The world would be a very different place if your clients lived and communicated in the world of facts. Every conversation would be so easy; it would all be right there on the surface. If a client thought your project was going badly he or she would just tell you straight out the simple facts to make a case. There’d be no blaming, no evasion, no hidden agendas, and no upset feelings. What a dream world!
Here’s the way it really works: The truth is that clients, like all of us, live in the world of interpretation, not facts. That’s the way the world really works. Facts are only a small part of the way we see things.
To illustrate, let’s say you are standing on a busy street corner while a large red sedan driven by a tall man barrels through a red light, narrowly missing two cars turning left. The two cars pull over and the drivers get out of their cars and scream at the offending car, “You idiot, what the *&%$# do you think you’re doing!!!” You may not yell with them, but you might think something awful about the big jerk that almost killed several innocent people.
But what if the tall guy driving the large red sedan has a wife who is dying in the hospital near the street corner where you are standing? What if the driver of the sedan just got a call that his wife is gasping her final breaths, and he was told that if he wants to see her he literally has only moments left? Would you see his running of the red light differently?
This is a simple example of how interpretation works. The red sedan driver has his own interpretations, the other drivers have theirs, and you have yours.
We can truly say that “the world is as you see it.” We are all looking at the world through our own filtered glasses, and everybody’s prescription is different.
In every client meeting from first to last, whether you know it or not, you are battling the client’s interpretations—and the bad news is that you rarely even know what they are!
Clients live in the world of their own interpretations. Therefore, it’s up to you to find out their interpretation of the issues you are discussing.
Clients’ interpretations of you and your work can put them in a psychic box where they are unable or unwilling to see a way out.
Let’s say you want your client to increase their budget by 15% to pay for new services for which they’ve already expressed interest. What might keep the client in the box and unable to move forward? It might be…
- Their fears about being taken advantage of, or of going over budget
- A need to keep a lid on expenses or to look tough-minded to a more senior manager
- The belief that “all consultants lie”,
- An underlying value in the importance of doing the work themselves and not trusting others.
Any fears, needs, beliefs, or values can put a client “in a box” so they can’t entertain your points of view. You can try to persuade or argue, you can have a great logical presentation—and it won’t help you if the client is still in their psychic box, unable or unwilling to move out.
So, you’re probably wondering: how do I get a client “out of the box”? The answer is: a.) Fully meet them exactly where they are, understanding, accepting, and appreciating their point of view, and b.) move them out of the box using specific, skillful, yet non-manipulative techniques. In our “Power of Partnership” training we teach the specific steps that consultants and solution sales teams can use to meet clients in the box and move them past their objections.
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Authored For S3 Solutions by Marty Friedman
Marty Friedman is one of the architects of the “Power of Partnership”, a training course for consultants and solution sales professionals who want to sell bigger deals and have smoother projects. He has co-presented this training for clients such as HP, Accenture, and Bell Canada as well as many mid-sized companies and start-ups. Find out more at www.PowerofPartnership.net