When you are working with people or businesses in a service capacity, the client is paying you to be an advisor and watch their back. And really, they want you to perform that role. Sometimes it can be a little intimidating to approach someone with what may feel like unsolicited advice, but if you’re an advisor, that’s what you’re being paid to do.
It might be more comfortable to get permission at the beginning of the relationship to do this – set the table that you’ll be looking out for them and bringing suggestions from time to time. This not only prepares them to expect it, but it gives you some built-in accountability to be actively looking out for your clients.
There are many ways to follow client activities, and Internet tools make it very easy to not only keep an eye on their activity, but on their industry and local marketplace, as well.
If you’re familiar with their business operations and vision, and you’re actively watching them in the local news, following their online activity, or noting what’s going on in their industry, then you’ll very likely run into some information where it makes sense to proactively contact them.
Let’s think about some possible scenarios:
- Maybe it’s something as simple as congratulating them on an accomplishment, or note what kind of progress they’ve made in an area on which you know they’ve been actively focusing (clients love to know you’re paying attention away from the sales cycle).
- You’ve got some advice or tips on how to improve something they’re doing (e.g., improve consistency across locations with standards & training).
- You find some information that could help them improve their business (e.g., new technology now available that might replace existing out-dated technology).
- You can help them take a competitive lead (e.g., a trend that is taking hold in a different industry might translate to their business).
- Help them head off a potential risk or threat or take advantage of a possible opportunity coming down the pipe (e.g., new large employer coming into town looking to do a lot of hiring which might threaten their employee base).
If you’ve got solid business ideas and concerns that they need to consider, then by all means, talk to them. Don’t wait until disaster strikes and then say, “Yeah, I wondered if that might be an issue for you.” Take a proactive approach to the relationship and know that you’ve got their best interests in mind, plus a more distant perspective, which can always be beneficial.
When I hire someone in a service capacity, I usually start off the relationship asking her for advice on how I can improve and then directly open the door for her to proactively contact me with ideas. Which means I’m readily putting myself out there as being willing to take advice, be a repeat buyer, and a potential referral source or center of influence. I find that it’s the rare person who takes me up on this offer.
Happy, delighted, successful current clients are a direct link to new clients and more revenue. There are so many resources at our fingertips to keep an eye on what businesses are doing that watching and offering a little help along the way just makes good business sense.
Photo by Laughlin Elkind.