I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” You’ve probably also heard that you have a limited amount of time to impress your clients, as well as the contradictory saying that advises you to let your clients do most of the talking.
So what role does “smarts” play in attracting clients? And what does “smart” even mean?
In business, “smart” doesn’t mean emotional intelligence, political savviness, or even street smarts. In business “smart” means three things:
- Mastery of your subject matter
- Your knowledge of the industry
- Your native intelligence (IQ talent)
Being smart isn’t necessarily about how smart you are, but how you use your smarts. The way you use your smarts can be deconstructed into amount, timing and context.
Different Kinds of Smart
IQ (intellectual quotient) can be used as a measure of native intelligence; however there’s been a lot of debate about its legitimacy. IQ is typically seen as a natural form of smarts —it’s a commonly accepted belief that you’re born with it.
People with high IQs tend to think highly of it, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. Some clients perceive a high IQ as negative, especially when you’re selling to them. If you’re cleverer, quicker, sharper or more adept than your client, they may feel threatened or vulnerable—causing them to lose “face.”
Subject matter mastery is different. It’s not a standard type of smart—it comes from experience. The client will feel like they could learn from you, or even be as smart as you if they chose to learn the subject matter.
In fact, clients typically seek this mastery. For example, when someone hires a lawyer, they hire him or her because the lawyer is an expert in that area. A subject matter expert who portrays a slightly lower IQ than the buyer is better—the client would perceive them as knowledgeable yet unthreatening.
Similar to subject matter mastery, industry smarts come from experience. However, unlike subject matter mastery, the presence of industry smarts won’t be as beneficial as the absence of industry smarts. Professional and financial business clients often look down on “generalist” subject matter experts. Within general industries, it’s commonly believed that sales are sales and management is management, and the know-how is interchangeable among industries; however, this isn’t true.
Timing: When Should You Show Your Smarts?
The best time to show your IQ smarts is always before you meet with a client. Display your smarts in your resume, qualifying documents, and the “About Us” Section of your website. The client doesn’t want to over-or under-estimate you; they’d rather know exactly what kind of person they’re dealing with.
Once you’re interacting with the client, don’t mention or show off your IQ smarts. Unless you’re asked a direct question, don’t bring up your degrees, resume, etc. Remember those subject-matter and industry smarts? Show these off before the first meeting with a client; just enough to assure them that they’re not wasting their time and money, and that meeting with you will be beneficial to them.
In conclusion: be IQ-smart before the first meeting; and in face-to-face meetings, be subject matter and industry smart.
Amount: How Smart Should You Be?
Nobody enjoys being talked down to, and sometimes your IQ smarts can make a client feel this way. If you’re feeling as though your IQ is much higher than your clients, and you portray this, your client will end up fearing, or resenting you.
Fortunately, when it comes to industry smarts and subject matter this is easy to avoid. In this case you’ve been hired for your expertise. Your client can easily respect the high levels of intelligence you have for your industry. But always keep in mind that it’s important for you to remain amiable when revealing how industry-smart you are.
Context: Being Courteous About Your Smarts
Many professionals believe that the goal of client interaction is to show how smart they are; yet as explained earlier, this typically accomplishes the exact opposite of what’s desired. This is the most common sales error made by professionals regarding smarts, as it makes the client feel like you’re only out to make a sale. It could also make you be perceived as ego-driven, or self-centered.
Instead, use your smarts in support of what’s best for the client, for example:
- If a particular recommendation has been successful for other clients, then say so. Don’t mention this simply to demonstrate your authority.
- If you’re aware of a personal connection that would be useful to the client, then say so. Don’t mention it if you’re only trying to prove your industry smarts.
- If a question is asked and you know the answer, answer it. However, if you’re piling on additional information that isn’t useful to the client, stifle it.
Following these simple rules will demonstrate your motivation and dedication to the client. When answering questions, remember that a client would rather hear an honest “I don’t know” than an obvious struggle to fake your way through an answer. Use your smarts to better serve your clients and they’ll recognize it.
Still have questions about how to use your smarts to attract potential clients? Call us today at 716.799.1999 ext. 102 to arrange a no obligation consultation to learn how we can help your MSP business utilize your smarts to attract more clients.
Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL and Fort Erie, ON-based Ulistic, a specialty MSP Marketing firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.