Opening Up

In which we discuss questions we can use to broaden narrow relationships. My son and I have seen a movie - a variation on the boy meets girl theme - in which, after a long period of time, the relationship broadens from long time friends to ‘more than friends.' Deliciously awkward moments

that generate many satisfying guffaws, as in, ‘how could he have missed all those signals’ and ‘we’re glad we’re not in that position.’

Not so funny when we’re trying to broaden client relationships.

Suppose you’ve been working with your clients for a period of time. During that time, you’ve helped them with one or two sets of issues. Like… computer hardware and software purchases. Or bank loans and deposits.

Then… your managers choose a new approach – selling ‘integrated solutions’ or a far broader range of products. Maybe you had those products in your bag but you weren’t compensated to sell them. Or you didn’t understand them very well. Or you didn’t trust your team mates in those areas to deliver well if you introduced them. Fact is, you never discussed the issues with your clients.

So… how do you open broader conversation without looking stupid? Or without looking like you weren’t looking out for them?

Sounds something like this (and you could use combinations of these):

OPTION 1

‘You know, in the time we’ve worked together, we’ve focused on your ___ and ___. I’m glad we’ve been able to support you there.

I’m wondering whether you’d be open to a conversation about other issues you may be facing, like ___ and ____?

We’ve developed some capabilities there that I think might be helpful.’

OPTION 2

‘As I looked over my notes, preparing to call you, I realized that we’ve had good discussions about ___ and ___, and we haven’t discussed how you _____. I’m curious – how do you currently _____ ?

OPTION 3

(In the middle of a conversation.) Your comment prompts me to think about how you handle ___, which we’ve not discussed to this point. How do you currently handle _____?’

Sure, you run the risk that your client will say, ‘How come you never asked that before?’ The response is something like:

We have some new capabilities in that area.
My role has changed, so I’m now able to address these areas.
As a company, we’re now in a position to address these areas.
As our relationship has evolved, and I’ve understood more about your business, I’ve started to think about additional challenges you might be facing.

At least you won’t have to deal with, ‘Oh, sweetheart, I thought you’d never ask.” Gulp.

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