Getting Naked - A Business Fable
About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty
Jossey-Bass, 2010, 220 pp. ISBN 978-0-7879-7639-2
Lencioni tells a story of a management consultant trying to merge two firms with very different approaches to serving clients. His very entertaining story (the first 195 pages) illustrates the value of transparency, vulnerability, and selflessness for developing client trust and loyalty. Lencioni calls this "getting naked."
"Vulnerability is one of the most undervalued and misunderstood of all human qualities. …there is no better way to earn a person's trust than by putting ourselves in a position of unprotected weakness and demonstrating that we believe they will support us. … It is ultimately our honesty, humility, and selflessness that will endear us to them and allow them to trust and depend on us." (Introduction)The book helps us overcome our fears so we can become vulnerable.
"Consulting firms do a lot of things that would be considered ironic. Or hypocritical. Ego is usually at the heart of it." (58)
If you aren't willing to tell the client the truth (when it is hard), why should they pay you?
Having a bad client is worse than having none.
He didn't do any selling at all. Instead, he just went in there and started helping them.
"Almost all of the time and energy … was being directed toward consulting to paying clients. Those clients in turn became the sales engine for the firm, and even when we did an occasional cold call, it was the references from clients that shortened the sales cycle considerably. I'm not even sure I'd call it a sales cycle at all." (104)
Why did the other company lose the account? "It just felt like you guys were going to tell us how to run our business, and you were trying to convince us that you knew more than us, I guess. And you were telling us all the things that you would do for us if we hired you." (136) Regarding the other consultant company: "It's like all they're interested in doing is helping us solve our problems." (137)
There are three fears to becoming vulnerable.
Fear #1. Fear of losing the business.
They don't seem overly concerned about whether they are going to close the deal or whether a client might stop working with them. They are so focused on doing what is in the best interest of the customer that they stop worrying about protecting themselves. They have a "humble self-confidence."
When invited to present themselves, they don't come in and tell what they can do for you, but begin asking questions and helping the customer then and there. Consult; don't sell. Give away the business.
If a client wants to take advantage of you, let them. That's what nakedness and vulnerability are all about. "…once a client trusts you and really understands that you care more about them than about yourself, they usually top worrying about micromanaging the cost or seeing if they can take advantage of you." (156) When the clients trust you, they usually take care of you.
"Tell the kind truth." It's key. Tell the truth when it's hard, but do it with empathy, the "concern that you would normally reserve for a friend." (158)
"Enter the danger." Avoid the tendency to dodge or ignore bizarre comments or bad attitudes, but instead walk into it. Confront it. When something is strange or politically sensitive and the anxiety or discomfort is high, walk into the situation and call it out. You have to be confident enough to do something that is potentially client-threatening.
Fear #2. Fear of being embarrassed or looking stupid.
Ask dumb questions. When you don't understand something, probe. Make dumb suggestions. Some of them might work out. Celebrate your mistakes. Admit it when you realize it. Take the ribbing. And don't stop making suggestions. If you've built trust, they don't remember it. Your clients are looking for good suggestions and don't mind sifting through a few dumb ones.
Fear #3. Fear of feeling inferior.
It is natural to want to be seen as important. This is about humility as a person, not needing to be the center of attention. Sometimes it is appropriate to take the blame for something that isn't your fault. (Take a bullet for the client.) When a new program isn't working out and you're not sure where the problem is, you may suggest that you have overlooked something and it's your responsibility to figure it out. You can build a lot of credibility with those you protected. Make everything about the client - not about you. Honor the client's work. And when appropriate, do your share of the dirty work. When a consultant works in this way, the clients tend to treat them more like real partners and team members than vendors or outsiders.
"At its core, naked service boils down to the ability of a service provider to be vulnerable--to embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of a client.
"What clients want more than anything is to know that we're more interested in helping them than we are in maintaining our revenue source." (198)
Always consult instead of sell. Transform every sales situation into an opportunity to demonstrate the value of service. Find a way to help them in a meaningful way.
Give away the business. Err on the side of the client when it comes to fees.
Tell the Kind Truth. Confront the client with a difficult message, even when the client might not like to hear it.
Enter the Danger. Fearlessly deal with issue that everyone else fears to address. This demonstrates courage and integrity. "Dangerous" situations become opportunities for adding value.
Ask Dumb Questions. Make Dumb Suggestions. Celebrate Your Mistakes. Take a bullet for the Client. Make Everything about the Client. Honor the Client's Work. Do the Dirty Work. Admit your Weaknesses and Limitations.