I grew up in a small town in Macon, Georgia as the son of an import/export business owner. My dad came to this country with very little money in his pocket. However, he had big dreams, friends all across the world, and the ability to help local farmers expand their global footprint. A new deal, negotiation or contract always needed to be handled.
I was too young at the time to understand the details of the business, but I was able to gather a few best practices and business rules that have changed the way I view the business world and how I affect change. My dad had a more than a few mottos – but there was one that has stuck with me to this day:
“In the business world you only get two chances to make a first impression.”
The first chance to make a good first impression is when you meet a potential client and you tell them about your success. The second chance is when that client has a need and asks for help, and you get to show your value and success.
My dad would always place emphasis on the initial needs of the customer, because that initial need usually led to an underlying need. With time, effort and understanding he could discover the true need and could create the actions to handle it accordingly. This motto has stuck with me over the years, and has often been a friendly reminder. But there is one example that I often find myself using:
One day a new client of mine called and asked for a quote for a 75-seat VoIP solution. He told me that he had a customer who was completing an update of his infrastructure. My client was only asking about the VoIP part of the upgrade. He told me he was only comfortable with VoIP solutions and that he didn’t understand the other “stuff.”
Here was my chance to show him my value and success.
I told him that being a reseller that partners with Tech Data, the largest U.S.-based IT distributor in the world, he literally had hundreds of IT experts and resources at his fingertips. I then asked my client to send over the build of materials so I can show him our value. In less than 24 hours, we completed the deal registration and provided quotes for storage and servers, endpoints and networking, and a three-year contract for a 75-seat VoIP solution. In the end, our client didn’t win everything he put a bid in for, but he did win the bid for the servers, endpoints and the 75-seat VoIP solution.
The result was that my client and I were able to take a problem and turn it into an opportunity to show value and truly start our relationship on a foundation of trust and ingenuity. All it required was a little time and effort to understand the true needs of the customer.
In my personal experience, this rule has been the most valuable lesson I have brought to the table thought my IT career. I have assisted thousands of customers over the years, but the trust and the level of service instilled by finding the needs of the client and addressing everything that follows suit in the coming conversations continues to differentiate my work from competitors.
The next time you are faced with the need of a client, make sure you take the time to understand the true core needs and address every concern like it was the first impression.