I’m getting married this summer. As you can imagine, I’m spending a lot of time managing vendors (wedding coordinator, florist, photographer, etc.) to make sure the big day will be perfect.
Marrying my soulmate and throwing a fun, photo-worthy party is certainly a joyful time. Since I’m already happy, you’d think the vendors who are helping me don’t have to do too much to satisfy me, right? Yet I’ve noticed that some of my vendors have wowed me (the client and bride-to-be) by adapting a few smart strategies. And it occurred to me that every communicator can use these same techniques to influence our clients or stakeholders.
Just do these three simple things:
1. Ask lots of questions
To meet the objectives of any client, you need to ask questions—a lot of questions. Your client is juggling multiple things and is relying on you for support and guidance. In fact, the best vendors came prepared with their lists of great questions that really helped me envision every detail of the big day.
My favorite question, asked by the band, was, “What songs do you not want us to play?” Being specific means I never have to hear the “Chicken Dance” at my wedding.
Apply this: Before having your next kick-off meeting, write down as many questions as you can to ask your client. Thinking questions through ahead of time will make you look strategic and also prepare you afterwards with clear action items.
2. Offer stretch solutions
It’s always great to provide solutions based on knowing your customer, but try to also provide a solution that “pushes the envelope.” When my fiancée and I met with our officiant, we talked about tried-and-true traditions, such as lighting a unity candle. But our officiant also shared options we’ve never heard of, like Celtic Handfasting or a wine ceremony. We wouldn’t have arrived at our perfect conclusion if she had just provided the most popular options.
Apply this: Provide your client with a solution that directly addresses his/her request, but also offer ideas that are a stretch for him/her. You may be surprised what he/she will choose.
3. Have a conversation
It’s no secret that face-to-face communication is most effective. My in-person meetings with certain vendors were way more productive than phone calls or emails. But what I valued most is that the face-to-face format gave us a chance to have an informal conversation. Because of this, I never felt like I was sitting through a pitch or being pushed into the top-tier package. I formed deeper connections with vendors who took the time to meet with me.
Apply this: Arrange to meet in person, especially if you’re discussing a complicated topic or trying to solve a tough challenge. And when you do, skip the PowerPoint and facilitate a conversation. Focus on your client’s or stakeholder’s needs (What’s in it for them?), not yours. Bonus points if you bring enthusiasm and a smile!