Over the past two days, I’ve witnessed two touching examples of thoughtfulness. One was an event organizer verifying that I had received an exclusive invitation to an already sold-out event I had requested to attend. The other was a business etiquette expert going out of her way to be a gracious hostess to me… at a high-profile event I hadn’t ever attended before. She even offered to introduce me to the Ambassador of France in Canada!
If you look and listen closely and regularly enough, you’ll notice these thoughtful gestures. There’s no rhyme or reason to them, nor a given season for them… unless you want to count Thanksgiving and Christmas. Plus, thoughtfulness, when strategically used… isn’t limited to clients only. In fact, it forms an important part of the entire sales cycle. Essentially, you could call it the glue, that links one phase to the next. With thoughtfulness eventually comes trust towards the individual or company vying to win your business.
What is being ‘thoughtful’? It’s “having or showing heed for the well-being or happiness of others and a propensity for anticipating their needs or wishes.”1 What does thoughtfulness have to do with building a fulfilling and successful business? Well, some businesses — namely financial and legal companies and charities — rely on acts of thoughtfulness to develop close, lasting bonds with others. Otherwise, doing business with them would feel… mostly mechanical. To trust that your money/other assets are in ‘good hands’, you need to first feel that, through your gut instincts. And if the person you’re considering doing business with doesn’t immediately give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, through thoughtfulness for example, balanced with professionalism, then you’ll likely take your business elsewhere… in a heartbeat!
Is being thoughtful with clients an undervalued and dying art? According to Lynne Mackay, whose image business (Mackay Byrne Group) has been regularly reinvented and yet remained in demand over the past 30 years, “Now more and more people are realizing how important it is to be thoughtful with clients.”
What are easy ways of being thoughtful… in business?
Educate yourself about the values of your prospect or client and her-his culture. For instance, if (s)he donates to a given charity, you could offer to sponsor an event that charity holds. Or let’s say your prospect is an advocate of aboriginal rights, you could participate or attend one of their causes.
Offer to act as the host for, and introduce a newbie at a networking event to other networkers.
If your prospect or client is a business-company owner, write an article and feature him-her in it.
Mail a greeting card to express your delight in meeting this person, to congratulate them for making a bold career decision, wish them a happy business anniversary, etc.
Go beyond the call of duty and educate your client about what needs fixing or attention… the next time (s)he sees you. The key is to not put the pressure to commit now, or then. (Mechanics are masterful with this!)
Practice discretion with clients is Mackay’s key act of kindness. Never mention their name in the press, reveal their private information (Exception: General company info is fine), or discuss their names with other clients. Also, always be respectful to… but not pushy with your clients.
It may be difficult to provide support by sponsoring or hosting clients’ events, including golf tournaments, but perhaps you can sponsor a single golf hole, as Mackay recently did for one of her clients. Additional examples of client events include women’s fashion shows, leadership-corporate events, and award ceremonies.
Always give 100% is Mackay’s M.O. Do your homework before attending client events and seminars. Once there, show interest in your clients, rather than being focused only on your self. Much of her work is in finance, banking, legal, and accounting, where being thoughtful is a key that strategy front line professionals, sales and mortgage representatives, and advisors use… to differentiate themselves from the competition, and gain trust too.
Regularly stay in touch. People appreciate flowers to mark important events and occasions. Mackay knows of an investment adviser who sends a photographer to clients’ homes to do a photo session for their first baby. This is a thoughtful gesture that is remembered when the client looks at the photos.
If you don’t believe that thoughtfulness in the business world is still alive and kicking, then rest assured, once you turn on your thoughtfulness, you’ll start spotting it… everywhere. You’ll attract it to yourself, too: a double bonus!
The bottom line is, your clients/customers are who keep your company in business. So, if you deliver mediocre or status quo customer service, they’ll be tempted to scan the horizon: Check out your competitors. On a positive note, strategic customer service – which includes random acts of thoughtfulness – is easier and more enjoyable to offer than balking at the notion of it. So, if you’re on board with all of this, feel free to mix and match, or customize any of the nine recommendations provided above… and your clients will be keeping a healthy tab on, and sticking with you… with little additional effort on your part.