They look alike. They sound alike. But, they don’t act alike. Knowing the difference between customers and clients is knowing the difference between investing effort and spending time. I’m assuming you’re interested in building long-term, professional business relationships. Think of client relationships as the bricks in your business building effort. Customer-driven businesses, on the other hand, are more like tents on a hillside.
The dividing line between customers and clients
Customers pay you to do. Clients hire you to be. Customers seldom ask your help being anything except who they already are. In fact, customers value your expertise only to the degree you contribute to a plan of their making. Work another person’s plan and any success is theirs. You get paid. They get success.
Beingness precedes doingness. You will never do anything without first seeing yourself doing it. You have to believe before you can do. Believing is abstract, conceptual, and resides in the mind. When being crosses into the concrete it becomes doing. The idea has form and is growing in justification.
Clients seek you out while still in the domain of beingness. When you’re called to DO, you’ve arrived after the thinking is done. You’re a vendor, a resource fulfilling what is already underway. No worries, though. There’s a road back to being. More on that in a moment.
Which side of the arc are you working?
Decision Arc is a tool I developed to ascertain whether we’re on the doing side for a customer or the being side with a client. There are quantifiable indicators that ring true every time.
When the conversation is about a specific solution, you’re doing. When the conversation is about deadlines and timetables, you’re doing. “We want to do a billboard,” they say. What you need to hear is “we’ve done all the thinking and need you to DO this.”
The road from being to doing leads through no
Think about the last significant decision you made. Before you took action, you had to convince yourself it would work. You had to pass through no to reach yes. You crossed over the decision arc.
When a possibility sparks your thinking, it’s only an idea. Nothing happens until you see yourself doing it. Your emotional involvement then increases as you rise in the beingness of the outcome ultimately breaking through the NO barrier.
Whether you call an ad agency or house painter in this frame of mind, you’re a customer. The deeper you go into the doingness of something, the less interested you become in alternatives. You’re only seeking the best route to done.
Sliding toward yes, you burrow into doingness. You gather information. You shop for prices. You compare options. The decision is made, you’re just figuring out how you’ll DO it.
If that’s how customers come to you, be afraid. A decided customer is a volatile thing. They may just as easily explode into buying behavior elsewhere. I’ve discovered a way of redirecting customers back into being with one single word.
The easy ride is to merely execute and move along. It’s also a downhill ride for your relationship with a client. Professionals have clients. Wal-Mart has customers.
Your road back from doing to being
One word puts you back into the beingness of an idea and opens the door to a client conversation with a customer. That word is WHY?
A billboard? Why? Cancel television? Why?
WHY is your trusty ally when a client veers into customer-think. A note of caution: you’re not asking to challenge. Ask to better understand. Demanding justification is a storm-trooper assault on their thinking. Seeking understanding is a slide toward alignment of thinking. The better you understand, the better you can do now and grow later.
You may still wind up doing in this case, but you’ve gained understanding into the customer’s client thinking and demonstrated an interest in their well-being. Equipped with this access, you’re on the road to the being side of their future rides across the decision arc.