The Fear of Connection

Stu’s News
with Trina’s Tips


The Fear of Connection

Our newsletter heading is “Stu’s News, with Trina’s Tips.” This issue features some of Trina’s Tips.

In working with both project managers and firm leaders – essentially coaching the firm’s marketing team – she’s finding that people have an incredible amount of fear in just beginning a relationship with a new client. When they’re working on projects, and discussing issues on existing projects with clients they know … comfort is fine. But when they need to meet a new client, or talk about a new project with a client they already know … FEAR.

  • If there’s no specific project to discuss, they fear knowing what to talk about – especially if some of what the client normally does is out of their specific area of expertise.
  • Some clients expect a firm to come in and make a brilliant presentation … without knowing anything about their interests. In a way, we trained the clients to expect this, as during a difficult economy, firms believe that if they give the client free ideas, they’ll get the work, later. Professionals fear knowing what to say to make a positive impression.
  • And fears surround even minute details of an initial meeting …

Who sets up the meeting? Should we phone or email?

How do we set an agenda? Who walks in first?

Who introduces who to whom? How do you shake hands?

What to say in an introduction? Where should we sit?

Do we give business cards? What’s best to wear?

Who states the agenda? Who asks the first question? How to write a note, later? How do you follow up?

Professionals who have had Mandeville training seem to be rusty, which gives them uncertainty and discomfort. Most project managers don’t seem to have ever had Mandeville training, other than brief intro from managers.

The biggest reluctance is simply how to be with people … to connect with a client as a person … to begin to care about the client, and to genuinely want to help that person … not just care about doing the client’s project to meet a firm’s projected revenue goals. Fears on the personal side include …

  • Fear of exposing oneself, especially the potential of not knowing the answer to some question.
  • Fear of not being perfect.
  • Fear of being seen as human … having a spouse, kids, hobbies, etc. … and looking stupid.
  • Fear of just not being liked by the client.

The fears, and lack of comfort they produce, creates a stiffness. And that stiffness makes the meeting more awkward. The professionals can’t relax, can’t really hear what the client is saying, and just be “with” that client.

And the solution …

First, pair less experienced people with a more senior person who may have had training and who’s done this before. Most senior people have said that when they young professionals, a senior person in their firm put their arm around their shoulders and guided them into the world of client relations.

This generation needs to do the same.

Second, Trina uses what’s known in theater as “Stage Blocking.” It’s not a full rehearsal, as you might do when preparing for a major presentation. There is no client panel, and no one poses as the client to ask questions, etc. But it is a detailed scripting of who does what, and who says what. It’s more of a “walk-through” in which the “performers” become comfortable with their lines.

The introducer verbalizes the introduction.

Whomever is supposed to set the agenda, does so.

Each little step is rehearsed, but without someone as client.

Trina, as a third party – which can also be your marketing director or some senior person in your firm who’s great with clients – listens and gives feedback. If flaws are sufficient, then the professionals go through their lines a second time. The key is being able to break the meeting event down to minute details … down to who shakes hands with whom, and how they do it.

The benefit?

In working with her client firms, the teams Trina is coaching are often the only professionals actually cultivating a relationship with a client. They’re enjoying spectacular impact on their success rate … and on major projects.