Success Starts with Putting Clients at the Center of Your Model
Over the past two decades, clients’ expectations have continually increased and evolved. The days of suppliers simply taking and executing orders are long gone — and that’s a good thing. It signals an important mind shift that anyone who’s ever been a “client” already knows: the client problem creates the need for a solution (and not the other way around).
At Conduent, how we sell is really about how well we solve. Clients are at the center of our model, in which our purpose is to mutually explore with the client the shared outcome of a solution that meets their needs — whether with Conduent or another provider. This approach has been expertly articulated by Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig in their book, Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, and in my view, it’s the only way an organization should interact with its clients. It applies whether you are a seller, account manager or business leader, and it’s an approach that allows us to fully engage with our clients rather than participate in a prescribed series of back-and-forth interactions.
This model is helping Conduent build better relationships. We’re not walking in the door with a 400-slide presentation. Instead, we start with a focused effort to understand a client’s business strategy, pain points, revenue opportunities, and key imperatives for growth. For example if a client tells us they need to cut costs, we ask specific client-focused questions such as:
- How big of an issue is this problem on a scale of 1-10?
- What has prevented your organization from solving this before now?
- What do you believe your competitors are doing better or more efficiently?
- Does your leadership team believe that there is a need for change?
Critical questions like these give us deeper insight into what our clients are experiencing and the significance of those challenges to their business overall. When clients answer our initial questions, that’s not our cue to solve. Instead, it’s an invitation to dig deeper about specific outcomes that will really make a difference. Cutting costs, in our client’s mind, may look very different from our initial perceptions of how it could be accomplished. It’s critical that we understand from our client’s perspective first, before our solutions are engaged.
Putting our clients at the center means we’re constantly in a state of curiosity, about their goals, their business operations, the markets they compete in, and the outcomes they expect to achieve. Every client has a story and by listening, asking questions and investing in their success, Conduent will be successful too.
Success isn’t just about making sales — it never has been. The client relationship may involve negotiation, but the end goal must always be a mutual “win.” By focusing on the client’s needs first, we’re much more likely to get our needs met too. This approach allows us to build long-term relationships with our clients.
With a relentless focus on our clients’ business issues, desired outcomes, and flawless execution, we earn their trust. We listen; we understand; we ask clarifying questions — and then we think about how we can drive mutually beneficial outcomes. For us, growth isn’t just a number in our financial statements; it’s about the clients we serve every day.