This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

You’d probably agree with me that great client relationships require planning, preparation, and deliberate effort. And I bet you’d also agree that great relationships are determined by how we handle the stuff we can’t anticipate.

The true test of your ability to demonstrate the traits of a trusted advisor, IMHO, comes not when you’re flawlessly executing your well-rehearsed plan, but when you’re working off script. Like when a prospective client asks you point blank, “What experience do you have in XYZ industry?” more directly than you expected (and when the honest answer is “Not as much as you’d probably like”).

These “moments of truth” are uncomfortable, for sure. They’re also extremely important because they give you an opportunity to show who you are, not just what you know.

How skilled are you at improvising? How well do you deal with the unexpected? Can you recover in a non-defensive way when you feel put on the spot? If you’re overall answer is “so-so” or “I could always be better,” you’re not alone.

Fortunately, you can get better at improvising by practicing improvisation—being quick to respond, offering “yes, and” responses, and subordinating your ego in the interest of collaboration.

Make It Real

This week, get together with a colleague or two and brainstorm a list of things your clients might say that would naturally put you on the defensive. An example: “Why are you so much more expensive?” Write down your knee-jerk responses (“Because we’re worth it.”) Then re-write the script to be less defensive, more human (“Tough question. Sounds like there’s concern about our fees.”)

Learn More


The following two tabs change content below.

Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).