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Mark Richardson: Walking the Client

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Mark Richardson: Walking the Client

By Mark Richardson, CR, Contributing Editor November 14, 2013
This article first appeared in the CB November 2013 issue of Custom Builder.

Successful sales and business people know that if you are ever going to achieve success, you have to control the process. Without control you generally have unpredictability, and you will not be able to properly serve the client and give them the best value.

The challenge we face today is finding ways to control the controller. I recently heard futurist Ken Habata talk about tomorrow’s shopper. He shared data about the speed at which our clients have access to information. Your clients today know more about products than you do. They also know more about the pricing and services you provide. This idea sounds a little scary, but it is the world we live in. The question is not whether this scenario is going to happen to you but how you should address this dynamic.
Over the last several years I’ve spoken about how businesses must change or risk becoming irrelevant. One area of change that all businesses must embrace is to not be so dogmatic with clients about their selling processes. A business today needs to know how to react and have more custom solutions and processes. All clients are not the same, so they should not be forced to follow the same process.
Let me give you a simple analogy. I have two dogs. One is Nicki, an eleven-year family member who was abused (we think) as a puppy and follows every request and command. When I walk Nicki, I do not need a leash. When Nicki and I encounter another dog, I don’t worry about her running off. Nicki also grew up around children, so she is very comfortable having her hair pulled by kids and does not snap or get agitated. When I call her, I know she will come to me. 
My second dog is Charlie, also a shelter dog. Charlie is about two and always requires a strong leash. Walking Charlie is not relaxing, it’s a workout. My wife and I argue about who has to take Charlie in the car because it is such a project. However, when we sit and watch TV at night, Nicki and Charlie both lie peacefully. You could never tell how different they are.
I use this analogy because in business you need to become a student of your clients’ differences. Think about which clients go out and shop on their own without coming back confused by the abundance of advice and opinions. Or which clients follow your lead with advice versus the ones that always want to research and process things on their own. Like my dogs, your clients all require different types of leashes. Some need a light, thin leash, some a muzzle, some a retractable leash, and some don’t need a leash, only a whistle. I would not put a heavy choke collar on my Nicki, nor would I use a cheap dime store leash on Charlie.
So list three to five of your client controlling types and tweak your process to be in sync with them. You might have to add a meeting or two with some of these client types, or you may need to bring in a technical expert to validate the best approach for some. You also may be able to streamline your process and move faster with clients who will follow your lead. Try to make this strategy a priority, and you will see better results.
Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design/ Remodeling Inc. and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business?,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By.” He can be reached at mrichardson@casedesign.com.


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