Communication Made Easy — Speaking, Editing, Writing, Marketing, Networking Answers

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but words themselves are at the basis of all communication. Whether we are communicating for business or personal reasons, our spoken and written words matter. These posts will address issues and answer questions related primarily to business communications, as they affect writing, credibility, marketing, and networking.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Finding the Need Beneath the Need

Had an interesting conversation with a man I’ll call “Client A” yesterday, which caused me to rethink a recent success with another individual I will call “Client B.” The discussion was about clarity . . . as service providers, whether we take the time to clarify the precise needs of our clients, to be exact.

Regardless of the business you’re in, a lot of what you’re selling has little to do with the product or service you supply; it has much more to do with the emotional and psychological effects achieved through those products or services. This is a tough thing for many business owners to grasp, but its impact is unbelievably significant to our overall success or failure. Although I’ve understood this concept theoretically for some time now, it was only recently that it came home to me, in real terms, just how important it is for me – and for all business owners – to understand this psychological component to our businesses.

Client A is a graphic designer who is writing a book in which he offers other designers insider tips on how to go from being “starving artists” to having thriving graphics businesses. The interesting thing is that two-thirds of his book is so universally applicable that it could be useful to people in almost any industry, the reason being that customer service drives the business. And Client A understands that as well as any business owner I have ever met.

Moreover, he gets that a significant component of customer service is understanding the client’s psychology. What is it that’s causing them to need your product or service right now? How big is their pain? And how much are you able to put yourself in their shoes to (a) truly understand their pain, and (b) be able to offer a customized solution that fits all their needs, both the readily apparent needs as well as the deep, dark, unspoken needs that neither you nor they may initially recognize at the outset of your relationship?

Client A said that in his explorations of existing texts, articles, and Web posts on the subject of running a successful graphic design firm, the one piece that seems to be consistently overlooked is the psychology behind an individual’s need to hire a designer in the first place. Whether the client’s goal is to build brand identity, find a more useful tool for connecting with their customers, or develop a unique way to truly set themselves apart from everyone else in their industry . . . there’s a psychological need driving their engagement of the graphic designer. And the same is true in virtually every industry.

Financial planning comes to mind as I think of this. Say a person decides they need professional advice as they begin to think about retirement and planning for their future. During the exploratory conversation, however, it turns out that they’re having a bitter battle with family members over their recently deceased father’s estate . . . and it was that battle that ultimately ignited their desire to get their own finances in order now. They didn’t make the connection when they called the planner; but once the planner begins asking questions and drilling down past the surface needs, the psychological components reveal themselves.

In my case, the issue arose when Client B was trying to decide between hiring me and another editor to work on her book about a subject that comes out her own intimate, personal experience. She underwent an excruciating ordeal that tried her marriage and made her question her own self-worth as a woman, and is now writing this book with a goal of helping others who may be experiencing something similar.

Client B forwarded to me some of the comments the other editor had made about her work, asking my opinion of both the other editor’s analysis, and whether or not I would be able to offer similar skills as a part of my editing service. The interesting part was that the other editor’s comments were technically very, very strong. In fact, I think I might in the future borrow a page from her playbook, with regard to the way she addressed certain aspects of my client’s writing. The problem was that her feedback sorely missed the mark when it came to addressing my client’s actual needs, which turned out to be deeply psychological in nature. Yes, my client wanted proof that the editor she would hire had the functional skills to do a good job with her prose. But it was far more important to her that this person also would be able to understand the human side of the brand-new-to-her process of sharing such an intimate personal experience in a book she would publish and make available for the
whole world to read.

It can feel like it would be easier to walk
down the street naked than to hang your words,
thoughts, and opinions out publicly.
If you’ve ever written a book – or even an article – you know what it’s like to put your words out there for other people to read, digest, dissect, comment on, and agree with or disagree with. And when you’re new at it, it can feel like it would be easier to walk down the street naked than to hang your words, thoughts, and opinions out publicly, for everyone to see . . . and, potentially, take a swing at. The good news is that it’s not all that often that people actually want to take a literal or figurative swing at you. Unless, of course, you write incendiary commentary, of the likes of Ann Coulter or Al Franken . . . but, generally speaking, such controversial writers have been at the game for a while.

It does get easier, as time goes on, although some writers will tell you they never entirely overcome that initial trepidation. And as many experienced writers will tell you, it’s a challenging thing to get over the desire for external validation about your work – which can come in the form of selling loads of books or having people Digg you or e-mail your blog posts around. However, the only way you can ever really begin to write true is by divesting yourself of that need for others’ approval so that you write strictly from your heart.

My client is still learning about writing true – and it was my recognition of this fact that landed me her gig. Can I do an equal job on the technical work that the other editor laid out for her? Sure. Was that the deciding factor in her choice to hire me? Not at all.

Whether you’re a carpet cleaner, a surgeon, a personal trainer, a wedding planner, a dog groomer, or an attorney . . . how well do you really understand the psychology behind your clients’ need to hire you? I have a suspicion that the deeper you can go, in terms of identifying the true, but often deeply buried need, the more value you will bring to your clients, the greater rapport they will feel with you, and the more likely they will be to both stay with you and recommend you to others.

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