I spent years as a consultant, agency analyst, and department head focused on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. In every role, I was part of regularly scheduled client calls.
Whether PPC was the focus of the call or just part of the agenda, I was excited to share what I had worked on. I would take time to create graphs, custom reports, screenshots, and notes. I did whatever it took to tell the client the story of what happened, what was going to happen, and why.
Before I knew better, this excitement led me to make the mistake of jumping right in with my prepared material before learning about the client’s state of mind.
What I should have been doing was asking an important question first:
“Before we get started with what I have prepared, is there anything on the top of your mind that we should touch on?”
When I took a few minutes to start with this question, I routinely uncovered important topics that drove the rest of the conversation.
Embrace Unpredictability During Client Calls
There is no way to know what has happened in a client’s life since you last talked to them if you never ask.
- Your client’s company just landed a huge contract.
- A boss asked your client for a specific metric for the first time ever
- Your client read something over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal about Pinterest advertising and wants to run a test.
Asking a client what’s on their mind uncovers telling information and ensures that the client’s most important topics are addressed during the call.
Getting Derailed By This Question is Okay
If I could address what was on the top of a client’s mind by weaving it into my prepared material in a natural way, that was always my first option.
But many times, the responses led to exchanges that took time away from my prepared material. I learned that was totally okay.
It is okay because the client now has actionable answers to their most burning questions and concerns.
This question does create consequences. Getting derailed means extra follow-up work to communicate anything not covered during the call. But in the end, it’s worth it to leave the client feeling confident in your ability to address their responses in the moment.
Change the Way You Start Your Client Calls
The best way I have found to avoid the mistake of jumping right into your prepared material is to ask a client what is on their mind at the beginning of a call.
You’ll find you often get responses that derail your call in an unpredictably great way.