One of the most challenging things about business development is overcoming the “Us vs. Them” mentality that inevitably arises. To put it kind of crudely, the other person, the prospective client, often instinctively puts you in the position of the Person Who is Trying to Separate Him From His Money. You end up, therefore, with a situation in which, from the outset, the other person doesn’t really trust you. This is really dysfunctional, and in my opinion, is what derails a lot of otherwise promising consultative selling situations.
The trick is to get them to understand that you’re actually on the same side. You want a great result for them — a solution that exactly meets their needs, a good result, whatever. That’s how longstanding, mutually beneficial client relationships are built. But it’s often challenging to get that message across. If you’re starting from a place of “I don’t trust you” words alone aren’t going to do it.
You need to show rather than tell. Which means working together with them on something. I had a colleague who used to refer to this as “taking them to the white board”. This is, of course, easier said than done, particularly with clients who are new, or with whom you don’t yet have a longstanding relationship.
One excellent way to do this is by asking them to collaborate with you on something written. Whether it’s a blog post, a full-on article, a white paper or something you’re planning on placing on social media, co-writing something with a client is a great way to deepen and strengthen a relationship. To do this effectively, it helps to have the subject be something in their area of expertise. It also helps to feature them and/or their company prominently and, if possible, arrange things so they do not have to do a lot of work. For instance, you write it, they comment on it, edit it or offer suggestions, and they get co-author credit.
What with the explosion of content marketing, there’s always a place to use this work — J.D. Supra or Lexology if they’re attorneys, for instance. It also helps if the co-author promotes the piece through their channels. But the main idea is to work together, to overcome the buyer/seller roles, and build a better, stronger relationship. It works.