The Client-centred Blog

Working ONLY with wonderful clients – the two essential questions

The very first stage of a new client relationship is connecting with someone.

They may get in touch with you. You may get in touch with them.

Whichever it is the next stage is that you invite them into a conversation.

Conversations are the most important aspect of building your practice because without these, nothing happens.

Once within a conversation then there are two essential questions to consider if you want to work only with wonderful clients.

  1. Can I help?
  2. Do I want to?

There is a third aspect I also believe is extremely important.

You must create value within your conversations, so that whatever the outcome in terms of whether someone becomes a client or not, the conversation creates significant value for them in some way.

I have worked with a good number of clients over the years that came as referrals from people I had conversations with but never ended up working with on a commercial basis.

Why do we end up with clients who are not wonderful?

One of the reasons that we can end up with clients that are unprofitable, too demanding, unresponsive to requests, do not respect us or are uncoachable, is that we are going too fast.

Why do we go too fast?

Because we are focusing on the outcome.

We are getting ahead of ourselves and want to win the person over, get their business and so remove the pressure that we feel.

I used to be exactly like this, and I ended up with a whole bunch of unprofitable clients.

It was my coach who helped me to see what was going on.

When we feel a sense of internal pressure and mistakenly believe it is because of our external circumstances, for instance because we tell ourselves “I need the money” or “I need this business”, we lose perspective.

It may be true that you need the money. But you never need THAT person’s money.

The crucial point is this…

Slowing down is not damaging to your business or your income. It is the exact opposite. Slowing down is the key to growing your business and your income.

What does slowing down mean?

I had a conversation with an adviser client just recently. She had been a transactional adviser and wanted to create more value for her clients.

So, at her next meeting, instead of talking about financial arrangements she asked Marie, her client, and a successful businesswoman, about why she was so driven.

What was it that inspired Marie to put so much time and energy into her work?

This had her light up with enthusiasm about a humanitarian project in Africa she wanted to bring into being.

What happened?

It turned that the client had this big dream yet no concrete plan. This presented the perfect opportunity to respectfully challenge her client and potentially create enormous value.

“You have this big dream but no plan. How come? How does this make sense to you?”

I know from my own experience that when someone challenges you in this kind of way it can be immensely powerful. It can turn something that is a dream into an actionable project that actually happens.

And what value can you put this?

Michael Bungay Stanier wrote a book called, ‘The Advice Trap’. He says:

“We keep giving advice even though it doesn’t work that well.”

What does he suggest you do instead?

Stay curious a little bit longer.

You can only do this if you are willing to slow down. And as most people are not willing to slow down it hands you a significant advantage as one who is.

So, going back to my two original questions:

Can I help?
Do I want to?

Wonderful clients are people you collaborate with in accomplishing something important for them. So, your job is to find out what is most important to them.

P.S. Here is a short clip of Michael Bungay Stanier talking about the advice trap 3m 07s). Click here to view.

John Dashfield

John Dashfield spent 14 years as a self-employed adviser. Since 2006 he has been a coach, mentor and author helping advisers create transformations in their business and personal lives.


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