When it came to the business world, I used to imagine it divided into three distinct groups: bosses and employees, vendors and customers, and investors and entrepreneurs.
I didn’t realize that almost every professional relationship could provide an opportunity to mentor or be mentored and that
When you view customers as clients, they view you as more of a partner than a vendor. You not only inspire client fidelity, but you also broaden their notions about the different ways you can collaborate.
Being a mentor to clients strengthens your relationship and can lead to the far-reaching benefits of having “friends in the industry.”
Helping Clients See the Light
Here are six ways you can get your clients to see you as more of a partner — and crave your consultations:
#1. Remember: it starts with value-added sales and ends with your reputation.
I’m a believer in consultative sales. Coming from that standpoint sets the tone for your relationship before any contracts are signed.
For example, I might say, “Hey, I don’t know whether you’re retargeting, but you’ve got low-hanging fruit here. Whether you work with us or not, spend the 20 bucks a day on Facebook. You’ll make more money, period.”
If you plant seeds and provide value, you’re going to be seen as a mentor from the get-go.
#2. Educate them on your past experiences.
Let your clients know you’ve worked toward goals similar to their own in a similar setting.
We do that with our online portfolio. During our sales process, we showcase our knowledge in a particular niche and refer to our other clients in similar industries. Then, we can talk about strategies we’ve used for existing clients that have addressed the same kinds of problems.
For instance, we might say to a fashion e-commerce client, “So you’re trying to make the transition from wholesale into digital? We’ve helped a lot of clients like you, and we know that space well.” Then, we might show the client the digital work we did with Sol Angeles and how the brand has increased its top and bottom lines because of it.
#3. Provide context for services rendered.
It’s always hard to push back on clients and say, “Look, I know what you want to do, but when we’ve done that with other clients, we’ve seen negative outcomes. What we have seen succeed are X, Y, and Z.”
Many clients think they know what their markets are without having the data to support it. We believe in testing, and our work has proven that initial assumptions are rarely accurate.
Be transparent about what has worked and what hasn’t. Invariably, we’ve had some hard conversations and healthy debate as a result, but once we logged a few wins, we earned greater trust and were given more latitude. Ultimately, do what they pay you to do, but try to educate them on better alternatives.
#4. Offer general counsel and support.
To do this in an organic way from the outset, I use a sales tactic called “feel, felt, found.”
It goes something like this: “Hey, I know you feel like this wouldn’t necessarily be right for your brand. In fact, when I worked with so-and-so, they felt the same way, but they found that this turned out to be the best path forward and got good revenue on it.”
Bring in empathy and social proof, and then explain what the client can expect on the other side.
#5. Build real rapport.
We gain trust by asking the right questions and performing well. From there, if we need to know about revenue numbers to better serve our clients, we can ask without spooking them.
If we’ve built the right rapport, we’re essentially the outsourced CMO who would have total visibility into profits and losses, cost basis, payroll, and other such aspects. As we continue to ask the right questions, we’re building an even stronger rapport.
#6. Speak to peripheral business objectives and challenges.
Once you develop a solid rapport and have access to a client’s internal issues, you can say, “Man, it looks like you’re hamstrung by these other expenses that might not be worth it.”
Sometimes, by referring clients to other providers that will save them money, you can actually help free up their budgets for the work you do together.
In the end, a mentee-mentor relationship should benefit both parties. As a service provider who endears yourself to clients, you’re more likely to retain their business. And the business leaders who work with you will, consequently, receive candid advice and guidance from someone with nothing to gain.
Image: Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person