Conversing With Clients Without
Using the T Word
how long can you talk about your client's work?
(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)
Let's imagine you find yourself in a conversation with an internal client, one of the other functions or departments to whom you provide (or hope to provide) training services. But the conversation is not about a particular project or training need. Perhaps it is a regular meeting you have regularly, if you are wise, to keep abreast of that department's issues, concerns, strategies, and needs. Or maybe it is just a more social occasion, a holiday party or some more generic meeting where you find yourself next to your client.
Further imagine that an evil sorcerer has cast a spell on you: you are incapable of talking about training, of using trainer-speak of any kind.
Under those conditions, how long would the conversation last? What would you talk about?
Naturally, since you couldn't talk about your work, you would have to talk about the client's world. You've have to explore their plans, their successes and failures, their challenges, their concerns. You might well talk about coming changes in how they work, opportunities and challenges. You could certainly talk about how their staffs perform, what they'd like to see change, without getting into your own role in promoting that change.
Could you do that? Do you know enough about a typical internal client's business to keep that conversation going?
If you are up to that kind of conversation, you are probably serving your client's training needs well. You know where they've been, where they are, where they want to go, and your efforts are guided by that trajectory. Your client knows you have a deep interest in their needs and goals, and that makes their collaboration with you, and their support of your training services, much stronger.
If you could not keep that conversation going past the small talk stage, what would it take to reach the level of understanding needed to make that a better conversation?
There are no quick fixes in that situation. You'll have to earn the trust of the client, their confidence that you are truly interested in their perspective and not just in your own, through repeated contact. You may have to patiently persist long enough to wait out their skepticism about your motives, frankly.
But the rewards are great. That depth of understanding puts you on the level of a business partner to your client, instead of just a service provider. They'll listen to their partners much more thoughtfully than they do to their service providers. They'll be more cautious about abrupt changes, including sudden cuts to services, when you fill the partnership role.
Test yourself. Think about your major internal clients and imagine those conversations without any T(raining) words. Be realistic about how well you could keep those conversations going without talking about your world.
And then think deeply about how to cultivate the relationships that would not only support better conversations with your internal clients, they would put you in that partnership position. That can greatly enhance your training department's impact on the success of your company.
© 2014 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny
More Reprints | "Think Pieces" | Case Studies | About the Tipsheet