ClientCentricities: Andrew’s Monthly Q&A
I thought I hit it off with my client's global CIO. But now she has been rejecting my requests for a meeting, telling me to meet with an very weak manager who works for her. What can I do?
This is a frustrating but typical situation. You feel you have a decent relationship with the senior client and then he or she delegates you to someone else.
The reason is very simple: You haven’t given the client a compelling enough reason to want to take an hour out of their day and meet with you! If the person who mows your lawn asked you for an hour of your time to discuss gardening, you might not be too keen to meet them. But if your doctor calls you and says, "I just got your tests back and I need to speak to you immediately" you would probably drop everything and run to their office. Extreme examples, yes, but they make the point.
You must first identify your client’s agenda–the 3-5 most important issues or goals they are focused on right now. Or, perhaps a compelling personal interest they have. Then, you must position a potential meeting around something of value you are going to bring that will inform, shape, or improve that agenda. It could be insights about their organization or perhaps some competitive or customer data that will grab their attention. You must articulate the topic in a way that clearly merits senior management attention.
You might say, "I’ve been thinking about our last conversation, and the issue you raised about teamwork. I’ve got several ideas that I think you’ll find helpful, and I’d like to meet up when you’re back from your trip to share them with you." Or, "We’ve been visiting several of your offices in Europe and I’ve got some observations I’d like to share with you about your operations there that I think may influence your emerging strategy for international expansion."
Entice them. Evoke their curiosity. Make it clear that the information or point of view you want to share is supremely relevant to their agenda. Frame it as something that is strategic and has enterprise-wide impact. If you do this effectively, you’ll get the meeting!