Crawfish etouffee is a personal dish. Ask anyone east of the Sabine river and south of I10 and each one will swear by their own recipe. Some may even have their faded blue ribbons in their pocket to prove it. If that happens, run! But don’t go too far – the gastronomical weight of southern LA cuisine is off the charts. There’s no mystery why Emeril Lagasse chose N’Orleans for his flagship restaurant. Like a hearty, savory dish, each relationship is a unique recipe in of itself. These three flavors will sweeten your client relationships.
Open-ended questions are powerful in any relationship. Put another way, open-ended questions engage your client in a meaningful way because they have to open up about themselves. Here’s a few of my favorites: How did you get in this business? Where did you grow up? What was your inspiration for starting (or joining) this company? All of these questions can’t be answered by a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They have to tell you about themselves. Let’s face it, people love to talk about themselves even when they have nothing to say; just ask the Kardashians. The more you learn about your clients, the more equipped you are to understand their point of view and their needs.
El Muy Grande (a S. TX buck) hangs on the wall above your client’s desk. Hawaiian vacation photos are on display in the credenza. Did you notice the golf picture with Bubba Watson sitting on his coffee table? Before a word is spoken, be alert and observe what is important to your client. Most of the time it’s literally staring at you. When you see it, ask an open-ended question. Where did you catch that big bass? When did you play a round with Bubba Watson? An observant and interested attitude goes far in building rapport with clients and prospects.
Thirdly, but not most important, is managing expectations. Nordstrom does an excellent job of this through their world-class service. I once bought a new blazer from a saleswoman and a week later I received a thank-you card in the mail. That was cool, so now my expectations are set high, but was it a fluke? Upon my next trip for calf-high, dress socks—— because it drives me bonkers when socks slide down to my ankles-- the same saleswoman greeted me. Here’s how it went: Saleswoman, “Hi Todd, how are you? How can I help you?” Todd, “Hi, I’m doing fine, I’m looking for a couple pairs of calf-high socks.” Saleswoman, “You’re in the right place, how much time do you have?” Todd, “Only 15 minutes.” Saleswoman, “No problem, let’s get started.” It was another great experience and I was out of there in 12 minutes. I’m two for two at Nordstroms. But here’s the lesson. She recognized me, asked me for my specific needs, respected my time, and she delivered what was promised. You can do the same. Just ask the same questions of your clients. Put the expectations out there and discuss them. It will eliminate some headaches that can surface later.
Open-ended questions, an observant, interested attitude, and managing expectations are three very important ingredients in relationship building. Like that killer etouffee you experienced in south Louisiana, each client relationship is special and different in their own way. But it’s up to you spice it up and deliver.