It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know that, given the choice, people want to work with the ones they get along with. So why is it that some people work so hard to be wicked at things then ruin it all by being an intolerable ass?
I think it’s important to keep reminding ourselves that the world of business is a competitive place. Creative industries are particularly tough and if you’re anything like me you want to be the best, but before you go thinking that being the best is all it takes to be successful, consider this.
A business mentor of mine once told me that a potential client is going to hire you for one or a combination of three things.
A client has a set number that they can spend and you hit that mark.
A client needs that very particular thing that you do and it cant be duplicated by anyone else. (This is rare)
A client loves you and will work with you despite price and skill (within reason) because they know it will be a positive experience.
As important as the first two are, they are things that will evolve but not change overnight. Being a joy to work with, however, that should be something you strive for at every stage of your business. I think a lot of times we lose sight of the most important factor and that’s experience.
I’ve worked many jobs and through the years, I’ve learned it’s a very fine line between standing on solid, acceptable ground and slipping and falling into a black hole of dickery so to speak. Which I think we can all agree does not sound like a pleasant place to end up.
There are two examples from my previous work experience that I’d like to share in hopes that it will help you get some value out of my ridiculous rambling.
Several years ago I worked for a retail store… well I worked for many…. and there was a great deal of pressure to sell. I know what you’re thinking “guy, you worked retail, of course there was pressure to sell.” But the thing that threw me was the mentality behind it. The mentality that “they wouldn’t have come in the store if they didn’t want to buy something so make sure they buy something.” or “Sell them something because they’re less likely to buy it and return it than not buy it and come back for it another day.”
The weird thing to me is that as wrong as that seemed in my mind and as unnatural as it was to try to enforce, that mentality worked. It worked… like a lot. Not for me, because I was a terrible salesman but that was how others looked at it and they were sales-wizards.
As my glowing retail career progressed I got a little bit better and by better I mean I got worse. So much worse. Until I was employed by one particular retail location that was different. First of all, I actually had a great deal of knowledge in what I was selling, and second, the man I worked for encouraged me to learn all the pushy sales techniques taught by the company but use them as a tool, not as a script. It changed the way I dealt with clients which changed the end goal. I put about 95% of my effort into educating and about 5% into selling them on something. I stopped worrying about whether or not I sold anything and started worrying about whether or not the client was leaving with something they actually wanted and needed.
When I used this technique, the strangest thing happened. I started selling the shit out of everything! Why? Because I cared more about the client leaving with a positive experience than some silly shit that they wouldn’t know how to use if they devoted their life to learning it. I cared about them, I showed that I cared about them and they trusted me for it.
My second example happened shortly before I started Wing Studios. I used to work for a design agency and one day I scheduled a meeting with a potential client, to discuss a project. I wasn’t a part of the meeting, despite being close with the client so after the meeting, I asked how it went and my colleagues said it went well and they got along with the client. This agency was still working to get established and tried hard to express confidence and expertise… Which makes sense, right? Show potential clients that you know what you’re doing… No brainer. Well in this particular case it didn’t go quite as planned. A day or two after the meeting I followed up with the client to see how they thought the meeting went and they had a very different review. They liked the work that was coming out of the agency, they had the money to pay for it and felt the product was worth the value but they took the confidence as arrogance and said they wouldn’t feel comfortable working with them.
Now you might be thinking, “Why are you telling me this? By the sounds of things, no one was being a dick.” And you’re right, but this just goes to show that every action is open to interpretation. The only way around this is to really get to know your clients and more importantly get to know your potential clients. Get to know their likes; their dislikes, their core personality traits and most importantly pick up on the way they speak.
This is a basic example but if you’re sitting across from a client that swears like a sailor, are you going to use the words “gee” or “gosh”? Fuck no, you’re going to put your big boy pants on and sailor up because that’s the type of thing that will make them feel more comfortable. The same can be said for the opposite situation. If you’re meeting with a little old lady who’s pushing 100 years old and glowing with a rainbow aura, are you going to swear? Good golly, no! You’re going to be a perfect little angel and hope she sends you packing with her business and a pocket full of Werther’s Originals!
I want the takeaway from this to be -always be yourself- …BUT!… and this is the important part… Be the version of yourself that best fits who you’re interacting with… (unless you’re a horrible person, then maybe be someone else). Nine times out of ten the driving factor of whether or not you get hired is going to be your personality so don’t stop thinking about pricing or honing your craft but be sure to spend some time evaluating your business and the experience that your clients are leaving with.
A few good tips and tricks I can leave you with would be to keep in contact with your clients. After a job is done shoot them a really short email and ask them to leave you a google review or even just ask how you did. For some, I know it seems awkward but It’s not inappropriate to ask for a review and it’s very very unlikely that they won’t take a second to tell you how you did, especially if you did a great job and they’re super pumped about the work you did. Aside from that, I would recommend going to as many social events as you can! Interact with as many different types of people as possible and it will expand your people skills and make you more comfortable with how to conduct yourself in a wide variety of situations… Plus networking is never bad for business.