By Dr. Geoff Smart
It’s one thing to help a client identify a problem. It’s another thing to help them solve it. Yet a key part of client service is winning the privilege to help a client solve his or her biggest problems that are standing in the way of achieving their vision.
I counsel my teammates on three simple closing techniques for smart people. I want to share them with you because I’ve seen what a dramatic positive difference they can make for your customers as well as your colleagues. In this issue we’ll explore the first one.
Summarize the underlying need. I was in the office of a greatly admired billionaire CEO. He had asked my colleague and me to come strategize for 90 minutes with him on how to identify and solve his top leadership challenges. His story was very animated, very passionate, and the details swirled around like a hurricane. I appreciated the candor and the urgency of the issues on the mind of the CEO. He talked about scary changes in the industry, deficiencies in his senior leadership team, tactics for changing the culture and a range of other topics, from broad strategic thoughts to tactical concerns.
Then he just stopped talking. He took a sip of water. I thought this was a perfect time for my colleague to summarize the underlying need the client has (that he is fearful that his company’s spectacular stock performance won’t continue and he will feel like a failure, unless he makes some big changes to his strategic priorities, shakes up his leadership team and resets the cadence of communication and accountability).
Instead, my colleague asked the client, “What do you think next steps should be?” The client was like, “Well, I don’t know, I was hoping you might tell me.” The closing conversation should have looked like this:
“So that’s what’s on my mind.” (The CEO says, panting to catch his breath after giving us a lot of content for 60 minutes.)
“Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Okay, it sounds like your biggest need is this—you have a big, bold vision that you seem to us to be very excited about.”
“But you fear you don’t have the organization to make it happen.”
“And if you don’t make some big changes to your strategic priorities, your team and your overall culture, you worry your stock price will take a round trip, and you’ll look like a failure.”
See how good that is for the client?
Clients want to know that you understand what their underlying need is. In this case, his underlying need was to not look like a failure. It’s so real, so visceral. Once you “touch” the emotion behind all of the formality, your client will trust you to propose a plan. You are ready to move to Step 2. Watch for Step 2 in the next issue of this newsletter.