It was a Saturday afternoon and I was watching a rerun of one of my favourite movies. This is a ritual I have done ever since I was a little girl. My mum would sit bent legged on the floor while I would sit next to her and we would watch the Saturday matinée on TV. Nowadays I have relocated my backside to the sofa and I watch Movies on Demand. On this particular Saturday afternoon I was watching a love story and it got me thinking about love. Most of us in life want to feel loved by someone who means the world to us – our mum, dad, brother, sister, husband, wife or partner. But we also have the love of our friends and co-workers and it kinda feels special when you know your best friend is looking out for you and wants the best for you – like Oprah and Gayle. But what about the love we give our clients?
Sixteen years ago I had my first meeting with Peter Needham one of the co-founders of GHN, the company that pioneered Executive Coaching in the UK. He told me that I would understand coaching not when I understood it intellectually by when I felt it in my heart. Peter had a string of clients that any top City banker or lawyer would die for. I saw many powerful captains of industry and trail blazers walk through the doors of GHN to get an hour of Peter’s time. All his clients spoke well of him you could tell that he was someone special in their lives. One day I asked him how he managed to get so many clients. “Carole,” he said. “I just simply love them and that’s how I coach them with love”. Wow that statement bowled me over, I had never heard any one talk about loving their clients up until that point. Before it had always been a transaction of goods or services in exchange for money. I was intrigued to find out more and below are five of the tips Peter used to keep a healthy number of his loving clients coming back for more.
- He made a personal connection with every client and reminded them of this every year when he sent his annual update letter. This went inside the Christmas card. Everyone knew the letter was going to all his clients but he always handwrote their name at the top of the letter and put a personal message when he signed it. This made people feel special and recognised, which everyone appreciates.
- He felt humbled to be in the prestigious position of helping people with their lives and them entrusting him with the challenges they were facing both professionally and personally. This really does cut across all industries and professions – we may not be coaching people to changes their lives but everything we do to provide our clients with a service or a product is helping their lives in some way and often when you have a great client relationship they will open up to you.
- He made each client feel that they were his most important client because when he was working with them he completely focussed on them. He wasn’t thinking about the next question to ask or remark to make or the next client but just what was happening in that space at that moment.
- He cultivated a feeling that his clients belonged to a special club. He only coached people who had reached a certain level in their career (his fees were expensive £25,000 for 30 hours – that was 16 years ago). However, this can easily work in many different forms today, for example, creating a list on your twitter account and entitling it something special like ‘Extraordinary Women’ – how good would you feel if you found out that you had been included in that list!
- He was a great connector – he arranged so many meetings between his clients so that they could do business and helped forge strong relationships. As an entrepreneur you will have a list of contacts so why not also be a great connector and people will remember you for that and be only too happy to reciprocate – a little bit like love.
The above are just some of the tips Peter imparted, of course he had a wealth of experience as well, having headed up many businesses both in the UK and overseas. He had also made mistakes in his life and didn’t shy away from admitting them. He was challenging and didn’t let you off the hook but he was also incredibly compassionate and supportive, he wanted to make sure you were always striving to be at your best. All his clients simply loved him.