questions of how the list was to be used and what the ultimate goal was. So, sure enough the next day I received the standard excel spreadsheets with counts popped into cells. A sales rep at the 3rd company picked up the phone so we could discuss the campaign in its totality and she gave me some great advice. She ran counts and even gave me alternate counts for other list uses. Guess who got our business? And, her list was the most expensive. Price doesn’t always drive buying decisions, especially for professional services.
3. At a meeting with another client and their supplier, not once during the entire hour did their supplier take out a pen, offer up any solutions or advice. She just sat there on the couch with her briefcase closed beside her (and her mind just as closed) looking at her watch periodically, saying “I’ll do whatever you want” every few minutes. But the point of the meeting was because we need your expertise to tell us what we SHOULD be doing to get the results we desire. That afternoon I was asked by my client to help them vet other suppliers.
4. A client mentioned that he’d read something about a new service now offered by a company he’d been doing business with and asked me to find out more. I called the supplier to ask if this is something we should be doing. Oh, yes he said. OK, but it would have made them look so much better if they had picked up the phone to call the client, as opposed to having them read a print ad. (It’s called cross-selling and it works!) If the company had been proactive the client would not have had to use my retainer time to make calls, and would not have had to do the chasing. Now, you appear to be behind the professional 8 ball as opposed to the expert.
Bottom line, if you’re on client side it’s not always easy to ask the right questions because sometimes we don’t even know what we don’t know. But…if a potential supplier isn’t asking you enough questions, or offering up consultative advice during a first contact, or if you feel like you’re pulling info out of them, then politely say No, thank you and disengage. Then, use your network to get recommendations of expert consultative professionals to work with so that your business will thrive.
If you’re on supplier side and a client tells you “This is what I want,” it really means “This is what I want to achieve.” Help them do that, and you’re as good as guaranteed a repeat, long-term client.
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