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Training Your Clients

Throughout the day, when I walk by Maribelle, my 3.8 pound chihuahua, she rolls over on her back and squirms, looking up at me with her big blue eyes because she wants her belly rubbed. Is this a distraction? Yes (but a really cute one).

Maribelle’s behavior often mirrors the interactions we have with our clients. Like Maribelle’s irresistible belly rub requests, clients sometimes present distractions that tempt us to deviate from our strategic plans.

It is natural to want to prioritize client needs and ensure their satisfaction; they are the lifeblood of our businesses. However, I’ve learned through experience that succumbing to every client distraction can derail our long-term success.

Consider this scenario: You’re focused on executing your strategic plan, following your day’s agenda, when a client email pops into your inbox. You drop everything to address it, inadvertently derailing your momentum, wandering off track, and somehow, two hours later, you’re reading an article about how tall Jesus was (in case you’re wondering, between 5’1”-5’5”).

By consistently dropping everything, we inadvertently train our clients that their demands, even frivolous requests, take precedence over everything else. While this may seem like excellent customer service in the short term, it can lead to a cycle of perpetual reactivity rather than proactive growth. Ultimately, you will miss something important because you were focused on minutia.

How do we reshape this dynamic?

It is imperative to create a strategic approach to managing our time and priorities. We don’t drop everything and run to the grocery store every time we need a single item; we shouldn’t allow minor issues or tasks to disrupt our entire day. Make lists, consolidate similar tasks, leverage automation where possible, and allocate dedicated time slots for emails and client interactions. If you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to do that,” or “the client will go somewhere else if I don’t respond within 5 minutes,” then maybe it’s time to think about retraining our clients (and ourselves) on reasonable expectations.

Also, it’s crucial to humanize our interactions. Clients are more than just business transactions. Share your life experiences with your clients. That’s what makes us unique. Include that you are at your daughter’s ballgame, your son’s band recital, or on your anniversary trip to New Orleans with your spouse in your out-of-office email and voice mail.  The clients you want will respect that - in fact, they will usually ask about the game, concert, or vacation experience. If a client doesn’t respect that, they are probably not a client that you will enjoy working with long-term. By integrating personal touches into our communications, we reinforce the idea that we are real people they want to connect with, rather than the chatbot available 24/7.

Maintaining a balance between responsiveness and strategic focus is essential for long-term success. While it’s tempting to indulge every client whim (and Maribelle’s demands for “rub a tummy time”), it’s crucial to remember that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Stay true to your strategic mindset, prioritize tasks based on their impact, and remember that YOU create the most significant value for your clients.


Confession: Despite my diligent intentions, short bouts of “rub a tummy time” may occasionally happen.

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