Fortune released the latest Fortune 500 List this week and to supplement the annual survey, they asked each CEO for the best management advice they’ve received. Their answers align perfectly with the critical success factors we use to help clients develop and deliver a compelling customer engagement strategy:
Lead with questions:
Too often when engaging with a client, we talk more than we should. We all do it. We all know we shouldn’t. One trick that ensures you are listening more than talking is to pose your thought as a question. Rather than telling them what you think, rephrase it as a question. The answers will uncover valuable stories, challenges and opportunities.
Listen more and move with speed:
Listening—as Alan Murray notes—was a frequent theme from the CEOs surveyed. Similar to leading with questions, listening is also a challenge. The average person talks at about 225 words per minute and our brains are listening at 500 words per minute. It takes effort to not fill in those 275 words…to not interrupt or redirect to our point of view. Moving with speed is also critical. The new currency for the C-suite is speed. No one wishes to offer advice more than once, so take note of client advice the first time and take action quickly.
Focus on what is important, not what is urgent:
This is a very interesting point. For me, email can create the confusion of urgency versus importance. Sometimes in our haste to respond and react in real-time, we miss the one thing that was most important that day. This is also true for client engagement. Of course we need to respond to the urgent, but the value comes from figuring out how to divide and conquer so your client feels the attention they need on the urgent issues and that you are putting your best brains on the important. This will help build long term customer engagement and value.
Each of these points seem simple, but developing a practice of following them is not so easy. Engagement takes practice and effort to avoid the pitfall of selling, telling, and reacting. As one CEO offered, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”