Offering Advice When it’s Not Been Asked For
post # 280 — January 11, 2007 — a Client Relations post
I was digging around in my old â€œQ&Aâ€ files and found this question from 2003:
David, One of my clients’ has become accustomed to operating in crisis mode. They are constantly in reactive mode vs. proactive. I have not been asked to help fix this, my firm is involved in other projects. I feel like I am watching a train crash about to happen. How can I get them to see that reactive mode and crisis is not a normal way of conducting business, when they have not asked for help? Thanks.
Hereâ€™s my (modified) reply:
One of my rules is: don’t give your opinion until it’s asked for – it will just be resented. First, you must build a relationship and earn the right to comment. Second, there’s no point commenting to someone who isn’t empowered to change things. So, you must ask “If they were to change this mode of operating, who would have to lead that change? Who is the key decision-maker here?”
By the way, I don’t completely accept your premise that a “reactive mode and crisis is not a normal way of conducting business.” It may not be a good idea, but it’s remarkably common. Mentally, imagine this: you observe that this person in your social circle that you’ve met (not a close friend) is overweight and unfit. You think it’s not healthy to live that way. They haven’t asked your opinion. But you want them to understand that there’s a better way. How would you approach THAT???
You’ll probably have to guess that you are not the first person to point out to them that their are fat and unfit. They’ve heard it before, in all probability. So what’s going to be different about your approach?
(By the way, you wouldnâ€™t tell someone they were ugly and had terrible dress sense, would you? So why would you point out to them they were fat and unfit? Arenâ€™t both equally unkind? Maybe thereâ€™s a business equivalent. Some things you just SHOULDNâ€™T point out.)
The first thing I’d observe is that it won’t be the logic of your argument that will prevail. Whatever the process is will mostly be about emotions: creating the desire for the benefits that fitness can bring, helping boost their confidence and courage that, yes, they CAN change, quelling their fears about dropping their past habits, and understanding the group psychodynamics that led to why they operate this way now. You’ll need to be a skilled counselor, psychotherapist and corporate politician to pull it off.
So, to do this well, you have to scheme (at least) WHO, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHY.
WHO do you approach? Your current contact? The person causing the problem? The person with the power to solve the problem? The person whoâ€™s bearing the brunt of the problem?
WHEN do you approach that person? At the end of you current project (when you have earned some credibility) or as soon as possible?
WHERE do you do it? Ask for a private meeting? Take them out for a beer or a meal to get them away from the office?
HOW do you phrase the words?
And, of course, you have to ask yourself WHY you are doing it. Are you really doing it to help, or do you just want to cross-sell something or develop a follow-on assignment?
Anyone got any advice to offer? What DO you do if youâ€™re working with a client and see things that urgently need change but which they donâ€™t seem to want to tackle? For all of you out there whose firms want you to grow business (or grow “relationships”) this should be an important topic. And, of course, those in the business of giving out marketing advice should join in!