In part one of Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age, I shared Tom Peters’ views on leadership – what makes a good leader and why it’s vital to be one. In this article, I discuss why it is equally important to view and serve (and have a relation with) your clients in new ways.
We live in a world filled with similar companies, employing similar people, coming up with similar ideas (thanks to their similar educational backgrounds), producing similar goods, at similar prices and quality. It’s called the ‘Surplus Society’* and it is as true for our industry as it is for the travel and telecommunications industries.
The challenge is that it is only going to get harder to attract clients in this environment. The good news is that you can still stand-out from the crowd and win new business if you follow Peters’ advice:
When it comes to sustainable comparative strategic advantage, Peters argues that there is nothing that compares to excellence in strategic listening. By way of explanation, Peters cites Jerome Groopman, Author of How Doctors Think who discovered that, on average, doctors interrupt their patients after just 18 seconds.
I suspect it’s not only doctors who unknowingly jump in too early to provide their expert advice. When meeting new clients it’s important to listen intently and resist the urge to jump in with your recommendations. This can be particularly important for female customers who tend to want to build deeper and more personal connections with their financial advisers. Listening is the ultimate core competency.
Take care of your people
According to Peters the most important thing a business owner can do is take care of his or her own people. By helping them reach their full potential through a bias for action, a tight culture, providing enormous latitude and lots of training, you’ll soon discover:
- The people take care of the service.
- The service takes care of the customer.
- The customer takes care of the profit.
- The profit takes care of the re-investment.
- The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
- The re-invention takes care of the future.
Peters offers the following formula for business owners looking to win the hearts and minds of customers of all ages:
Kindness = Repeat Business = Profit
For Peters this means “over” reacting to screw-ups of any magnitude, always being on time and treating people fairly regardless of where they sit from a customer segmentation perspective.
In my view, kindness in business can be a personal thing - showing a genuine care factor being part of the solution and only responding after listening.
An Executive at Harley Davidson once said “We’re not in the business of selling motorcycles. What we sell is the ability for a 43-year old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.” Harley Davidson is a lifestyle company - they provide experiences, not just goods and services!
In order to stand out from the crowd, don’t just provide financial advice services. Instead aim, at all levels of your business, to exceed expectations and fulfil your clients’ dreams. One approach to this is to go the big budget option - a great example of this is the WestJet Christmas Miracle.
However, creating ‘wow’ moments for your clients, especially existing clients doesn’t have to cost the earth. When asked about the most important lessons he learned during his long and distinguished career, Conrad Hilton said “Remember to tuck the shower curtain inside the bathtub.”
For example, you might like to consider ways to surprise clients with a small personal gift when they least expect it – e.g. for new clients when they first engage with your business or when existing clients (or their family) achieve a goal (either financial or personal). Do you:
- care about what your clients really care about,
- know enough about them to be able to find a “wow” factor and
- have a system in place to manage this? A good way to check if your business is fulfilling dreams is to track the number of referrals you’re getting.
Again, this is particularly true for your female clients because when women have a good experience they often want to spread the word.