How Do We Win If We Don’t Know the Rules?

We all know the benefits of expansion in a recession. The implied success of expanding when everyone else is contracting can be a seductive draw to a potential client. If you’ve got it, flaunt it just a bit, right? Social proof—everybody wants to go with a winner, so act like one!

I’m listening…

I recently got a lesson in humility myself, from a disagreement with an entrepreneur-friend of mine. My friend was thinking of changing his floorplan and removing his conference room entirely, forcing everyone to meet with clients in their own offices. It’s not a fancy conference room, but it is a nice place to hold a meeting. Or I should say, it was.

“None of my business,” I said, making it my business, “but that seems like a bad move.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

My advice

“The conference room says ‘business’ to clients. It sets the mood. Makes them feel that you value them enough to treat them to that comfortable space. Makes them feel they’ve made a rock-solid choice with you.

“If you’d never had it, meeting in an office would be okay. But making the change? What can they think, but that you’re not doing well? Even the owner has to sit down in the middle of his workspace to talk to clients? That’s a strong reminder of the recession. For folks who are on the fence, it could be an excuse to think maybe we don’t need this guy at all.

“Your staff are going to see you differently, too. Your desk crammed into a corner to fit a conference table—all of a sudden you look like some junior nobody, not The Guy In Charge. Seems like a recipe for disrespect.”

The results

You’ve guessed that my friend had already made up his mind, and he did it his way. I can’t say whether his staff are treating him differently, but I can tell you about his clients.

Clients love it.

“It’s so intimate,” one told him.

“Feels just right for the times,” another said.

“I feel like I’m part of your work,” said another. “You are my work,” my friend responded warmly.

“Like talking in your living room,” is how my friend describes it. Conversations with clients have become easier, just at a time when we are all having more difficult conversations with our clients. He couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So if you haven’t heard it enough, I will humbly submit my takeaway to you: In these times, forget everything you know.

We are all undergoing a seismic shift, both as providers and as consumers. It’s too early to see how it will all shake out, but I am jazzed by watching the changes take place. Your customer may want something new, something unexpected, something that breaks all the rules.

Like a little humility.

How are the rules changing for you? Do you “know” what it takes to win today?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson