The Best Client Service Advice

The best client service advice I ever received was given to me by a colleague 20 years my senior. I’ve always admired the quality and depth of his business relationships. His clients had a tendency to be demanding, but they were also his personal friends. One day, I asked him how he did it, and his answer stuck with me.  So, what was it?

His advice: Always work to get your client personally promoted to a higher job level, study what their bosses or organization value and then help your client deliver impressive on-target results.

Now, at first glance, one might say that this concept is no different than delivering the scope of work on time, on budget and with good quality, but nothing could really be further from the “promotion theory.” Over the years, I’ve found that my clients  get credit by solving issues or enhancing an image outside of the scope of work.

Finding the necessary characteristics that lend themselves to your client’s success takes work. You cannot initially be so direct, but by building a relationship and studying the way others get promoted, you can better understand the values of the individuals within the organization who are responsible for promoting.

For example, one project I worked on was relatively straightforward in scope, but I realized that my client’s boss wanted to be recognized in the industry for innovation. As a result, I wrote a technical paper on the project and convinced my client to jointly submit our paper into a professional conference. We then asked his boss to also co-author the piece, eventually convincing him to attend the conference and present it. It was no surprise that the boss thought it was a fantastic project and […]

By |May 1st, 2021|Career Lessons|0 Comments

The Importance of Reading Offices

When I first entered the consulting world in the mid-1970, there was a process in my company where new junior project managers were indoctrinated into the company’s client service culture. They didn’t learn this information via a class or some literature, rather, through on-the-job training. You would be paired with a more experienced project manager, who acted as your mentor and trainer for six months to a year. Your role as a junior project participant was not only to assist on assignments, working with others as a team, but also travel and meet clients with your mentor. Your role in these client visits was to stay quiet and observe how the senior colleague handled clients.

In this article, I want to share one of the invaluable lessons that I learned from this training experience, which has served me well throughout my career. I call the lesson: “reading a client’s office.” (Later in my career, as I became more senior, it led to reading my colleagues and employees’ offices.)

To learn this skill, you must visit a client in their personal office or space. As I was in the midst of this training, the car ride to the client’s office generally served as my preparation time from my senior colleague and the return trip was used as a debriefing. In the debriefing session, I was grilled on what I saw and was asked to think about what it meant in both developing a relationship and delivering the project. The practice forced me to become much more observant about my client’s personal life.

Your client’s office is a physical reflection of their value system, their points of pride, their interests and hobbies, their families, their accomplishments, their organizational […]

By |December 11th, 2020|Career Lessons|0 Comments

The “Leave Something” Rule


There are many great client relation tips in sales, but one of the best is, “Leave Something Behind (or soon thereafter).” Last year I wrote an article about how to “read a client’s office” to determine personal information about them but I never said what to do with it. “Leaving something behind” means that after the first visit, when you have had the opportunity to study the space and/or engage in client conversation, you always follow up that first visit by sending something relating to the personal background you discovered about that client. It could be a book, a research article, a magazine article, a small gift, a photograph—something small, but thoughtful. Send it with an old-fashioned handwritten note. It shows that you really listened and cared about what the client said.

The goal is to give you a memorable and personal point to pick up the next conversation with this individual where it left off in the last meeting. This symbolizes to the client that you not only listened, but were affected enough to continue thinking about them even after the meeting ended. Some time may have passed, but you remember where you left the discussion and are ready to re-engage. A physical reminder of your visit will linger long after your discussion. As you finish your second visit, study the office or that day’s conversation further to think about the third visit’s ‘leave behind.’ That’s right: it does not stop after the first visit.

I’ll give an example that occurred to me just the other day. I visited a well-known financial institute that I bank with, to review my investment portfolio. The meeting went fine and afterward, the senior officer of the bank joined us […]

By |May 1st, 2017|Career Lessons|0 Comments

Tenacity Is The Key To Successful Marketing

Controlling your expectations and never giving up will produce marketing results.

In the world of selling consulting services, you don’t often have product innovation or technical breakthroughs that provide you with a compelling sales pitch for a new client. In fact, most clients are already well served by one to four other consultants who could be regarded as having equal expertise and have delivered past positive results. The incumbent consultants differentiate themselves by applying excellent service provider personalities and a track record of successful work. Rarely do technological offerings significantly differ, so it is always a challenge to figure out how to break through with a new client and be given a chance.

When opening a new geographical office, we used to sort the potential clients into two pools: ‘nice to have’ clients and ‘sustainable foundation’ clients. The former was necessary to pay the overhead while establishing our presence. But it was not until we won the critical ones that we gained office sustainability. Selling the first one was difficult.

When inexperienced marketers initially go after a client they visit the decision maker once or twice, submitting a proposal when asked. They pour significant effort into that first proposal to assure the best graphics and content. And most times, without fail, they lose. Many of these novices are surprised and go back to the client for a debriefing. The client will reluctantly give specific reasons for not selecting them, most of which are fictitious. I use the expression: “the winner knows exactly why they won, but losers will never know and probably will be misled by the feedback.” This is based on past experience that clients rarely reveal the truth of their inner thoughts to the losers […]

By |August 1st, 2015|Career Lessons|0 Comments

One-Fact Marketing

My wife helps people trace their ancestry through genealogy investigation. Unfortunately, she occasionally starts with someone else’s previously researched data. As she proceeds with her additive research, she occasionally finds a falsely identified relative from whom a whole tree has been built. Once this is discovered (after she has spent considerable time), she realizes that her time has been wasted on a dead trail—all because a previous researcher probably took one bit of ‘convenient’ information and jumped to a wrong identity conclusion without confirming it with a second or third source. My wife knows when investigating ancestry, you never accept any identity unless it can be verified by a second independent source.

This rule also applies in business marketing. The trait of a first-rate marketer is an obsession with information—they can never get enough and never consider it true unless it is corroborated.

An immature marketer will believe the first piece of information they hear. Without the curiosity to confirm the particulars, they act on this initial knowledge and tell their teammates. Suddenly, an unconfirmed fact—or rumor—becomes the truth. The misinformation is then spread to teammates who don’t question its validity. It becomes “the truth” and hence, the pursuit of confirmation stops.

When I was engaged in marketing, I would take advantage of this phenomenon. I deliberately leaked misinformation about my strategy in professional forums or in circles of particularly talkative people, in order to feed and fool the lazier marketers of my competitors—those who I knew wouldn’t bother to take the time to confirm the information with corroborating sources. I was careful to stay consistent with the misinformation in different settings, in hopes of creating multiple channels.

Key false facts I would leak included: the name of a […]

By |May 1st, 2015|Career Lessons|0 Comments

Talk To Me!

OK, I admit it…I have a major hang-up with voicemail in offices as the primary mode of daily operations. I think it is diametrically opposed to superb client service for a services company. I don’t know how long voicemail has existed, but its appropriate usage has progressed over time from bad—to terrible—to miserable. Let’s admit it, voicemail is primarily there for the convenience of the one for which the automated voicemail message was generated, at the detriment of the sender of that message. The recorded message is indirectly saying, “My time is more important than yours, and I’ll get back to you when it is convenient for me. If necessary, I don’t care if we play phone tag for a week.” Is this what a good client service company is about, really?

When I say the voicemail conundrum has only gotten worse, I am referring to central computer-generated “receptionists” that force you to go through the electronic menu of: “If you know the extension of the person you are dialing, dial it now. If not, type in the first three letters of their last name” process. I have noticed the numbers on a phone are big, but letters are small—leaving me to struggle to find my glasses while response time runs out and I need to call again. It infuriates me. Everyone has experienced the systems for so-called great utility, insurance and banking companies that require you to wade through a series of push button access prompts. “If you want your balance, press 1, if you want to transfer funds, press 2, if you want to…” and on and on. I experienced one company that had eight different sequences in their automated “general directory.” Finally, as […]

By |February 1st, 2015|Career Lessons|0 Comments