“I wasn’t expecting the conversation to go in this direction.”
When a potential client says that to me, it’s music to my ears. I’ll explain.
As professionals, most of us have certain skills, but we tend to make ourselves smaller than we really are. By smaller I mean that we focus on our job title or focus area, but not the results we deliver. Moreover, we also tend to focus too much on answers and not enough on questions.
The end result is that prospective clients either lose interest in working with us because we’re bland or, maybe even worse, we get into a race to the bottom on pricing. Why? Because the prospect doesn’t see our unique value, and if they don’t see our unique value, we’re lumped together in their mind with everyone else who just does X.
You don’t want to find yourself competing with everyone on Upwork who just does X. It’s a losing proposition.
We can be more to clients if we just look at what we do from a different perspective. The context for the quotation that heads up this post was that a client was originally envisioning me as a provider of a very commonplace skill, but he didn’t expect me to see his situation through the wider lens of a consultant. Whether or not he becomes a client, he left with lots more food for thought.
From a business perspective, the closer you can get to framing questions and the further away from merely filling orders, the more valuable you become. If you’re looking at engagements as an opportunity to synthesize information and connect dots for the client, you’re far more unique and valuable than anyone billing themselves as just a copywriter, as just a graphic artist, or as just an accountant.
Bottom line: Get into the business of asking your clients good questions. (One book I’ve found especially helpful in that regard is Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.)
Then, the next time a client asks you to do something purely transactional (e.g., write blog posts or design a logo), take a step back and ask them a few questions about their business, about their audience, or even about their competitors. After the initial shock wears off, you’ll find they appreciate the interest because it tends to be uncommon.
You can be more for your clients. It’s much more exciting — and fun — for all involved because creative consultants who can be more get to do more for clients.
This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn blog.