Stay One Step Ahead
I just fired my accountants.
They really hadn’t done anything wrong. They were responsive when I called, and they appeared to keep up with the latest thinking in their profession. Their work was neat, accurate and timely. Their prices were fair. They conducted themselves professionally.
But, I fired them anyway.
While they consistently reacted professionally, they were never, ever proactive. They never came to me with an idea, never offered a suggestion that I didn’t first initiate. They never suggested a change for my benefit. I wanted someone to think about me, to hold my best interests up before their regular scrutiny, to extend themselves in order to keep me at the forefront.
My life insurance agent, on the other hand, makes a point of contacting me at least twice a year, and usually three or four times. While there is usually a bit of self-interest motivating these contacts (he asks for referrals), I always take his calls.
He can be counted on to share ideas with me based on his knowledge of my business and my personal affairs. I don’t know if he has ever tried to sell me something I didn’t need (like more life insurance), but he has consistently demonstrated he’s thinking of me by making recommendations and exposing me to ideas I would not have had otherwise. Recently, right out of the blue, he approached me with an idea for a different kind of strategy for a business retirement plan. Only one in 100 people qualifies for this kind of plan. But, he knew me well enough to know my business did, and to make it a point to educate me about it.
Hmmm. Keeping my interests at the forefront. Knowing me and my business well enough to be able to regularly scan the horizon and find things that fit me.
Pro-actively presenting solutions and ideas that would benefit me and my business. Could there be a lesson in here somewhere?
Of course. People like to know you are thinking of them. Observe the greeting card industry, which is built entirely on this premise. People like to know you are considering their interests. They want you to understand their business is well enough so you can scan the horizon and spot things that may help them. When they consistently see these qualities in the people from whom they buy, they quickly develop loyalty.
Now, it doesn’t mean you show up every month and leave them a catalog or spew samples of the latest iteration of a writing pen onto their desk. It’s not a “throw-a-lot-of-mud-against-the-wall-and-see-if-anything-sticks” approach. Rather, it requires you to spend time coming to know their business goals and objectives; to find products and services you believe will help them and make a point of showing those to them, explaining exactly how you think your recommendation will help them reach their goals. You must do this sincerely, regularly and with forethought and sensitivity.
In return, they’ll stay with you. Because everyone likes people who show consistent thoughtfulness.