Don't show me the money!

You can never underestimate the value and implications of honesty in business. And I find myself agreeing 100% with Mary Kay Ash’s quote.

"Honesty is the cornerstone of all success, without which confidence and ability to perform shall cease to exist."

And to illustrate a very important point about personal integrity and listening to your client, I want to share a story that happened to me last year.

Last year, I was approached by a company to discuss how I could help them with a new marketing initiative they were hoping to launch. During the meeting, it emerged that whilst their idea was a good one, I didn’t feel they were ready to make a start on its implementation. Essentially they hadn’t done sufficient research into their target market to be confident of getting the right results.

Be honest

As I have always believed in offering an honest consultancy service, I took the opportunity to share my concerns with them. To say they were surprised was an under-statement. It transpired that I was the third marketing consultant they had approached and neither of the other two companies had felt the need to wave any warning flags. No, my competitors had calmly outlined costs and timelines before advising their availability to kick start the campaign.

Needless to say the company loved my honesty and were keen to learn how they could better prepare themselves for the launch of their new marketing initiative. After a lengthy meeting, where I offered just enough information for them to go away and do some work, but not too much that they no longer had need of my services, they said that when they were ready to begin they would let me know and then if I was in agreement they would love the opportunity to work with me. And upon further discussion it come to light that they had thought they were missing something, but were slightly confused that no one, apart from me, had actually had the courage and presence of mind to tell them what it was. To them, my approach was the right one as they felt that they could trust me.

Listen first

Therefore, my advice when meeting prospective clients is to not always say “yes I can do that”, “wow, what a great idea” and “when can I start.” Instead try to hold back and listen first. Because as an independent consultant or service provider, your role is to provide the best advice, tailored to your client’s current situation and future goals, regardless of whether you will make any money out of that advice or not.  And your prospective client wants to know that you have understood their strategy, they can trust you and finally that your values match their own so they are able to successfully work with you to deliver tangible results.  

Add value

So next time you are at a meeting, don’t think about what’s in it for me now, think about the added value of developing a long-term relationship based on trust. And because this scenario is sensible, it will more than likely earn you more over several years as a professional business partner than you could earn by just delivering a one off project.

And finally when your client asks you what exactly you are offering, remember to be:

  • Concise – remove the waffle and make your offering easy to understand
  • Clear – don’t let anything you say be misleading or open to interpretation
  • Relevant – summarise what they need and state how your service will provide a good solution