This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
The backdrop: A Midwestern U.S. office of a global accounting firm is informed by a major client that the audit work is going out to bid. The partners are shocked; they don’t see it coming. The client is clear they intend to change auditors. The firm is given the opportunity to bid as a nicety.
The bold move: The firm decides that, if there were ever a time when not to take a risk was too risky, this is it. They decide to do something dramatic. So instead of using their 90 minutes of presentation time to do a conventional pitch, the four partners decide to act out a play for the four client executives from the finance organization. The roles they assume: those very client executives having a meeting, deciding to fire their auditor. In other words, the four partners role-play the clients now sitting in front of them.
They say things like, “Well, those audit folks just haven’t shown us that they have what it takes,” and, “That’s right, they haven’t been proactive enough.” They articulate the critical thoughts that they imagine the client is thinking—humbly and genuinely.
The crescendo: The partners are prepared to get yanked out of there. After five minutes, they pause and ask their clients if they should stop. Fascinated, the clients say, “Keep going.” And so the partners do, for nearly an hour. They just keep talking—as if they are the clients—about the things that they had done wrong and should have done better.
The result: The decision to put the work out to bid is rescinded, and the firm gets the job back.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Empathy schmempathy; that crap’s too ‘soft’ for me,” think again.
This week, take a close look at clients you’ve lost—completely or partially. What complaints did/do they have about you? Write them down, as though you’re quoting them. Better yet: Say them out loud, as though you’re the client (not as you complaining about the client). What insight do you gain?