Monday, June 19, 2006

Do You Really Want Relationships With Clients?

David Maister --Do You Really Want Relationships?
It's easy to say we are committed to developing strong relationships with clients. There is a long way from saying, to doing though, as David Maister reveals in this article

by David Maister 2005

In The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2000), my coauthors and I pointed out that building trusting relationships with clients leads to many benefits: less fee resistance, more future work, more referrals to new clients, and more effective and harmonious work relationships with the clients.

However, many people have built their past success on having a transactional view of their clients, not a relationship one, and it is not clear that they really want to change. Stated bluntly, professionals say that they want the benefits of romance, yet they still act in ways that suggest that what they are really interested in is a one-night stand.

In romance, both sides work at building a mutually supportive, mutually beneficial relationship. They work hard to create a sense of togetherness, a feeling of “US.”

Each tries to truly listen to what the other is saying and feeling. The emphasis in discussions is less on the immediate topic at hand, and more about preserving the emotional bond and the mutual commitment.

Rather than seeking immediate short-term gratification and reward, romance relies on making investments in the relationship in order to obtain long-term, future benefits.

This is all seemingly attractive, but it is not an accurate description of the way most professionals deal with their clients, nor how many clients deal with their professional providers.

Most professional-to-client interactions involve little if any commitment to each other beyond the current deal. The prevailing principle is “buyer beware.” Mutual guardedness and suspicion exist, and the interaction is full of negotiation, bargaining, and adversarial activity. Both sides focus on the terms, conditions, and costs of temporary contact. Each side treats THEM as “different,” as “other.”

This is the way many professionals and their clients want it to be. They want a transaction, and may not yet (if ever) be ready for relationships. Rather than acting to build relationships, both sides might initially have the brakes on...
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