This is a guest article by Stephanie Bickel of Speak by Design
We are all being presented with a rare opportunity to get to know people more personally than ever before. Let’s embrace it!
With video calls becoming the new normal, you are now seeing inside people’s homes. You may get a glimpse of their “new” office that showcases their personality. You may see a family member pop into view during that ever so important team meeting. You may hear someone’s dog bark in the background.
Someone out there will use this unique time to deepen client relationships. Why can’t it be you? Take advantage of it now! Maximize this time now! How can you do it better than anyone else remotely? Here are a few tips:
Use virtual platforms often
Choose a video call over a phone conversation whenever possible. You will be able to express yourself more fully and can get to know your clients on a deeper level as you use your virtual platforms like Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Team Meeting. Now that you see each other’s homes, pets, spouses and children, share something interesting, positive, or challenging about your new workspaces.
Discuss communication preferences
Now is a good time to re-evaluate the communication norms that were established previously with your clients. What is the right meeting frequency, length, number of materials or collaboration needed? Should pre-reads be sent with more notice?
Provide capability building
Can you help your client to be better on their virtual platform? There are many great features that allow you to collaborate and share ideas like the Whiteboard, Polling and Breakout Room features in Zoom. Instead of canceling the townhall, design a high impact virtual meeting, workshop or presentation. If you need to brainstorm options, conduct retrospectives or develop solutions, MIRO boards provide beautiful virtual spaces to capture everyone’s thoughts.
Be mindful of your client’s time
Just like you, clients are juggling a new norm with many distractions while working from home. Have a goal to reduce meeting time by 25%. Keep agendas tight and focused on how you can help them so clients can get back to their work and responsibilities at home. If you are sharing slides during the meeting, try to simplify it down to the 3-5 most important visuals. Don’t overwhelm them with a content heavy Powerpoint that they won’t be able to follow anyway.
Listen to your clients
Schedule a virtual “coffee talk”. Ask questions about the biggest challenges your clients are facing. This is the time to talk less and listen more. Listening with empathy is more important now than ever before. There is a lot of uncertainty, but decisions still need to be made. Demonstrate your value by proposing ideas that could solve their problems now.
Praise often to build confidence
It is easy to get frustrated about the challenges and obstacles during this unique time. We can find us falling into the trap of thinking about what is not going well instead of what is. Recognize others for what they do right and do it even more often than you have done it in the past. Nothing feels better than a pat on the back for something that was done well. Nothing except saying it in front of others to build someone’s confidence. Begin your meetings with a Round of Recognition to highlight how client overcame barriers and succeeded during this time.
Become the master of small talk
Call into meetings early to take advantage of every possible opportunity to learn about others. If small talk is difficult for you, have a list of questions prepared. “What did you do over the weekend? How do you like your “new” office accommodations? How are you managing this change with your family? Small talk is great to uncover things you have in common and similar interests. Begin with more personal conversations to show how interested you are in others and also use these conversations to show how interesting you are to them. The tone for the rest of the meeting can be influenced by those opening moments. Small talk can also become a way to build trust and establish a deeper relationship that goes beyond just a business partnership.
Use this unique period to connect with clients in more meaningful ways than you have before. Make the time to engage in different ways and embrace new technology to deepen those relationships. Do it before your competitors do. It will be well worth the effort! And remember…
The relationships you strengthen now can have a lasting impact…
…well beyond the time when this pandemic is over!
Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of Speak by Design. She created the Lead by Design methodology for all Speak by Design programming. She recently launched Speak by Design University to help sustain the impact from their programs. Speak by Design has deep expertise launching new CEOs, coaching TED talks, preparing management team presentations to investors, and helping Sales professionals win new business.
Their signature courses include: Presence, Presenting with Impact, Storylining, High Impact Meetings, 360 Leadership Communication, Handling Difficult Situations, and Trusted Advisor Training. Speak by Design help people become consistently compelling forces for their organizations. www.speakbydesign.com
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