We often hear that knowledge is power, but the truth is, that’s long gone. You can get all the knowledge you’d ever want from Google, literally in a split second.

Make no mistake, in our lightning-fast digital age, where everything is old news only ten minutes after it’s born, clarity is power.

Why does that matter in client relationships? Well, here’s the million-dollar question to test how much clarity exists there: What percentage of time is the initial request a client makes of you directly connected to what they ultimately would want and value most. The answer, gathered from thousands of professionals, leaders and managers from more than 40 countries is (drumroll please) is actually under 10%. Really – that is the consensus answer around the globe. So, what does that mean?

Your clients are asking you for things that are not directly related to what’s most important to them. Thus, if you deliver what they ask for, even if it’s exactly on budget, according to schedule and meets specifications 100%, it’s still very likely that you’re not going to deliver maximum value – and perhaps not even satisfy them. Who do they blame for that failure? You. “You are the expert, you should have known better?”

Avoiding this outcome begins with your ability to guide your client to the single most important factor: What is most important to them. It’s also vital that you demonstrate that you’re the one who can be trusted to get the result that they want, but believe me, that comes after clarity about what is most important. Clarity is power. It is step one. Guiding them to clarity is like building the foundation of a great structure. Nothing truly strong or effective happens without that.

The problem for you is that it’s likely your clients don’t even know what’s most important to them. Even though they’re asking you to deliver X Y and Z, and you’re telling them how you’ll do exactly that, the difference between just “delivering what they ask” and guiding them to critical clarity first is paramount.

This is powerful to understand – it’s likely that the X Y and Z they are asking for are a good stepping-stone or pointer to what they really need. Start your discussion with questions like these:

  • “What is most important to you about x?”
  • “If you had y, what would that give you?”
  • “What will having z help you to accomplish?”
  • “What will this do for your organization or your team?”

Your ability to handle this conversation and guide your client to the critical clarity about what is most important to them is the single greatest determining factor in your success. It is key to your delivering the most valuable results possible – and in fact, to even in being chosen for the project to begin with.

Believe me, guiding your client to clarity about what is most important, given that 90% of the time they are actually unclear about that, is what will set you apart from the crowd. This will set the stage for the next conversation – which is how you can help them get what is most important. If done well, you will have positioned yourself as the one that they want to work with, because you are the one that they trust to get them what they need most.

And that is a solid win 100% of the time.

To your success,
Steve