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Treat clients like children

I was driving along earlier and my little girl (7) asked a simple enough question: “What does uncle Phil do?”. Now, uncle Phil is a stock-broker. A hard enough concept to explain if you know what it is – but to a little girl who has no concept of finance, or much of an understanding of what money is come to that – how do you tackle that one? Truth is a lot of parents wouldn’t bother but I am a big believer in answering every question my children pose and in fact it’s a fantastic skill to get under your belt for business too.

This is particularly true in the industry that I work within – new media (web development, web marketing, iphone apps, software development etc.) – notorious for it’s fair share of jargon and geeky terms! I have lost count of the clients who have come to Rokk Media with a clear phobia of anything tech, and usually exacerbated by experiences with earlier agencies who have never learned the art of talking in terms the rest of us understand.

Like my little girl’s question, there are very few meetings where a technical term or concept isn’t met with a glazed look and it’s that moment I relish – breaking it down in to chunks of information that the client can grasp. That’s the secret – finding common ground that both parties can relate to.

In the case of my little girl uncle Phil looks after other people’s money – a bit like a bank (yes I know that’s wholly inaccurate and stock-brokers the world over are up in arms, but it was all she needed). With clients it may be the fundamentals of a content management system, what happens to email when the send button is pressed, what is this cloud thing, or even – what’s the internet then?

In all these examples there are simple, everyday concepts that are universally understood and can step in to substitute for the techie stuff. It’s great to see a client’s face light up when they are given an every day example to grasp on to.

Of course this is nothing new – it’s what teachers (good ones) do every day of the week but it’s an essential skill to master in business, particularly if you work in an industry that is cloaked in jargon such as mine, engineering, medicine etc.

So next time a young person (or client) asks you a challenging question – don’t shrug them off with a flippant comment, give it some thought and work hard to come up with an answer that turns the light bulb on. You will get as much out of it as they do – and will be developing a skill that your customers and clients will thank you for as well.

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