In the A/E business, we hate confrontation. As a result, we tend to communicate via email instead of talking on the phone. The older I get the more aware I am of the problems associated with people not picking up the phone and actually talking to each other! While I pride myself on being super quick to respond to texts and emails, and there are some calls I would rather NOT have to make, I know one thing for sure: People need to talk more and email less.
When relationships with clients go sour – and in spite of your best intentions they sometimes do – you can usually trace the problem back to someone in the client organization who didn’t want you to be successful in helping them. How can that be, you may ask? You know you have good intentions. They have a problem and you are just trying to help them. The reason they don’t want you to succeed is simple. That person did not have a relationship with someone in your company. And when there’s no relationship do you know what happens? People get paranoid. They start thinking you don’t like them. You are out to get them. There’s no trust. And you know why there’s no relationship? Because this person doesn’t really KNOW your person. They don’t know each other because they never talk.
Of course, most of the time when things go bad the relationship can’t be fixed. The problem has already been known for a long time, and when the client brings you, the principal, into the situation, it’s probably already too late. No amount of promises or salesmanship is going to resurrect it. So the best insurance is this – TALK. Tell your PMs to call their client every day just to talk. Ask a question. Talk about kids. Discuss the details of the project. LOOK for a reason to call. Start a program of calling daily and I guarantee you that your performance, team morale, and client relationships will all improve immensely.
Ignore my advice at your peril. Keep going down that path of letting your people email everything to your clients in the name of convenience and liability reduction. Allow your people to opt out of making a 10-minute phone call every three weeks and I guarantee you that you will lose precious clients you shouldn’t be losing. Being willing to call and get off the email is something us old people tend to do better than the younger ones. You’d think since everyone has a cell phone they would use it to talk, but nope, it is for Faceooking and texting and listening to Pandora and responding to work emails. But talk? Why would you do that?
Try it out. Have your PMs call their clients every day for two weeks. Tell me what happens. My guess is you’ll have smoother projects and find some new ones, to boot. But two weeks really isn’t enough. Six months of doing this would be a much better trial.
MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at email@example.com.
This article is from issue 1138 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.