The earliest memories of attending client meetings was often one of fear. Fear that we might just get caught out. A tricky question asked in the heat of the moment could potentially show us up for the fraud that we were and confirm our own imposter syndrome to be true. So whenever a client posed a question – face to face or over the phone – there was an instant emotional rush often leading to a disappointing response. Whether this really happened is all history now, but the mindset of being tested and caught out when talking to clients often stays with us.
To overcome this at Catseye we decided to create a different path. By feeling more prepared and anticipating the likelihood and sorts of questions gave us an inner confidence and belief which lead to a better outcome. We called these questions the Top Ten and the Terrible Three (TT & TT). In preparing for any client conversation, but more likely the type that had more at stake – a pitch or a negotiation – this genuinely helped.
The Top Ten Before any important conversation – ask yourself “what are the types questions likely to be on the mind of my client?” Consider the lens through which your client might see a situation. Don’t always assume the thing you’ve come to talk about will be at the top of their list. Step back and look around their business and the more macro factors that could impact them. From here a number of questions might surface. Then having listed these set yourself the task of creating effective and meaningful responses to them. It is not a test. You may not have a perfect answer at this point in time – but you may have a valid view point that you could share.
The Terrible Three Amongst the many (or few) questions that might be directed at you, there may be a few that will cause you more intellectual or emotional effort. Identify these. They are probably the questions you don’t want to be asked. They may come from your top ten but equally may stand alone as classic questions that you often struggle with. Typically these can range from the costs of your (as yet unscoped) service, the timescales involved, how good your service really is or what often goes wrong in these types of situations. List your terrible three and focus your attention on designing some great responses to them. More often they rarely get asked – but you feel bullet-proof inside.
Some Catseye Wisdom We find that clients rarely play games when it comes to asking questions. They questions come from a place of curiosity and spending time with them exploring the fullness of the questions and scope of possible answers has often been at the route of why clients value the time spent with us. Being bold with your answers can pay dividends too. Don’t rush to answer as this can give the wrong impact or value to your points of view. To buy yourself a little more time to reflect and compose yourself, we have found repeating the question can help you and all those listening re-hear it. This had the added benefit of holding the moment whilst you or others contribute to a positive response. A heightened emotional intelligence should be fully employed when handling client questions – which will help you read the situation and signpost your next best move.
If we haven’t quite answered the topic here, don’t panic, why not drop us question. Good luck.