Posted on 04 May 10
This week in “Face Time” we’re pleased to feature bestselling author Patrick Lencioni, whose recent book, Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty, tells the story of Lighthouse, a small consulting firm that often trumps its larger competitors in landing top clients. One competitor decides to buy Lighthouse and (led by Jack Bauer…no relation to the T.V. character) looks into what makes the company tick, to determine if and how both organizations will gel. During Jack’s “investigation,” he learns surprising and insightful lessons in what it takes to build client loyalty and deliver true, authentic value. I found Getting Naked an easy, enjoyable and relevant read, and recommend that you, your partners, producers, customer service reps, account execs, assistants, and everyone in your insurance organization find out what Pat means about Getting Naked.
Pat is the founder and president of The Table Group, Inc., a specialized management-consulting firm focused on organizational health. He is the author of several books and his The Five Dysfunctions of a Team continues to be highlighted on the “New York Times,” “Business Week,” “Wall Street Journal” and “USA Today” best-seller lists. His other successes include: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars; Death by Meeting; The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive; and The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Three Signs of A Miserable Job. The One-Minute Manager's Ken Blanchard describes Pat as "fast defining the next generation of leadership thinkers."
Annie George (AG): Let’s first define Getting Naked.
Patrick Lencioni (PL): “Getting naked is really about learning to be vulnerable with your clients. It’s about understanding and practicing vulnerability with them, which means being completely transparent, humble and selfless with clients in a way that develops trust and loyalty. Getting Naked is learning to get comfortable with that. Yes, there is some discomfort involved with it yet it’s worth it — in terms of what you generate in customer loyalty and commitment — and the resulting sense of freedom and fulfillment in doing the work. You’ll end up having a greater impact with clients; they will treat you like family, as you will them. Once you get over that initial discomfort, you’ll realize that this is the way your client relationships are supposed to be. But it takes some courage and a willingness to deal with some discomfort in order to be vulnerable.”
AG: What prevents people from getting naked with clients? You discuss three fears that people have that need to be stripped away in order to get to that place of vulnerability.
PL: “The first fear is the Fear of Losing the Business. No one wants to lose customers or revenue, but if you’re truly afraid of losing a client, you’ll often avoid doing the very thing that you need to do… in order to demonstrate vulnerability. In other words, if you’re driven by the fear of losing the business, you’re going to take a safe, protective stance with clients making it difficult to be vulnerable and build honest, loyal relationships.”
AG: What’s an example of this?
PL: “This can be done in several ways, one of the more common examples requires a service provider to Tell the Kind Truth. For example, a situation arises where the client wants something and you need to tell him that what he’s doing is not good for the company – yet, you know that he may not like hearing this message. And you think, ‘should I tell him the truth, or should I tell him what he wants to hear?’ To protect the business, many people tell their clients what they want to hear, believing that this will avoid an uncomfortable situation. But by taking the risk in kindly telling clients the truth, you’ll earn their respect and trust in the long run. In the end, the client will understand that you’re more interested in helping them than you are in protecting the business.“
“Another example and a related one is called Enter the Danger and it requires the service provider to step right in the middle of a sticky situation. If there is something uncomfortable occurring in the group, it is up to you to call it out and say, ’It looks like there is a problem here, let’s stop and address it.’ Even though you may feel you’ll be blamed for the situation or it may be difficult, entering the danger is required to serve the client and help them improve. This is what we mean by putting the business at risk.
“Also, overcoming the fear of losing the business comes into play early in the sales cycle when you’re not sure a company is even going to be your client. Do things for them anyway. We call this Consult Instead of Sell. Instead of selling a client on your credentials…just start adding value right out the gate. You may think they will take advantage of you or that by doing certain things for them, they won’t need to hire you. Give it away anyway.”
AG: You discuss this last point in Lighthouse’s approach when meeting potential clients. They don’t sell; they consult. They get to know the client. When Jack sees this approach he wonders why anyone would give prospects ideas before they become clients…there is that fear that they won’t hire you, need you.
PL: “If this is the case, then you don’t want them as a client anyway, or they will end up using you later. The thing is you have to be comfortable in not worrying about getting the business. It’s not only the way in which you’ll end up with the business, but you also get your clients to recommend you to others. Never sell, always consult. It’s so liberating to go into a client [meeting] and not view it as a big sales call. Instead go in and say, ‘this is what I’m thinking about what you said, let me give you some ideas.’ By so doing, you’re making them your client; they’re just not paying you yet. They’re already looking to you as if you’re hired. Go in and assume you have the business, just don’t talk about closing the deal. Do stuff for them. You can’t always give away your product, but you can certainly start advising, consulting and providing people with information about what you need. They may turn around and say ‘I don’t think we need you anymore.’ I consider that a victory.“
AG: There is a consultant in the insurance industry whose approach is all about building relationships and not worrying about the sale. Offer advice, and down the road you may get the account, but in the meantime you have become their true friend, a real advisor.
PL: “Exactly, and you can’t fake that. Good things come from this.”
AG: Now what about the Fear of Being Embarrassed, the second obstacle to vulnerability?
PL: “No one likes to look foolish, silly or stupid in front of clients. As a result, we edit ourselves so when it comes time to ask a question, we hold back waiting for someone to explain what we didn’t understand. And when it comes to making suggestions, we hold back for fear of being rejected. We think they won’t like the idea or we don’t know the business well enough. When we edit ourselves to avoid embarrassment, we rob our clients of all the ideas we have and lose opportunities to add real value.
“For every great idea I have for my clients, there’s a bad one. And if I don’t put them both out there, the good ones won’t surface. My clients never punish me for ill-fated suggestions. I was on an advisory board to a consulting firm the other day and we were talking about marketing and advertising and how traditional marketing is not working and social media is taking over. I agreed, but I also added that billboards would work for the local business we were discussing. I explained that I may be wrong, and it may sound like the dinosaur of marketing, but the people at the meeting turned to me and said, ‘You know, you’re right. If we found five billboards in key areas in the Bay area everyone would know who we are.’ But they could have easily told me I was off.”
AG: There is real confidence behind that. You need to feel confident with yourself.
PL: “Yes, and confident that even if your idea is not good, you will not be embarrassed. Self-esteem is key to this.”
AG: Tell me about the last one, Fear of Feeling Inferior, which ties into being confident.
PL: “It’s self-esteem and about wanting your clients to think you’re smarter than them. No one wants clients to look down on them. But, the thing is, that if you are in service, it’s tied to servant — which places you in a lower position to someone else. So, you have to be willing to Do the Dirty Work. Sometimes people ask you to do things and you may think, ‘well this is below my pay grade or not in my job description. The client is going to think less of me.’ Do it anyway; be the one that says, ‘I will do this.’ A friend of mine was selling her house. Her real estate agent was outside with a broken foot in a cast on her hands and knees planting flowers in front of the house before the showing. My friend asked her what she was doing. She simply said ‘I’m planting flowers to help you sell your house’. My friend will recommend her to everyone.”
AG: Part of this is also putting your ego aside.
PL: “Absolutely. Being naked means that your ego is secondary.”
AG: With your own consulting company, did this approach evolve?
PL: “It actually began before we started the company. When I began this firm twelve years ago with four colleagues, we had practiced this approach internally. So when launching our new company, I suggested we get naked with our clients. We didn’t codify it. We just said, ‘let’s go out there and tell them the truth and not be afraid…let’s go out there and be real.’ And over time, we realized we had to tell our clients the kind truth even if it’s difficult. I was working with one of my biggest clients just out of the gate. I had to confront a famous CEO about something, as I felt that no one was leveling with him. And I thought, I have to say something even if I lose him as a client. In the end, we couldn’t break up with that company because they valued us as vendors that would actually be honest with them.”
AG: Can this also work internally between employer and employee? Some people just want ‘yes’ people around and not the kind truth.
PL: “There is a difference in how it applies internally because you may not be able to put this into practice if you want to keep your job. If you are naked with a client and he doesn’t value the truth, then you can evaluate whether you want to get paid for doing work that may not be valuable to his company. You can decide you don’t want clients like this. But if this is your only boss and he/she doesn’t value nakedness, then you can do one of two things: Realize that you can’t practice this approach if you want to keep your job or realize that you want to work for someone who will value your honest opinion and leave. But I don’t want to be flip about this and say, ‘I’m going to be naked with my boss.’ The truth is that, like your client, he/she may fire you for it. Nineteen out of 20 times, clients don’t fire you for the truth; they love you for it. But you have to be willing to have that one time out of 20 happen. And, there will be those times when someone will basically say ‘No—you’re not supposed to tell me the truth, you’re supposed to figure out what I want to hear and then tell it to me’.”
“Naked is about truly serving your clients and being ready to lay down on the road for them — even if that means they’ll run over you. You have to take the risk to build trust. You have to go first. You can’t wait for your client to do it first. And it works. We have people who read the book and then tell us about a sales call they went on using the naked approach…consulting and going over what they were and weren’t good at…and they ended up getting the client.
“The most important thing to understand in all of this is that providing naked service is liberating. There is something powerful in not trying to convince clients to hire you and telling them things that are completely honest. Initially, your clients may be caught off guard by this approach but as you keep talking, they realize that you’re genuine.”
You can get your copy of Getting Naked at amazon.com. You can also find out more about Pat and the other books he has written, as well as more about his organization, The Table Group, at http://www.tablegroup.com. And become a fan of Pat’s on Facebook and see what others are saying about his books, seminars, etc.