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How to be virtually brilliant

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In the second of our three-part ‘Adapting to change’ summer series, communications expert Andy Bounds offers his techniques to help you and your firm generate new business during these challenging times.

I'm going to give you some tips about how to be a better communicator with your existing and potential clients while we're working in this virtual way.

Because if you can communicate virtually well, you'll find it the easiest, the best and the nicest way to help generate new business.

And the great news about this technique is that there are only three things to master to be good at it: being in the right mind set, meeting with the right people and making sure you're saying the right words.

More of the right mind set so you deliver value every time

To be as impactful as possible with your communication, you need the right mind set. Say you're talking to a potential client, what would you highlight as your firm's selling point? If you think it's your firm's reputation or expertise, what you're doing is focusing on your past. But to add value to any client conversation, you need to focus on your client's future.

When we speak to our clients, we tend to talk a bit too much about our businesses. But the reality is, clients aren't that interested in our products or services. What they are interested in is the enhanced future we can offer them.

To sum it up in one word, what they want is the 'afters'.

You need to focus on telling your clients why they would be better off after working with you.

As part of this exercise, have a look at all the communication your firm puts out: your proposals, the content on your website or even the conversations you're currently having with existing and potential clients. How much of it includes the 'afters' you can give clients? Does your website say, 'We're market-leading' or does it say, 'We can help you retire earlier'? Is your latest client proposal called 'Our proposal' or is it called 'How to retire at 59 and have more money in your pocket'?

So make sure you focus on the 'afters' you and your firm can offer clients.

More of the right opportunities with both existing and new clients

Once that first step is complete, you need to focus on improving relationships with your existing clients and getting in front of the right people to start relationships with new clients.

Your existing clients are the most important people in your world for two reasons: they're your existing clients and should be a higher priority than anyone else and it's easier to impress and influence them than it is with people you've yet to establish relationships with.

To improve relationships with your existing clients, you need to know them and you need to make sure they know you. The better you know each other, the better you like and trust each other.

I have a very simple rule here. I make sure I speak to my existing clients 'often enough', whenever 'often enough' is. There may be some of your clients who could really do with hearing from you every couple of weeks. However, sometimes time runs away with us and you only contact them every three or four weeks and usually because some issue has kicked off. If that's the reason you're calling your existing clients, every time they answer the phone to you, they're thinking, 'Oh no, something has kicked off'. To avoid this, make sure you're speaking to your clients often enough.

With my major relationships, I work out how often I should speak to them, whether it's weekly, fortnightly or monthly and I put recurring time-slotted reminders in my email calendar with the names of the clients I need to speak to in each of those entries. These simple alerts mean I call my clients 'often enough' and it's not because something has kicked off.

Your clients are also much more likely to value your relationship if you can provide them with value. Every time you contact your clients, make sure there's always some value in the conversation either through teaching them something or telling them a story. It might be a previous conversation you've had that they might find helpful or an interesting magazine article you've read that you think your client might find useful.

Clients love this. What they don't want is you calling them up and then talking about your products. And it's really easy to do this well. Pull together a simple, three-column table with your existing clients listed down the left hand side. In the middle column, head it up 'know', for 'weekly', 'fortnightly' or 'monthly' and head the third column up 'owe' for the lesson or story you'll give them. Using this table means you speak to your existing clients the right number of times, and every time you do, you always bring them value.

However, you only have so many existing clients and you really want to get in front of new people too.

And the easiest way to do this is through referrals.

In my email calendar, I also have a weekly reminder to ask business colleagues or friends for one referral. It's a really easy rule and in one year, I'll have asked for up to 50 referrals. And I can do this because it's in the diary.

More of the right conversations for your interactions with clients
The third thing to get right if you want to be really good at being virtually brilliant is to make sure you're saying the right words that people want to hear.

And the golden rule of the 'afters' chat is not to lead with your products, but to lead your conversation towards them. Start with a really good question such as, 'How has your family been affected by the lockdown restrictions?' With a question like this, your client will say if their family has been affected by the restrictions or not and you can ask for a bit more information. And they will talk and you can then start having a conversation which you can eventually lead towards your products.

The ABC of adding value to your conversations

To sum up, you just need to remember the three ABC steps to add value to your client conversations.

First, focus on the 'A', the 'afters'. When you start a conversation with your clients, remember to start with a great question such as, 'How young would you like to be when you retire? or 'Are your friends enjoying a good retirement?'.

Once you've found out what your clients' 'afters' are, focus on the 'B' and building certainty. To have a good value-added conversation with your clients, remember that 'facts tell, stories sell'. So to build certainty, don't tell your clients facts about your products or services, tell them a story.

Then there's the C, which stands for 'close' and taking the conversation to the next level. If your clients sound interested in what you're saying, then make sure to lightly close the deal off. As a very general summary, the three questions I use are, 'Do you feel comfortable that this will help you with your 'afters'?; 'Do you have any final concerns?' and 'How soon can we start?'

If you're using the right mind set, meeting with the right people and making sure you're saying the right words by following the ABC rule, then your clients will listen to what you're saying.

And it's the easiest, the best and the nicest way to be virtually brilliant.

Look out for our final 'Adapting to change' summer speaker webinar sessions taking place on September 8: Philip Calvert, social networking and LinkedIn specialist.


The value of investments can go down as well as up and your clients could get back less than they paid in.

The views expressed in this blog should not be regarded as financial advice.