How to win friends and influence people — updated

Chris AbrahamJust because we’re digital and work in the cloud doesn’t mean everyone does. If I learned one thing from running my own digital, in the cloud, virtual agency, with upward of 40 active staffers, for five years, it is this: The moment I didn’t treat my client like my No. 1 Valentine is the moment I got dumped. I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but your clients don’t choose you exclusively because of your mad skills. They choose you because they like you, trust you, and want to spend time with you during their work hours. Clients choose you for three reasons: 1) to do the job 2) what hiring you says about them 3) to have a cool new work-time best friend.

We spend upward of 16 hours a day working. We’re all overworked, overwrought, and lonely — and so are our clients. If you’re not spending a lot of your time checking in, catching up, and keeping up with your clients as if they were your boyfriend, girlfriend, or best chum, you’re going to get dumped — especially if you’re not the only game in town.

Your clients may very well spend more time with you than your spouse, so you had better be compatible — the chemistry needs to be there, for sure — but even if there’s no initial love-connection, you can earn it.

Show your client a good time — have some fun! Be considerate and do what you say you’re going to do. It might seem obvious to me now, but clients choose vendors the same way that we all choose our life partners: We’re looking for someone we like and someone who likes us. Someone who’s fun to spend time with, with whom we have rapport, and someone who’s willing to put other things aside to spend time with us, among other things.

When it comes to love, it comes down to how they feel! There are a lot of people, generally, who can do the job; what folks are looking for when they’re auditioning vendors — whether they are aware of it or not — is someone cool, fun, and generous who they can hang out with, talk to, meet with, and maybe even travel with — all on the clock and the expense account.

Even in companies where there are strict prohibitions on making personal calls or taking luxuriant lunches, meeting with your vendor is a perfectly respectable way to spend the company’s time and money — so why not make sure you actually want to spend the time with someone you like

Don’t talk business during your date — maintain your ping

Another thing I learned is that most vendors don’t want to talk business when you get together, hang out, play golf, and catch up. One client took me BMW-shopping when I was in town and then invited me to grab drinks with his family and then go clubbing; another one brought me out to get proper Cajun food and then went hunting for authentic zydeco.

Inviting clients and prospects to do things they may never have done is key — just like in dating. I’ve been pistol- and trap-shooting. I have dropped everything and jumped on planes at a moment’s notice just to say “hi” and to have lunch. I have gone golfing, drinking, lunching, and walking. I am not much of a sports fan but most firms in DC have box seats reserved for their clients — and there’s a reason for that!

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