Photo by cottonbro from Pexels
By Kevin Elliott

In business, you’re always trying to separate yourself from your competitors by offering “value-added” to your clients. It’s the little extras that bond clients to you and make you stand out. 

One of the best value adds I have discovered is to help my clients think through their problems and offer solutions, not just point a camera where they tell me. 

Thinking Partner vs. Order Taker

In my experience, most clients have a general idea of what they want, but not a fully-formed vision. This is especially true of creative projects. Clients need (and want) help fleshing out their ideas and coming up with strategies to bring them into the world. 

By contrast, what they do not need (or generally want) is someone with the attitude, “I’m just the monkey, tell me how to dance.” That’s an order taker. Order takers actually make more work for clients because now the client has to come up with all the ideas and direct you. Your job is to lighten their load.

Think of it like this: Would you rather have an employee say, “Hey boss, what should I do next?” or “Hey boss, I have an idea.”

That’s Why I Hired You

Ever had a client say that to you? If so, that’s their way of asking for a thinking partner. They want you to improve on their ideas and dazzle them. So bring dazzling ideas to the table. 

But what if they use your idea and it doesn’t work? That’s a risk of doing business. However, I’ll take that risk over becoming a passive, forgettable order taker. 

Is It Okay To Disagree With My Client? 

Yes. Be nice, obviously, but you are supposed to be the expert. If your client offers an idea that you know will not be in their best interest, you are failing them if you don’t say so. 

Tips for disagreeing with a client 

  1. Watch your tone. Sarcasm and snarkiness are the ugliest and most repulsive modes of speech. Never, NEVER talk like that to a client. 
  2. Explain why their idea will not help them. Don’t just say no.
  3. Offer a better solution.
  4. Provide examples from your experience how your better solution worked for other clients.

Offer, Don’t Push

Don’t be a jerk. If you think your client’s idea will not work, tell them so, follow the steps above, and wait. If they still want to execute their idea, stop pushing.

However, you have a choice to make. You can do their idea (even though you don’t believe in it) or walk away. I can’t tell you what to do here. It’s a case-by-case thing. One piece of advice, though: go with your gut.

Bottom Line: Thinking Partners Get More Work

Once your client knows they can trust you for great work and to help them think through their problems, you will likely have a client for life. 

And bonus, they’ll tell their friends. 

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