How to Get in Sync With How Your Clients Think and Impress Them


How to Get in Sync With How Your Clients Think and Impress Them

It’s a popular notion that Small Business owners should run their businesses on their own terms, and I certainly agree with that. Too many business owners allow themselves to become puppets in their clients’ hands, and as a result, lose their passion for their business along with the ability to think and act as leaders.

Unfortunately, however, many business owners go a bit too far in their efforts to be their own masters, and thus deprive themselves of the opportunity to explore new ways of working and to develop deeper connections with their clients.

Ways to build bridges with clients

There are many ways we can adapt the way we work without compromising our values and integrity. (Of course, we first need to get clear about what our values are, and then it becomes easier to try out new things while staying true to ourselves.)

For example, speaking our clients’ language and using their preferred method of communication will lead to more trusting and collaborative relationships – which is fairly common knowledge. Dressing in line with our clients’ dress code can also help.

However, probably not many business owners would consider adopting their clients’ work habits and work styles when embarking on a new project, and this might be a missed opportunity.

“Your work style is the combination of your unique work habits and strategies which help you produce the best results. This includes: in what sort of place you work most effectively on a specific task, which tools and communication channels you use, which part of the day you are most productive, how long you can pay attention without taking a break, and whether you work best alone or in a team.” – Quoted from the book, Create a Thriving Workspace

What happened when I swapped my computer for Post-its

In my own consulting practice, adopting my clients’ work styles can lead to wonderful results. This became clear to me during one of my first workplace design projects. I worked with a young and dynamic strategy design consultancy, helping them design their new office. The briefing meeting, held at my clients’ existing office, gave me really good insights into how they worked, communicated, and approached problems. They moved around a lot during the meeting, drew sketches on paper, wrote their ideas on the walls, and used a lot of Post-It notes. There was not a single electronic device in sight.

At that time I was still accustomed to the sort of work practices you see in the corporate world, automatically reaching for a computer when facing a problem to solve. However, this approach now didn’t feel quite right. After the meeting, instead of starting to work the way I was used to, I stopped for a moment, took a deep breath and pulled out a bunch of Post-it notes from my cupboard. It was time to ‘role play’ – to use my clients’ work style to develop a concept plan for their new office space.

Organising my ideas on small pieces of paper – a bit like playing with puzzle pieces – was a fun experience. But as I had never worked like this before, I didn’t have much confidence. Nevertheless, when I presented the result of my work to my clients, they absolutely loved it. I somehow managed to develop a vision and plan for their office space that embodied the essence of who they were and supported their ways of working really well.

What happens when we get into other people’s skin

The types of work tools and technology we use actually guide the way we think. For example, we use different words when typing on a computer, writing on a piece of paper or speaking to another person, even when we try to say the same thing. The types of tools we use also influence how we approach creative tasks, solve problems and learn new topics. Consequently, when two people use similar work tools, their ways of thinking become more aligned.

There’s also another reason why copying other people’s behaviour helps us reach the same wavelength, which lies in the mystery of the unconscious mind. If you study Neuro-Linguistic Programming, one of the first things you learn is that mimicking other people’s body language and speech patterns helps create rapport – the feeling of familiarity between people. This happens not only because we tend to feel close to people who are in some way similar to us, but also because specific speech patterns, gestures and body postures tend to evoke specific thoughts and emotions. In other words, if you accurately copy other people’s behaviour, you become to some extent telepathic.

Go and give it a try

Of course, in business you cannot and should not become a clone of your clients. But adopting a few elements of their work styles can certainly help you understand them better. Meeting them at their premises, instead of your own office, can bring you important insights. Before diving into working for them, take a moment and think through how you could change the way you normally work, getting into their shoes.

I promise that you won’t need to give up anything of yourself or lose control over your work. Rather the opposite. You will develop greater empathy and connection with your clients than you would otherwise – you’ll get more enjoyment from working together and achieve greater results. And you never know, you might also learn something interesting about yourself.

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