How to demonstrate credibility

I thought a bit before recording this video because the issue seemed so obvious to me that you might feel slightly insulted that I should bring it up at all. But something happened the other day that underlined the importance of what I’m talking about.

I was working with an independent consultant to whom a couple of things had happened to push him off track, and he needed to refocus. So, I suggested we revisit his value proposition.

One of the ways we do this in 12boxes is with something called a ‘people who’ statement. It’s a simple way of defining the target audience for a proposition and it goes something like this:

  • People who – are trying to do something
  • Because – why they want to do it
  • But something, which we specify, is getting in the way
  • So, they need a way of overcoming what is getting in the way so they can get on with achieving what they are trying to do.

The idea of this simple narrative is that it resonates with the target audience, so they go, “That’s me!”
That’s why the emphasis is on looking at the situation from the client’s point of view and describing the challenge in a way that they would recognise.

It’s not about what we would do for them. That can come later after we’ve established the value of overcoming the difficulties and achieving what they want.

Before my meeting with the consultant, I had shared with him the structure of the ‘people who’ statement and asked him to think about creating one from his clients’ point of view before we talked again.

But what came back was – guess what – a statement of what he could do for the client.

And when we had our meeting, he continued to repeat what he could do for the client.

It sounded as if he was delivering an elevator pitch and the more he repeated it, the less credible it felt. The problem was that it wasn’t describing a situation that one of his prospective clients would relate to.

One of the most important ways of building credibility with a client is not to parade your past achievements, or the distinguished history of your organisation, but to show that you can see things from your client’s point of view.

You might see this as a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. Forgive me if it seems like it.

But it is amazing that even experienced people forget that the most powerful phrases we can use with a client are things like, “Is this how you see it?” “Have I got this right?” “Is this the way it is?” or even, when we are feeling confident, “It’s like this, isn’t it.”

Even when we have got it slightly wrong, and the client jumps in to correct us, we are halfway there, because the client knows we are interested in them and their issues, and not just making a pitch.

I’m pleased to say that the consultant I was talking about did create a convincing ‘people who’ statement without too much difficulty, and he will be positioning himself in a way that will get his practice where it needs to be, with the focus firmly on where his clients are starting from and how they see things.

If you would like an informal chat about how you position your practice, why not book a free session with me. Just go to 12boxes.com/discovery and choose the discovery call and a day and time to suit you. Let’s speak soon.

What to do when the client picks the wrong solution

You may have experienced this. You’ve had a preliminary chat with the client and go to see them with a solution in mind. When you get there, you find they have made their mind up to adopt a solution that you think is completely unsuitable. You are thinking screwdriver; they are thinking hammer.

So what do you say when the client has picked the wrong solution?

This is about why you shouldn’t immediately challenge the client, what you should do instead, and how you should go about it.

Why shouldn’t you challenge your client? The first thing I am going to do is contradict myself and say sometimes you can. It’s what I call the lifesaving ‘no’. If the client respects your authority, you might be able to say, “That’s not a good idea”, and they will accept it.

But most of the time you shouldn’t. This is because you are up against the motivator of consistency. Once people have said they are going to do something, they tend to feel that they should do it and if they don’t, they feel they lose face. So, if you directly challenge them, you are immediately establishing a conflict between your opinion and their emotion.

A similar thing happens if you ask, “Why did you decide on that solution?” The ‘Why word, has many uses, but in this situation, it is an invitation to your client to justify their decision. And you might well end up by reinforcing exactly the opposite of what you want – again because of their need to be consistent.

What I am going to suggest is that you find a way to focus on interests, rather than positions. The hammer is a position – and so, incidentally, is your screwdriver.

An interest is about what the person is trying to achieve with the hammer or the screwdriver. And you express this as what we call a WOST – a way of, so that. So, expressing the hammer or the screwdriver as a WOST might be a ‘way of fixing two pieces of wood together, so that they don’t come apart’.

So, how do you do get to the point where you can express your client’s position as an interest? Well, this is yet another use for an open question about the past beginning with the word ‘how’.

You can start by saying something like, “I’m interested in your thoughts on this. Can I ask, how did you arrive at the decision to use a hammer? What was in your mind at the time?”

By getting your client to do a bit of time travel, and retrace their steps you should find there is a point where you can say, “Oh I see, so what you were looking for, it’s a way of fixing two bits of wood together so they won’t come apart. Is that right?”

If you can get your client to agree to that, you are still allowing them to be consistent with their original intention.

And most people want to be seen as reasonable people, so you can now say, “So you would be prepared to speak about other ways of doing that.”

And then off you go with a conversation that is based on a shared understanding of the interests of your client.

Now I can’t guarantee that this will work, but it is a serious alternative to challenging your client’s entrenched view and ending up by getting them more committed than they were to start with.

It’s much more difficult if your client has already been speaking to other people about their preferred solution. This is why it’s almost impossible to be successful in submitting a non-compliant response to a request for a proposal.

Incidentally, if you have ever been successful in doing that, I would like to hear about it, because I generally discourage people from trying it, and I’d like to be proved wrong.

To summarise

  • avoid challenging your client, otherwise they might dig themselves in firmer
  • explore how they came to their view. Focus on the story, not getting them to justify it
    and from the story, work out the interest, the way of so that
  • Once they have agreed it, exploit their desire to be reasonable in discussing options
    And hopefully they will come to see that your screwdriver is really the tool for the job.

Thanks for inspiration to: Robert Cialdini, Elizabeth Stokoe, Roger Fisher and William Ury (who wrote “Getting to Yes”) and my clients.

If you would like an informal chat about a client issue, why not book a free session with me. Just go to 12boxes.com/discovery and choose the discovery call and a day and time to suit you. Let’s speak soon.