Enhancing your client/agency relationship skills through observation

This is the first guest post I have had on my blog and it’s from Nick Hill, a director at Binary Vision. I have known Nick for a while now and seen him speak several times, his knowledge and expertise in behaviour and interpersonal skills are extremely impressive and I thought it would be interesting to hear his take on client management in the PR industry. He works with quite a few marketing and public relations firms and the feedback I have heard from his clients has been astounding as he really knows his stuff.

Nick uses the latest psychology tools to transform team members into high performers that in turn create more business. His programmes focus on enhancing key interpersonal skills that improve personal focus, confidence and overcoming challenges faced by modern executives by developing language and body language skills that give you an edge. Nick Hills Blog

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Hi my name is Nick Hill and this is my first post on Chris’ blog so nice to meet you all and hope you enjoy the post.

I believe the success of any PR consultancy is strongly reliant on the skills of its account management teams as they are its life blood.

Convincing someone to ‘try your agency’ from a pitch situation can and should be relatively easy, retaining their loyalty as a customer for a number of years is the real challenge, but this is what creates long-term sustainability for any PR company. If you or your account team don’t develop your interpersonal skills to cope with all those different client ‘types’, you may run the risk of forward thinking competitors keeping their clients and eventually taking yours as well.
Without getting too intricate, every one of your clients has a series of very different and unique patterns of behaviour. In very basic terms, some will communicate with their hands more than others, some have differing voice ranges, they move and ‘behave differently’ and some even look at you in the eye, then look away, then back, then away…..it’s sometimes bizarre! They’re all different and that’s what makes client handling so interesting.

Each client has different traits, preferences and language styles. The trick which will really give you an edge in the boardroom is being able to identify and respond to the different types of communication and behaviour when dealing with your clients. People buy from people and there are techniques for identifying how people ‘prefer’ to be communicated to and how you can respond to them as they want you to.
I’d like to share a couple of examples with you. As well as maintaining the client relationship, account managers or directors typically have a remit to keep that client and increase spend with your agency.

When meeting with directors and particularly when dealing with sales situations, you want to find out if a person is ‘motivated towards’ achieving objectives or, ‘motivated away’ from consequences of not attainment of those goals. In language terms, people often concentrate on talking about what they will avoid, rather than gain. That’s OK, it’s their ‘preferred way’ of dealing with the situation. When dealing with these types of people you don’t want to be focussing on communicating the benefits of the solution you are providing if your potential client is motivated by the avoidance of the consequences of not having it. You’ve got to communicate to them on their level! By doing that you are satisfying an underlying behavioural preference of that person and that’s a good thing I’m sure you’ll agree.

Another ‘pattern’ to look out for is which ‘representational system’ a person is using. It sounds complicated but what this means is the senses (Visual – sight, Auditory – sound, Kinaesthetic – touch) a person uses when communicating. For example, a client might say “Oh right I see what you mean”. That would indicate your client is using their visual system to process their communication.

If they use the terms “I like the sound of that” or “get a grip of the situation” they tell you that your client is using auditory (sound) and kinaesthetic (touch) senses to describe their communication. OK I am sure you are thinking about your own clients, maybe what you do and say, right now in your head, but thinking ‘why is this important?‘

Well if you know how your client likes to be spoken to, it increases the levels of ‘rapport’ you can have with him or her, you can do this by ‘matching’ the client’s representational system.

For instance:

Client: “You see what I mean?”

You: “Yeah, that looks alright to me too!”

Rather than,
Client: “You see what I mean?”

You: “Yeah, that sounds alright to me too!”

It’s this type of detail that can and will give you the edge when you are dealing with existing or potential clients. If you are a member or a leader of an account team I am sure you already know the basics of growing an account, that’s not in doubt here. But what really increases your client loyalty is not growing the account, but knowing the account, inside and out. So my advice would be improve your communication skills using a few simple techniques, before your competitors picks up the phone to your client and does it instead.
It’s all about rapport and communicating to a person on their level….

Hope you enjoyed that and find it interesting on some level. Who knows, I might get invited back here again!

I write regularly about improving communication techniques and interpersonal skills on my blog, so feel free to add me to your subscribers or follow me on Twitter.

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