Corraling clients and prospective clients in demanding environments may require you to compete with other attention-getters to assure a new or continued revenue stream. Meetings, telephone calls, a torrent of emails, bosses, supervisees and external customers likely come first. Become skilled at spotting lack of focus and returning it to projects.
Steve Rigell, president of Preemptis Inc. in Poulsbo, Wash., cautions against applying pressure, as counterproductive. “Get their attention (without being) threatening or needy,” he stresses. “The best way to do this is to create, in advance, a pattern of being helpful and capable of solving problems.”
Then develop your presentation to assure your own confidence and select a time when the person will be most receptive.
“Reason will not usually elicit action,” he comments. “Connect emotionally by asking how you can help by other than simply delivering your solution. Then listen. (The response) can help you with your delivery strategy. Demonstrating not just corporate but personal benefit will make the individual look and feel good.”
You need to engage the client at the outset to understand his expectations, according to Mark Bashrum, vice president, corporate marketing and strategic intelligence at ESI International Inc. in Arlington, Va. He documents the requirements at the outset, then gets them validated.
“After you enter the engagement,” he explains, “it will assure a common understanding of the problem and provide a definition of the solution.”
Bashrum advocates gaining clarity about “buying criteria, their definition of the solution, their version of success, how the decision-making process is made, who’s involved and the respective risks, individually. If it could impact a career, a prospect may go after a safe bet.”
Robert King would concur, asking clients to identify their most pressing issues, such as results they’re not obtaining, to uncover hidden needs. The founder and senior partner of EntelliPROJ Consulting LLC in Maple Shade, N.J., he hears about interpersonal as well as technical problems. A remark about upcoming sales or CRM objectives, for example, alerts him to the need for revenue growth and prompts him “to find out exactly where things may not be delivering what was expected,” King says. “Many people lack insight by looking at final results rather than milestones.”
Once involved in a project, Rigell notices lack of focus when a client discovers more work but wants to side-step the change-order process. A preference for bypassing structure tells him that focus has dimmed.
King, in crisis situations, schedules a meeting with the CEO or COO every other week to make certain projects are on track. Bashrum advises testing deliverables to assure a solution aligned with requirements. “This keeps the client engaged in the process and everyone focused on desired outcomes,” he observes.
Rigell endorses approaching project changes as significant, not a minor detail in a race to the finish. Reminding the client of the objectives set at the outset opens discussion about changes as new requirements requiring a greater investment in work, time and money. Then he asks if the client wants to move in that direction. “Sometimes cost is the overriding factor,” he notes.
“Other times you can show efficiencies by incorporating additional work to piggyback onto work that’s already scheduled. It may make sense to do the things rather than come back at a later date. Sometimes they want to finish and then come back.”
King states that his clients face lack of focus daily. He adds, however, that if you lose your own focus by shifting from people to technology and process, you’ll never be able to corral the client. Instead, he says you’ll be “staring into a cloud and not really seeing the path to your success.”
(Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2013 Passage Media.)