Savvy Managing Partners rewrite rules of Client Engagement

When Managing Partner David Bickerton of law firm Clifford Chance advises  newly-appointed Managing Partners to ask themselves “How does the Client feel?” , I ask “How does the Client feel at your Client Events?”

Currently, not great, is the likely answer. I know this because I have spent many thousands of hours introducing guests at business and social events and working out how to provide the best possible experience for them in the periods when they are expected to interact with others.

Your Client has probably had to get up early for your Breakfast Briefing or ended a long-day at work to attend your evening event. No doubt you’ll look after him or her by offering a cup of coffee or a reviving glass of wine.

At this point, your Client will be feeling expectant and hopeful of receiving a pay-off for attending – some new information from an industry expert, perhaps - and in the networking breaks, an opportunity to make valuable connections.

Bizarrely, it is at exactly this point, coffee or wine duly offered and a greeting exchanged, that many firms leave their guests “to get on with it” in a sea of strangers. To put it bluntly, they abandon their guests. The engagement stops dead. It is at this point that many companies do the reverse of making their Clients feel good – they do the opposite and unwittingly make them feel ill-at-ease.

This is systemic in British events. It is so systemic, that both guests and the host companies have come to accept this state-of-affairs as acceptable. The guests aren’t complaining, so it might appear that there is no need to act.

In not acting to better the situation, however, firms are overlooking the enormous opportunity that a Client event can provide to make their guests feel good.  

Let’s look first at what your Client is likely to feel at your event.

Almost everyone feels trepidation at being in a room with other people. Often the others are strangers, which means you need nerves of steel to say hello. Even if they are not strangers, a room full of people becomes the school playground: who will talk to me? Who will reject my approach? Will I be the one who gets left out? You can see all these fears playing out because your Clients will often stick with the people they came with, or with you, or with their contacts on their mobile.

How can you alleviate your Clients’ fears?

The only way you can put them truly at ease is to make your Clients feel accepted by the others in the room. Although the brave can in fact say hello on their own, this does not in itself make other people in the room accept them.  Nothing works to make your Client feel good at your event except being introduced by you, your Partners, or someone on whom you have conferred the authority to do it on your behalf. If you introduce your Clients to your other guests you provide them with your stamp of approval. You are telling the other guests that this Client is someone they should meet. If you do this for all your Clients, they will all feel good about themselves. They won’t feel like outsiders, they will feel that they belong.

You can now be masterful and deliver tremendous benefits to your Clients. What do they want? They want the same as you do – business. Much is said to encourage people to attend Client events, with words such as “networking opportunity” on invites and flyers. You put on an event, providing your Clients with an “opportunity” to make contact with other people, but often an “opportunity” is all it is. The Client is left to make what they will of the opportunity. In other words, they have to do the work, and go through all the social anxiety that prevent them from using the time productively and enjoyably. If you, the host firm, offer the opportunity and deliver the desired results for them – taking the trouble to introduce them to the people relevant to their business, they will feel really good at your event. They will feel energized and invigorated by the buzz of an occasion jam-packed with multiple valuable connections and empowered, not only to introduce themselves with ease, but to introduce those that they meet to others present. This is the ideal, turbo-charged event which leaves everyone, hosts and guests, satisfied.

The advantages of this approach are many. If your Clients leave your event having made extensive connections of their own, having laid the foundations of strategic alliances that will carry them forward and feeling good about themselves and their own abilities, they will think well and speak well of your event and will want to return for more, providing you with more opportunities to engage with them. Firms giving their Clients relevant on-the-spot introductions will be the ones that stand out from the pack to become the market leaders in Client engagement.

What will David Bickerton be doing in the future?

Rachel Fay is a Professional Introducer connecting people at Conferences, Receptions, Networking Events and Private Parties. You can contact Rachel on 020 8743 1249

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