Believe it or not, influence is not synonymous with persuasion.
When it comes to doing business, I believe there’s a misunderstanding that influence is merely determining what people need and using the power of persuasion to benefit from that knowledge. But this sense of reciprocity isn’t what selling to a client is all about. To me, it’s about building a long-term relationship based on more.
It’s credibility that will make people want to do business with you.
Building Long-Term Trust
When it comes to gaining influence, trust is everything. To build the foundation of that trust, the focus during initial conversations has to be on listening to clients and assessing their needs. I’ve learned that the goal can’t simply be showing what our company, Mitchell, can do. There’s no question that they need to understand our capabilities because we want them to know we have what it takes to help them, but my ultimate focus must be outward on them and solving their problems, not inward on our agency.
After gaining initial trust, you must maintain it by doing what you say you are going to do. This means you cannot oversell who you are and what you can do. Following through on your commitment is vital to connecting with and influencing your clients. It sounds simple, but projects often don’t meet the expectations of clients. Either the quality is subpar and the project is overbudget or the timeline is not followed and the deliverable is late. Therefore, we must communicate with our clients every step of the way.
Most often, our clients are handing us work they don’t have time to do. They trust that we’ll fulfill their vision for that work. By picking up the phone and talking to clients or sending an update through email, you ensure they’re fully aware of where you are and what you’re doing throughout the process. Then, do what you say you’re going to — and make sure it’s on time.
Staying on deadline — and on budget — while doing good work is one of the simplest, most effective ways to impress a client.
Throwing the Boomerang
Part of being an influencer is helping your clients innovate. There are a few methods we use on a daily and weekly basis at Mitchell to make sure that happens:
- Keep up with the latest news.
- Research new trends.
- Brainstorm as a team.
- Collect data from clients.
- Have the research and insights team provide information on clients, their consumers, and the industry.
Besides those tools, being an authentic influencer means asking clients what else you can do for them. Influence isn’t about selling your worth to your clients and persuading them to give you expensive projects in return. It’s about focusing on what you can give to clients — not on what clients can give to you. Invest in long-term relationships because you’re proud of your work and the overall objective of making your clients successful.
You have to work with your clients under the mindset that you’re doing what’s right and trying to help. The key to that mindset is humility. You cannot let pride get in the way, or you’ll be constantly keeping tabs on how much you give — and how often you don’t get anything in return. For the teams I manage, I like to say, “Throw the boomerang.” Even though it might not come back to you right away, it will eventually. Then, sit back and watch the boomerang come sweeping back.
Blake Woolsey is Executive Vice President at Mitchell, and one of the top corporate coaches and facilitators in the nation. Her extensive PR expertise spans media training, crisis communications, presentation training, strategic thinking, influence, negotiation and persuasion.
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