Winning work based on relationships, not price

March 19, 2018

Most people have a go-to laundry detergent. When they need to replenish their supply, they head to the cleaning aisle, find their brand of choice, and put it into their cart without a second thought.

Have you ever asked someone why they use the brand they use? Sometimes the answer is “it’s cheapest,” but most folks have another answer:

  • It’s the kind we used growing up.
  • It smells good.
  • It doesn’t damage my clothes.
  • It is tough on stains.

Whatever the reason, these basic values are often enough to keep that customer coming back, even amidst the constant noise of new products options.

So how do we translate these experiences into the world of professional services? Below, see how the same answers about laundry detergent are transformed into the justification for firm choice.

Price is not a battle you can win – you can’t build a good relationship around being the cheapest option, because you can’t consistently promise that. And why would you want to?

The other options, however, reflect values you CAN and should build relationships on, and there are many more besides. Winning work based on relationships means developing an understanding of your clients that goes beyond their projects and into their priorities for things like purpose, process, and experience. When you undercover those insights, you unlock the secret to becoming the go-to option instead of the bottom shelf default.

Purpose. Why are we here in the first place? This isn’t an existential question – what we are talking about here is the overall goal and function of the project in question. People tend to get focused in on their piece of the puzzle, rather than the overall picture. While it is important for everyone to understand their role, it is critical that as a consultant you never lose sight of what brought this group of people together in the first place. Who are the end users? What problems will this project solve? What will happen in and around this place once the project is over? We had a client share a story with us once about a project that was taking place at a zoo in a marine exhibit. The passionate zoo employees were concerned about the welfare of the animals in and around the construction zone – and they were afraid these concerns would be trivialized by the crews coming and going with machinery and equipment trying to do a job on a tight schedule. Their feedback revealed just the opposite – how grateful they felt for project members who took on the role of protecting and caring for these animals as seriously as the people who dedicate their careers to it. Keeping the story behind the project front of mind is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to a client while strengthening that relationship. When they see that their priorities match yours, they will be much more trusting.

Process. At Client Savvy we talk A LOT about processes, because processes ensure that even when things don’t go according to plan, they never veer too far off course. That is why we have such extensive processes for implementing feedback and follow-up. Processes may seem like a lot of extra work and bureaucracy initially, but they ensure that everyone understands their role – avoiding the question of “what am I supposed to do now?” The important thing about process in the context of relationships is that processes must change and adapt to the client, not the other way around. How often do they like to receive email? Do they prefer to receive information piece meal or all at once? Who is the person you should contact when someone you need is unavailable? Who should be included on change orders? These may all have different answers for different clients – if you answer them only how YOU would prefer to do it, then your processes will break down.

This leads us to the biggest point of all – EXPERIENCE. Both items above are deeply connected to the overall experience that your client has with you and your project team. When we talk about experience, we aren’t talking about the number of years on a job. We are talking about the answer a client gives when someone asks, “What is it like to work with [INSERT FIRM/PERSON/TEAM NAME].” Do you have a clear answer to that question? Is your answer the same as the rest of your team’s? What do you want that answer to look like?

If you haven’t considered that – it’s time to dive into the world of Client Experience (CX). Because when your clients feel like they get something else from you besides “clean clothes,” something less tangible but perhaps even more important, they stop making choices based on the price at the end of your proposal and choose you simply because it’s your name on page one.

Learn more about CXps 2018 - the community event for client experience innovators. Visit our website at Use discount code CLOTHES200 for a special $200 discount on the full registration price.


Ryan Suydam

Ryan Suydam co-founded Client Savvy in 2004, to help firms create fierce client loyalty by designing, implementing, and measuring client experiences. He has coached nearly 700 organizations and over 30,000 professionals on the skills required to be “client savvy.”

Subscribe to Our Blog

Hungry for knowledge?

Less = More: Grow Revenue with Fewer Clients
10 Practical Ways to Combat Survey Fatigue and Enhance Customer Feedback
We’ve Collected Customer Feedback, Now What?