I Didn’t Know You Did That (Issue 578)

In which we are reminded that we need to share stories with our clients and ask questions focused on topics outside of their current dealings with us in order to have a first chance at their new issues that arise.

[Note: Weekly Sales Thought took a vacation last week.  This column is a ‘summer rerun’ from February 26, 2007]

My teenaged daughter and I walked and talked together for an hour Saturday afternoon. A beautiful, crisp winter day, a couple of days following a new snow. Spectacular, for those of us who like this kind of weather.  This walk was the capstone to a just-the-two-of-us week together, as my wife and son had been away.

Long story short, we were walking down the back side of the last hill, headed home, talking about how the week had gone and her concerns that her transportation requirements during the week had been a bit of a burden, and she said, almost apologetically “Mom said you didn’t want kids.  And if you hadn’t had kids you could be living in San Francisco, working, hanging out with snobby friends, making lots of money, having a lot of fun, and not driving me around.”

Yep, you hear the darndest things on a walk. Ouch.

I had to take a couple of deep breaths, allowing for a little windage with my “take everything to an extreme” daughter, then I replied saying that, yes, there had been a time when I hadn’t wanted kids and that after she and her brother had arrived I had changed my view, that I was crazy about both of them, that I was thrilled that we’re doing life together, and that I hoped to be doing that for a long time.

Well, this news seemed to come as a bit of a surprise to my daughter, as in “I didn’t know you thought that,” and left me wondering, how could she not have known?  After all we’ve done together, how could she not have known?

Same thing can happen with clients, ‘though. After we’ve been working with them for a while, they mention a problem and their conversations with another provider about solving it. When we say, “We could do that” or “we could have done that for you,” they say, “Gee, I didn’t know you could do that.”  And this comes as a shock to us. How could they not have known?

Even if we think our clients know everything about us, we can’t assume they do.  We need to ask our clients about problems beyond the scope of our mainstream work with them so that we’re positioned to offer our additional capabilities.

We need to tell our clients about the new things we’re up to and new ideas we’re generating. Gently, without sounding like loudspeakers blaring in the streets.

And we need to give them a hug, once in a while, and remind them that we’re committed to them and thrilled to be in relationship with them.

And take a walk from time to time.

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