I love tennis! And yes, like the thousands of other people around the world last week, I was glued to the TV screen watching the tennis greats at Wimbledon. What makes tennis so entertaining to watch is the way the game builds and the tension rises. There’s a certain arc to it that creates a lot of anticipation and excitement for the spectator.
As I watched the players making their well executed moves on the court, it got me thinking that playing tennis is a lot like developing effective client relationships, especially with potential ones. To illustrate what I mean, first take a look at my breakdown of the stages of a tennis match.
1. The match opens with cordiality between players; it’s a gentleman’s sport, after all. But professional players are not innocent, they know a great deal about each other in advance. They spend hours watching videos of their opponents making sure they understand each other’s habits, abilities and so on.
2. Then there’s the warm up where players face each other across the court, hitting the ball back and forth, skillfully, but in warm up mode.
3. Once warmed up, the game begins. That’s when rallying picks up in intensity and drive.
4. A winner is declared after each set, with the best out of three or five winning the match. Each set has a minimum of six games, which can only be won by a lead of two games. So, as you can imagine, a tennis match can go on for a long time, requiring quite a bit of patience.
If you think about the above points, you’ll see that they’re not really that dissimilar from the way in which we might engage with a new client — if, that is, you want to have a successful relationship. So here are four tips to ensure that your client encounters result in positive outcomes.
The Language Lab’s Four Tips for Grand Slam Client Communication
1. Pre-Game: Do your research. Learn all you can about your client’s strengths, about whom they’ve done business with, and anything else about their habits and preferred ways of doing business. Use Google and LinkedIn, both useful tools, to gather information before that important first time meeting.
2. Warm-up: During the meeting, be prepared to focus, listen, and observe. Save the hard sell for later.
3. The rally: Make sure to follow up with ideas regarding how you would help improve this person’s business, or present her/him with solutions to problems that were introduced at that first meeting. And if you’re going to engage in an ongoing business relationship, there’s always that important back and forth discussion about a financial agreement.
4. Game, set, match: Stay cordial, focused, and genuine with the help you offer and you’ll have a really good chance of “winning” the match. The only quirk in my business/tennis analogy is this: in business, there isn’t just one victor; it’s win-win for all. Both client and service provider walk away winners, providing, no one loses her/his temper and throws down the racquet!
Do you have any other tips for building or maintaining successful client relationships? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or share your story in the comments.