What Does Meaningful Conversation Look Like?

by seansblog-admin on January 18, 2018

So let us get the elephant out of the room.  No potential client is at your door to be your friend.  They are there because they want you and your creative business to transform their lives. Full stop.

That said, to do the work you are tasked with doing, you actually have to appreciate who the client is and what they truly care about.  If you can value who the client is and what they care about, then you have a chance to create great art. No simpatico, no great art.  You can only do great work for people who care about your vision and vice-versa.

And yet most artists and creative business owners I know skip over the relationship part and jump into here is what we are going to do together.  They get down to business without even having drinks first. What gets communicated then is that this is a product transaction.  Give me your money and I will give you this stuff that will get you what you want. Except that is not what any creative business is selling at all.  The stuff is a means to an end.  The end is emotion, a feeling, a way to reach inside the minds and, I dare say, hearts of clients to move them to a different (and hopefully better) place.

If you begin the conversation with, “I know why you are here, so let us focus on the stuff you need”, you miss out on the higher purpose which is about relationship, a series of trust building exercises to get to the inevitable and enviable end.

While I am all about getting a client to “yes”, I am also all about getting to the right “yes”. Clients have to know what you care about and vice versa.

Try this exercise – for three minutes every time you talk to either a potential client or actual client, do not talk about either the wedding or what your creative business is going to do for them.  Just talk about them and you. Listen to what matters and share what matters to you as an artist.  Some of you might think, easy peasy, three minutes is nothing.  Except when I take away the reason everyone is there it becomes much much harder than you think.

Of course, there is more.  Once you have discovered something about your client or they about you, your art or your creative business, YOU have to relate that “something” to the ethos of your creative business.  You have to refer to your design statement, your process, your contract, your payment schedule, etc. as validation of what you heard being in keeping with why you and your creative business do things the way you do.  Real time. And when you get good at doing it once, do it twice.  For those of you with your employees, have at it with those that are responsible for communicating with your clients.

If you actually write down and track these interactions you will likely find that you will get closer and closer to the deepest desires of what your client seeks from you, your art and your creative business.  In turn, your client will fully understand why they are trusting you the way that they are.  This, by the way, is not transparency, it is uncompromised authenticity.  There is a huge difference. Transparency is a ruse, an excuse to keep hiding; uncompromised authenticity is the foundation of every creative business.

Sharing information that does not matter in the hopes of building trust is a sand castle waiting for the smallest wave to destroy it. My favorite example: if you walk into a grocery store and see that the price of organic bananas is $3/pound, you will probably not ask the manager where she bought the bananas at wholesale and for how much.  Oh, and if you did, the answer would likely be a (im)polite not going to answer. The reason is you either like the bananas for $3/pound or you do not.  Knowing how much the store is making on bananas or if they paid the right price at wholesale is completely irrelevant to the discussion.  If non-organic bananas sell at $1.50/pound, maybe that is where you find value.  Or if you go to the grocery outlet, maybe they are $/pound.  You will find value where you find it at retail.  If the high-end grocer discusses who they source from and why — fair trade growers for instance — maybe that matters to you and you pay the premium.

Therefore, if you think transparency is about sharing information that does not matter to value you are actually doing the opposite of being transparent, you are hiding. Why?  Because likely is you are not talking about what matters to you, your art and your creative business by saying this is the right banana for you and $3/price you need to pay.  Here is what I will do with this banana. Instead, you are distracting with noise and making yourself feel better by being “open and honest” with your clients so they can see how “fair” you are being. Yeah, not so much.  Leave transparency to the pretenders, be better at being radically authentic.  Listen sure, but really work on hearing.

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