Think Of Your Process As Your API

Think of the process and procedures that you need to install when you onboard new clients as your API. It’s how you connect your firm by setting up the communication, cadence, deliverables, timing, pricing, etc. It’s the interface where both parties get on the same page and make the relationship work.

(That API term, application programming interface, is the bit of code that allows two pieces of software to work together. So if you want the data from your website visitors to populate your CRM, you’ll need to connect that CRM’s API to make it happen.)

Every client that you work with has their own API, and in fact they spend millions of dollars streamlining and then documenting and then hiring hordes of people who are professional rule followers. Not my kind of life, but we need some of these more boring people to balance us out, right?

And your firm, too, has your own procedures. You want them to sign your MSA, first, and then the project agreement under that MSA. You want a specific contact on their side, reasonably fast approvals or feedback, adherence to the payment terms, and inbox notifications from 9:01a through 4:59p, and only then.

Using Your API

But what happens when the APIs conflict and don’t sync up? Here are some specific suggestions about getting your API to work with theirs:

  • Get a basic understanding in place, first, before conceding lots of other things. Get a clear indication that the client wants to work with you, putting all your focus there, and put off the smaller details. Say the prospect is wanting to stray from your normal 45-day terms, and so what you might say is: “Let’s figure out if this is a fit, first, and then we can work through the smaller things.” You don’t want to be giving concessions this early in the process until the client really wants to work with you. You want them to have invested in the discussions and envisioned the great work you’re going to do for them. After that’s established, the smaller things will fade against the bigger things.
  • Make a distinction between your public and your private policy. If you feel like you might need to bend on something, from time to time, keep that option in your back pocket and only trot it out when you really want something. Your policies should be boldly stated, and only then might you bend to drag something across the finish line…when you might need to appear flexible and client friendly. Your public policy should be written in stone; your private policy should be written in the sand.
  • Remember that whoever bends the least is in charge. That’s not some power play, but rather an acknowledgement that—to do your best work—you’ll need some “authority.” That’s not really the right word, but it kind of works. The client will need to listen to you, and if you go all soft in landing the work, you’ll appear desperate and needy, and they’re more likely to listen to confident advice than supplication. “The sale is the sample,” which you’ve heard a lot in the podcast. So bend, if you want, but find places to work that out together or you’ll just be an order-taker getting blown around like a wind-chime in a storm.

It Is A Negotiation

As we have talked about in a 2Bobs episode, the clearest indicator of whether or not you’ll win the relationship is the degree to which you derail the pitch, however minor it is. And the same is true when configuring the APIs. Let them win some/many, but you must win something or you’re a loser (in that relationship). Not right now, but maybe later.

It’s a negotiation. If there’s not some give and take, well, it’s going to feel more like coercion than a relationship. So decide what you’d prefer in your client API, and then note the more important elements—the ones you can’t really compromise on.

Then look at all the things the client demands and try to separate the non-negotiables from the “nice to have” elements, and try to win some concessions. Over time, your goal is to have sufficient excess opportunity that you can waste some of it by just holding firm to your way of doing things. If you don’t have options, you don’t have any power. Power comes from excess opportunity, and excess opportunity comes from having more of it than you need.

From Here

For further reading, check out this article on the importance of your process. And here’s an article about formalizing your procedures and using it as a marketing tool during the actual sales process.

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