Will You Marry Me? 5 Tips for Fully Engaging Your Clients
Remember the old elementary school rhyme, “First comes love, then comes marriage…”? It was so embarrassing to be caught “loving” someone on the playground. Ah, but as we got older, the rituals of falling in love, courtship, engagement and marriage became exciting and exhilarating. Fortunately, the same holds true with client engagements. Even after 13 years of running my own speaking business, my team and I are delighted when a prospect says “yes” to our proposal, and our engagement begins. Closing the sale may seem like an end point, but that’s when the real relationship building begins. Here are five tips on how I deliver on the pledge of my brand promise: engagement, every step of the way. My area of expertise is employee engagement, so this has double meaning for my clients and my team. Don’t worry; your clients also will appreciate the “love.”
Get to know prospective clients before they hire you. Before you even send a proposal to a prospect, do research about their industry, the challenges they face, and key buzzwords. Recently, I presented the closing keynote at the national OR (Operating Room) Managers Conference. In many ORs, surgical checklists are being used with great success. In conversations with the prospect, I learned that the opening keynote speaker was one of the physicians who created the push for the initial checklist that many organizations currently use. With this information in hand, we tailored our proposal to include a checklist theme. Doing the research before you’re hired shows clients that you serious about working with them. In this case, I interviewed the prospect and several OR managers so the verbiage in our proposal would be relevant and stand out. Sure, it takes time—but it’s well worth it. This background work creates the foundation for your “dating” stage.
Engage with clients even more after they say “yes.” Once you get the green light to move forward, continued engagement is critical. We use a combination of phone calls, scheduled touch points and automated emails to continue building a positive relationship. What kind of needs assessment phase do you use? Are you letting clients know how you will continue to get to know them? Since my programs are customized, we share “key deliverables” as a sign of our commitment to clients. Key engagement deliverables at this stage might include:
- A conference call with the client to determine key goals and objectives for working together with confirmation of desired outcomes in writing. This is a great time to learn what makes your client tick. What are his or her outside interests? What do you have in common? Where can you learn from each other?
- A short electronic survey to distribute to selected committee members or leaders/ staff to anonymously hear about challenges in their own words. This survey helps you get to know the viewpoints of others in the organization. You can probably think of several occasions when the client told you one thing and your research turned up something different. This is critical for meeting everyone’s goals and objectives.
- A short logistics questionnaire and follow-up call to make sure you fully understand the logistics of the speaking engagement. This call often takes place with someone other than your main contact, so continue to build rapport and ask questions so there are no surprises at the event.
If you need more information about your topic (e.g., current help desk response time, sales numbers, customer service statistics, etc.), provide the client with a way to share that data with you. I use an “engagement snapshot” that the client completes to assess the current and desired states of employee engagement, so that I have a baseline from which to work.
Continue to be engaged when you’re on-site. Whenever possible, arrive early and stay late at your client’s location or conference. This practice allows you to continue relationship building in person with the client and others. I frequently work with hospitals, so I make sure there is ample time for me to tour the facility before I speak. I use this time to interact with staff and take pictures that I use during the program. When you arrive early and spend time with the client, you can uncover information you might have missed during the needs assessment phase just in time to include it in your presentation. Schedule a dinner the night before with key leaders and staff so that you can learn more about their needs and get better acquainted. If your schedule permits, do the same thing at conferences. At the SHRM Leadership Conference, NSA member Dan Thurmon, CSP, CPAE, did the opening keynote about being “Off Balance, On Purpose.” Because I arrived the day before my talk, I was able to reiterate a few of his key points in my presentation. Arriving early gives you time to attend networking events and connect with audience members. Make it a point to mingle with them right before your talk to get folks laughing, and thank them for coming.
Stay engaged after the speech. I was a sales trainer early in my career, so I know the value of follow up to create “transfer of training”—a fancy way of saying that you want your ideas to stick. We’ve all attended conferences as attendees. We heard a great speaker, took lots of notes and never did anything with them. You will stand out by creating a long-term ROI for your clients with effective follow up.
Celebrate many happy anniversaries with your clients. One of the best ways to stay in touch with attending is by inviting them to opt-in to receive your newsletter. Get permission for this opt-in as part of your client agreement. I also collect contact information every time I speak, inviting folks to subscribe to my free newsletter. I have received a lot of business from people who have stayed connected via this newsletter. You also can forward interesting articles or resources to clients as a way to stay in touch, and remind them you’re available for problem solving around your topic. Or offer to introduce them to other great NSA speakers to help them at future events.
Stay engaged—or reconnect—with clients by asking for their expert advice. When I was writing an article for an industry publication, I asked a past client to meet with me to share her ideas on the topic. We reconnected in person, and she gave me some great ideas for framing the article. We also discussed her current employee engagement challenges and successes. These calls or meetings aren’t sales calls—they are opportunities for continued relationship building. Unlike the schoolyard children of yester year, successful speakers have come to understand that “love and marriage” can add volumes to our lives, and we can apply the same thoughtful practices to our client relationships. Intentionally staying engaged before, during and after the “live” event is the best way to be of service and continue to grow your business.
How to Engage Clients after the Engagement
Here are some ways you can continue building relationships after your speaking engagement:
- Send reminders with tips and techniques to help participants apply concepts on the job.
- Conduct a follow-up call with key leaders to share observations from the needs assessment phase and on-site interactions, including recommendations for next steps.
- Give participants access to complimentary ongoing electronic resources, such as a newsletter or blog, to continue learning.
- Send out a survey six weeks after the program to determine key implementation areas and the benefits of the behavior change.
- Provide special access to free tools for improving your topic area, available as a gift to current and past clients.
- Share your contact information and encourage attendees to keep in touch, ask questions or relate success stories. Don’t worry about getting flooded with phone calls and emails; people appreciate the gesture but most won’t act on it.