You've probably heard this before: "When interacting with clients and prospects, your goal should be to continually give value." Yes, sharing assets, insights, and attention will earn you trust. But there's something else you can do.
One of the best ways to deepen an existing relationship is to ask for help.
Multiple pieces of research support this - my favorite being Adam Grant's, author of "Give And Take". It turns out that getting help from someone can strengthen the bond in very similar ways to actually helping them.
When you ask clients for advice, you win twice. First, by getting their outside perspective and a new way to look at your business challenges. Second, by educating them - as they learn more about your business and who you work with, it will be easier for them to refer people who might benefit from your services.
If you decide to give it a try, here are some useful tips:
- Make it important: Don't just ask for quick advice at the end of an unrelated call. Ask them to schedule a separate meeting and dedicate time just to get their advice on growing your business. This will increase the importance of the conversation, and it's surprising how often people will say yes to such a request.
- Give context: Start by offering the clients a brief summary of where you are now and where you plan to take the business in the coming year. Explain why you chose to ask them - and not someone else - for advice.
- Follow up: After you get recommendations, keep the client up-to-date on what you implemented, or what happened after you spoke. Asking for advice just to ignore it after the conversation is over can leave things worse than where they started.
This works better with clients and partners with whom you already have at least a solid working relationship. These people want to help you - you only need to ask.