Clients who feel they have the upper hand are more likely to make unreasonable demands regarding project timelines, deadlines and pricing. It is harder to get them to listen to your opinions or take your advice. They may also be more likely to blow off meetings, keep you waiting and pay slowly on invoices.
Avoid the pitfalls of an unbalanced relationship by demanding respect on day one.
Respect and Expectations
A good salesperson walks into every interaction confident they can deliver what the prospective customer wants and needs. Even the most confident sales professional will often falter on one key element of the sales process: mutual respect. Learning to establish mutual respect in every relationship takes practice and effort.
Building mutual respect is a hard skill for many sales people to master. Why? Because as the sales person you are looking for the prospective client to give you something at the end of the conversation, such as a check or purchase order. The natural behavior pattern when you are bartering is to be a bit deferential during the interaction. A submissive approach sets up an unbalanced relationship which will cause problems down the road.
Keep in mind the customer is expecting to get something from your relationship. They expect access to your expertise or your product as a solution to their problem. Your goal is to create a level playing field from the start and nurture a productive working relationship throughout the project. Here’s how:
Be prepared to walk away
This is easier said than done. Trust me- the prospect can always tell if you walk into a sales conversation knowing you must seal the deal. If you genuinely believe there are other people out there who want to work with you, it is easier to hold your positions.
Your time is valuable
A prospect invited me to his office and kept me waiting in the lobby for 15 minutes. I wanted the project but I knew if I didn’t establish a value for my time I never would. When it came time to meet, I told him I was sorry we hadn’t been able to start on time because I had to leave 45 minutes earlier. When I stood up to leave and we weren’t finished meeting, I invited him to continue the conversation over the phone or at my office. He never kept me waiting again.
Things happen. Life gets in the way and we all miss appointments. If it happens once, it’s no big deal. However, when a client consistently runs late or stands you up, take it as a sign. They believe their time is more valuable than yours.
Take a lesson from your hair dresser. If you cancel an appointment within 24 hours, you are going to be charged. While I don’t typically send bills for missed appointments, I don’t let clients slide. I will send a note or call to figure things out. Clients who miss multiple appointments don’t get back on my schedule.
Set expectations up front
Small businesses need a typical, standardized work process. Let prospects know about your process right from the start. Give clients firm timelines for projects and let them know what their responsibilities are. If they miss deadlines, be prepared to adjust your project schedule.
Don’t let a client’s inability to get information to you on time turn into a crisis on your end. If something has to go print on Friday, be very clear that final changes must be sent to you by Wednesday.
The Bottom Line
Set the terms of a business relationship in the very first meeting. Demonstrate you bring value to the table and earn the right to demand respect throughout the process. Starting the relationship on the right foot keeps things comfortable for both sides of the deal and helps ensure a smooth project process.
It might sound like we’re rigid at Roundpeg. We really aren’t. We have been known to stay well past seven to finish something a client must absolutely have the next day. We move meetings and show up well before eight (as long as there is coffee) to accommodate a good client. The definition of a good client? One who respects what we bring to the table.
As you go on your next sales call, remember to demand the respect you deserve.