Move In With Them Until You Love Them

The New York Times Science and Health Editor Barbara Strauch recently passed away at the relatively young age of 63. She was a brilliant journalist who, according to the article about her death, led a Newsday team that won a Pulitzer prize in 1992. I’ve always found the science reporting in the Times exemplary and illuminating (less so other parts of the newspaper, which can contain very biased reporting).

I was struck by an anecdote from the Times’ article on Strauch’s life. A journalist who worked for Strauch said this about her: “She sent me to interview a Salvadoran refugee family for an immigration series, and when I came back saying they were boring, she told me to pack a suitcase and move in with them and not leave until I was in love.” She stayed five days and got deep, meaningful story. What a deft, intuitive touch Strauch had!

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there’s a lesson in that example for business professionals. Our knowledge of our clients is often superficial. We visit a few times, don’t find them particularly scintillating, and we go about delivering with a solid but unenthusiastic attitude. But what if we “moved in with them until we loved them”? Sounds a little crazy, but take it as a metaphor. Just think how much we’d know about them, and therefore all the ideas we’d get for how to serve them and help them improve their business.

Have a look at this two-page checklist I use with my own clients, “How well do you really know your clients?” (Click to Download the PDF)

Well, how well do you really know your clients? Have you moved in with them at some point to really understand their organization and culture? Do they feel you love them and their business? Remember the old adage (yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s still true!): A client doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

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