Whether you know it or not, whenever you call a plumber, dine out at a restaurant, or go out to movie you are looking for leadership. We all have a little time in our short lives to become experts in something, but we can’t be experts in everything. The quality of life we experience today is that we have learned to rely on the expertise of others to show us what we need, how to fix something, or how to have a good time. When it comes down to it, everyone is looking for leadership. Your business will live or die on your ability to lead.
The Customer Isn’t Right, They Don’t Even Know What They Want
If you really think about it, we don’t even dress ourselves. We rely on clothing stores and fashion media to tell us how to dress. Sure, we pick out which of the available styles we will associate ourselves with, but we are still being led. Imagine if clothing stores were just stocked fabric and then asked us, “What clothes would you like?”
When referring to clothing, this need seems obvious, but in more service oriented businesses this understanding starts to fall apart. Consultants and contractors hang themselves by asking clients, “What do you want?” The point is, clients don’t know what they want, that is why they need you!
Learning to Listen and Lead
The Consultant’s Haiku:
Tell me what you want
Tell me what you can afford
Here is what you need
When you are starting with a clean slate, the imagination is limitless... and expensive. Customers don’t know what things cost in your area of expertise, and they don’t know what is hard and what is easy. All they know is that if they “just had _____” life would be better. While it may seem like people are demanding and unrealistic, usually the problem is that they simply aren’t experts in your field. The key to listening is t0 hear the core necessities behind all their wants and wishes.
A good consulting relationship starts with, “I can’t give you X, Y, and Z within your budget. However, I am hearing that you really need Y. Also, you are really going to need A in order for Y to work.” Now you are meeting the need, being the expert, and leading the relationship.