Do You Have Enough Beer-Worthy Clients?

The other day I had a client meeting not in a conference room or a Starbucks but the local establishment down the street serving cold frosty ones. It’s not mandatory by any means that my clients go out for a beer with me…but there’s an interesting pattern I’ve seen emerge over the years with the ones that do.

The ones who do seem to open up a little more about what’s on their mind, where they want to take their brand and the greater vision for what they want to achieve will invariably find themselves talking about it to me outside of their walls. And when they do that, they tend to say, “C’mon. Let’s go have a few beers. I want to pick your brain about…” 

It’s not about the alcohol, really.
This is a magical moment. What I’m talking about is an extra level beyond the “satisfied client.” I’m talking about the client that sees you as not just a supplier of services but an advisor. A confidant. A consigliere. It’s not just about a conversation about ads or social media or marketing.

It’s a business conversation. A product development conversation. A cultural conversation.

This is rarified ground. Not every client is comfortable taking it here. They have their barriers they want to leave up. For now, anyway.

The ones that don’t have such barriers, however, will often not see themselves in that higher ground of respect they deserve because they’ll think it’s all about the billing that determines their place on the totem pole. Ah, but how wrong these humble souls are.

In truth, they’re giving you access to a deeper level of communication that you won’t get just anywhere. Seize it. These are the ways great relationship stories are told. These people can be your best advocates to others. These are the people who let you in so you can become more than a “writer” or “designer” or whatever you put in your job description.

This is one of the great things I like about calling myself a consultant because I feel the business of helping clients communicate internally and externally could be more consultative than a typical “vendor-client” relationship.

We could all use at least one “beer-worthy” client. Or at least the kind of client you could easily visualize having a few beers with. It doesn’t make it less serious business or that we’re about to get tipsy. Just the opposite. It means a bond is about to be strengthened.

Some will blow this opportunity with schmoozing and sales-ish butt kissing. Please. Don’t be that cheeseball stereotype. Laugh and let your guard down a little. As long as you keep it real about the purpose of why you’re there and stay on point. And above all, use the two devices that so many people neglect – those things on the sides of your head called ears. It is at this moment when they’re opening up even more than usual that intense listening would not be a bad thing.

Just a couple of beers? I call it something more – an opportunity for relationship building on tap. And it’s amazing how it works out that way time and time again with some of the best clients I’ve had and cherish.


Is There A “Chicago Style” of Business Development?

Note from Dan: Today’s Chicago Brander post is from guest blogger Steve Congdon of Thunderclap Consulting Group. Drawing on the experience of over 200 pitches, Thunderclap helps marketing communications agencies and other professional service firms win more new business. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Steve and find his blog a must-read for anyone seeking a better way to get into more pitches and improve their close ratio. Call him at 773.637.5203. You’ll thank me after a conversation with Steve.

Steve Congdon, Thunderclap Consulting Group

When you think Chicago and personalities, what comes to mind?
A what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of mentality? Da Bears? An Everyman quality? 
Is there a Chicago style of prospecting and salesmanship?
And, if there is, how might be it applied?

Here are three quick thoughts:

Get belly-to-belly.
No matter what is being sold, conversations lead to understanding, which can lead to sales. In my world, ad agency new business development, going belly to belly could mean exchanging a phone call with an in-person meeting. Or, adding a social event to the pitch process that augments your understanding of “your prospect.” The more you know you know about these people, the more you can understand if you want them as a client and how to make that happen.

Work a bit harder.
For brand stewards, this can mean offering up something free.  For business development professionals, it could suggest doing something unexpected, but helpful for your prospect. Like, for instance, writing up an analysis on some competitive activity. Or sending an email past 9p with a relevant link to a cool online story.

Be real.
Another Midwestern trait. For now, let’s define this as being yourself. Can you imagine George Wendt making a stiff, formal presentation – using huge words that tie him up, making both him and his audience uncomfortable?! Nah. It’s just not his brand.

While I honestly think there may be some positive qualities that prospects might be willing to apply to you when you associate yourself with a “Midwest” or Chicago label, these are more likely to affect business success early in the sales game. By that, I mean the label creates perceptions before you even meet someone. Not a bad thing. Certainly nothing “second” about it, (he wrote proudly).

And, of course, you don’t have to be from these here parts to try any of the above. I happen to know people from both coasts who are very nice, despite wanting ketchup on their hot dog.

So what do you think? Is there a “Chicago Style” of business development? And if so, what are those traits?