If you are in the business of services, this is one book you want your sales team to read. The book is about what sabotages client loyalty and how to get past that to have not only your clients asking to do more business with you but also sending more clients from their network to your doorstep.
But, before you gift the book to your sales team with the expectation of seeing increase in your top and bottom line, you would need to read it first because what is in the book cannot be implemented unless you as their leader believe in and live these principles.
The author, Patrick M Lencioni, is Founder and President of The Table Group, a successful management consulting firm specialising in executive team development and organisational health. His business principles are now course material at the University of Saint Mary. CNN Money listed him in 2008 as one of "10 new gurus you should know”. He is "one of the most in-demand business speakers.” His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and USA Today.
Read below few excerpts from the book to get an overview of the magic formula and experience deeply fulfilling, joyous success even as you smile all the way to your bank by implementing the ideas from the book.
1. Without the willingness to be vulnerable, we will not build deep and lasting relationships in life. That’s because there’s no better way to earn a person’s trust than by putting ourselves in a position of unprotected weakness and demonstrating that we believe they will support us.
2. For those who provide service to clients, vulnerability is particularly powerful. Those who get comfortable being vulnerable - or as I call it, naked - are rewarded with levels of client loyalty and intimacy that other service providers can only dream of.
3. …even though clients require us to be competent enough to meet their needs, it is ultimately our honesty, humility, and selflessness that will endear us to them and allow them to trust and depend on us.
4. … we need to make sure that they’d be the right kind of client. … We’ve learned over years that having a bad client is worse than having none. … it prevents you from finding other good clients. And you’re unlikely to get a good reference. In fact, they are likely to tell everyone they know how you weren’t able to help them, because they certainly aren’t going to admit it was their fault. … it just makes you feel bad about coming to work. It destroys the culture.
5. “Do you ever worry that you are going to do too much during your sales call, and that the client will take it and use it and not hire you?” …
“I don’t worry about it. Very few people are going to do something like that. If they need help, they need help. Even if what I show them makes perfect sense, they usually know they need help implementing it and getting the rest of their team on board. … even if they do that, then they’d probably be a pretty lousy client anyway. So it would be better to find that out up front.”
6. … fairly long list of principles … but not much structure around their approach.
7. … one of the most intense, interesting and effective behavioural therapy exercises I had ever witnessed. All in a little more than an hour.
Starting with the CEO, they went around the room and told him what they thought his most valuable attribute was for the team, and then they went around and told him the one thing they thought he should work on. The answers were pretty consistent; he took them well, and promised to do his best to address the biggest area of weakness, …
Then they went around the table and did the same for everyone else …
8. Almost all of the time and energy … was being directed toward consulting to (servicing) paying clients. Those clients in turn became the sales engine for the firm, and even when we did an occasional cold call, it was the references from clients that shortened the sales cycle considerably. I’m not even sure I’d call it a sales cycle at all.
9.” … They spend almost none of their time selling. … most of their business comes from referrals and warm leads. And in the rare event that they do a cold call, they spend very little time doing research or writing up proposals or wordsmithing presentations.”
What do they do then? …
“… when they meet up with a client, they spend their time asking questions and doing primary research right there. It’s like they skip the entire sales process. And, they are remarkably successful.
… instead of trying to outsmart the companies they are selling to, they just go there and start consulting.”
10. … they are far less professional than we are. They are also less sophisticated, less rigourous and less systematic. But they are so much more effective.
… every client … raves about these people. They do most of the marketing for them, and without being asked. More than half their clients come from unsolicited referrals.
11. Why did the client pick them instead of us?
The client tells them why - “It just felt like you guys were going to tell us how to run our business, and you were trying to convince us that you knew more than us, I guess. And you were telling us all the things that you would do for us if we hired you. They didn’t do that. … They didn’t come up with any answers. But they asked questions. And, they had suggestions, but they admitted that some or all of these suggestions might not be right. And, some of them weren’t, but some were, and more than anything, it felt like they were more interested in helping us figure our problems than they were in closing the deal.”
What has it been like working with them since then?
“The same as it was that day. It’s like all they are interested in doing is helping us solve our problems. I’ve already told half a dozen other CEOs about them. I couldn’t be happier.”
12. The power of what they do can be explained in one word: vulnerability.
13. The three fears that sabotage client loyalty
i. The 1st Fear: Fear of losing the business
It’s not that they go out of their way to tick off their clients. It’s just that they are so focussed on saying and doing whatever is in the best interests of those clients that they stop worrying about the repercussions. They make themselves completely vulnerable, or naked, and don’t try to protect themselves.
… they’ll usually look at a company’s website and get a general sense of what business the client is in. But they do most of their research when they meet the client, by asking questions. And they certainly don’t come up with a slideshow or a marketing packet.
a. Consult, don’t sell. Give away the business.
The other part of this, giving away the business, is about never worrying about the fees. Don’t bring them up during the sales call unless they ask. Don’t apologise for what you charge when they do ask. And if there’s ever a dispute about fees, side with the client and charge the lesser amount.
… That’s what nakedness and vulnerability are all about. If a client wants to take advantage of you, let them.
I’ve seen their consultants go to a client and suggest that they pay a lower retainer because they weren’t using their services enough.’
… It’s all about standing there naked in front of the client. It’s about building trust. And in the end, that means the client trusts them and takes care of them.
b. Tell the kind truth
I know a consultant who told his client that he needed to move his son out of a leadership position because he was incompetent. Another guy I know recently told a CEO that he doesn’t hold his staff accountable. And, last week I had to tell a guy that I thought he talked too much during meetings. But remember the ‘kind’ part. We give them that sort of feedback with a level of empathy and concern that you would normally reserve for a friend.
No matter how uncomfortable the conversation might be in the moment, eventually the clients are so glad that someone cares enough about them to be honest, they probably can’t imagine not having you around.
c. Enter the danger
In consulting, entering the danger comes into play in those moments when you are in a meeting and someone says something that is either strange or politically sensitive, and you know that the level of anxiety and discomfort in the room is high. What you are tempted to do is just be quiet and let the moment pass, but what great consultants do is walk right into the middle of the situation and call it out.
Whenever I see someone enter the danger …, clients inevitably come up to you individually and thank you. They say things like “I am so glad you made us talk about that’, and ‘I’ve been wanting to do what you did today for three years, but I felt it would have been a career-limiting move.”
ii. The 2nd Fear: Fear of being embarrassed
One fear that most consultants struggle with is the fear of being embarrassed or looking stupid in front of their clients.
a. Ask dumb questions
Whether it’s an industry term or an acronym or a concept that everyone else in the room seems to understand, they just never pretend to know more than they do. … I think their clients appreciate that about them.
b. Make dumb suggestions
<Don’t hesitate to make suggestions, even if they turn out to be dumb.>
c. Celebrate your mistakes
If a suggestion turns out to be dumb, you admit it was a bad idea as soon as you realize it. You laugh at yourself. You take their ribbing. And most important, you don’t stop making suggestions. Most of your ideas won’t be horrible. Even the ones that aren’t so good won’t hurt you as long as you are humble enough to acknowledge that you are not an expert. And if you have built trust with the client, they don’t think about it for a second.
… The idea is that your clients are looking for good suggestions, and they don’t mind sifting through some not-so-good ones as long as they are offered with good intentions and with no ego attached.
iii. The 3rd Fear: Fear of feeling inferior
One of the last things consultants want is for their clients to look down on them or, even worse, look right through them. There is something about wanting them to see you as being important that goes with the job.
The fear of being embarrassed or looking stupid is about taking an intellectual risk. It’s about the pride of not wanting to be wrong. The fear of feeling inferior is more about humility as a person, not needing to be the centre of attention. Even taking on a role of true subservience to a client.
… some of the principles that go down with this …
a. Take a bullet for the client
b. Make everything about the client
c. Honour the client’s work - This is about genuinely displaying enthusiasm and respect for what the client does.
d. Do the dirty work
There is something so powerful about a person who in one moment can be confident enough to confront a client about a sensitive personal issue, and then in the next moment humble themselves and take a position of servitude. It’s the paradoxical nature of it all that makes it work.
Here are few excerpts from the book where the author explains what he means by The Naked Service Model and what to do specifically to shed the three fears that destroy client loyalty.
At the outset, let me tell you that it won't be as simple as reading the book to get breakthrough business performance. What the implementation of the ideas in the book really requires is the transformation of what it means to be you, what it means to be a leader in your organization, what it means to be a business in the world.
Its only on this journey of leadership transformation beginning with you will you get access to your inner creative power and outer enthusiastic followership to lead your organisation to cut over from good to great.
What this journey requires is for us to build high levels of self-awareness about our own evolutionary fears - I am not good enough, I am not important, I am all alone. After being present to one of these or a combination of these fears, the journey requires us to march forth like peaceful warriors to transmute these evolutionary fears to step into the highest version of ourselves.
Click here to read the 5-Stage Leadership Development Process I use with my clients to support them to become naked service providers; unleashing their performance, productivity, creativity and innovation. They create not only breakthrough business results but also breakthroughs in other areas of their life - health and fitness, relationships, kids, finances, purpose, spirituality, emotional intelligence.
I find it incredibly beautiful to observe how building a great business only happens in parallel to going within to be the greatest version of who we are.
Wishing you the joy of the journey.
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