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Client Engagement, Constructors, Public speaking, Sales

Client Engagement – I don’t need Engagement Training, do I?

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We started as presentation trainers, after 20 years of working with TV presenters. We then realised that presentations are easy – if you do the work – but that you could win or lose during the Q&A.

So we developed a process for Q&A that we know works. But then we realised that Q&A was easy – if you do the work – and the bid was being won and lost in engagement sessions.

Now your business may not have formal engagement sessions over months like a huge construction project. We are waiting to hear the final result on a project that began for us in 2010…

But, many of us do sit down with the client to thrash things out. Whatever you call it – competitive dialogue, mid-tender interview, negotiations, it’s all engagement.

And you must be good at it? Yes? Or you wouldn’t have a job?

Yes….and no.

We work in several industries where engagement with the client is fundamental to success. Construction and architecture being just two. We meet many experienced people who are really, really good at engaging with their clients. Most of them are at least 35 or 40, so they have 10-15 years of experience behind them. Let’s call them the Experts.

What is experience?

One of our observations from working with groups of varying experience is that we think we could tell the experienced from the inexperienced by just reading transcripts of what they say. The reason is that experienced people express themselves much more clearly, and much more accurately that others. This is all down to practice – they will have said something similar before – and they have very clear Schema in place. The ideas they are trying to express are very clear in their heads.

But what about all the others? The 25-35 year olds who are saying these things for the first time?

They normally learn from the Experts. And the only tuition is watch-and-learn. The trouble with watch-and-learn is it’s a bit like learning to speak in public by watching Harry Hill. You may not be like Harry Hill and that’s a problem. Many of the Experts are unique, and you want to be like you, don’t you? So you can’t copy them.

And Experts rarely analyse what it is they are doing. They just do it, don’t they?

But we know we can take a normal, competent person, and in a single day, transform their ability to talk to clients. We can give them some simple principles to work from, and we can rehearse them in the toughest conditions so that they are ready for anything. They can only become expert by doing, but we give them a road map so they know where they are going.

But what about the Experts.

They have nothing to learn from us, surely?

Well, you will have to take my word for this, but we notice that the Experts are the most appreciative people we work with. They know they can do it, but they really value the opportunity to step back and consider some principles, and they really want to learn some new things to add to their their kit-of-parts.

Like an elite athlete they are coachable – if you can give them something they see can use, they are grateful.

Also, on a personal note, we always learn something from them. You don’t spend decades talking to clients without learning some tricks that others can use.

I did meet someone the other day who will disagree with everything I’ve written. He was adamant that nothing of value can be found in a training room without the client there, and that the only way to learn to deal with clients was the mentor-pupil method.

What do you think?

We run Client Engagement courses specifically tailored to your company and your industry.



About gristpresent

Presentation, Q&A and Engagement Coach. We help you win more business. Also BAFTA-winning film maker. See our new site www.grist.co.uk



  1. Pingback: Can you really see it from the client’s point of view? « Grist Present - June 14, 2012

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