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Business Book Club: ‘Great Client Partner’ by Jared Belsky

How Soft Skills Are the True Currency in Client Relationships

Great Client Partner

Every time I approach this column, I am looking for something that has a universal appeal. This month’s volume might appear to be more focused on a B2B experience and therefore probably more applicable to my fellow manufacturers and their teams. However, there is no question that these same principles absolutely apply to the consumer client relationship integrators face every day.

Jared Belsky is CEO of 360i, a top advertising agency in the U.S. Under Belsky’s leadership, 360i has been named Adweek’s Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year, and repeatedly ranked among the best Lead Agencies and Search Agencies by Forrester. He has written Great Client Partner from the point of an ad agency owner, and the concepts and examples reflect that position.

There is so much in this book that I can only hope to whet your appetite and let you explore the pages for yourself. I have often been lectured by my superiors on the risk of being too warm and fuzzy in my approach. “Dave, you need more steak and less sizzle,” would be the observation. Fortunately, I realized early on, those comments came from people who didn’t understand the value of the sizzle or had no ability to communicate it themselves. Soft skills are critical to any organization, and those that dismiss them as “fluff” do so at their own peril.

Belsky has divided the book into three sections:

Part One: Honing Your Spidey Sense and Improving Your Self-Awareness

Part Two: Getting the Most Out of Your Team

Part Three: Behave Like a Leader

Each chapter ends with suggested habit changes. I love this method of writing because it creates a natural summary of the points, stories, and examples found within. He then uses a “From -> To Personal Goal” statement that explains how the chapter can benefit the reader. For example, in the chapter titled “Get out of your ivory tower…” the From -> To statement is “FROM being a leader who gives commands from a point of academia and Excel sheets, TO being a leader who spends more time in the stores with your customers, in the field, and in the factories of your clients.”

Belsky begins Part One with an important statement of fact. Your client only thinks about you 5 percent (or less) of the time. While you constantly focus on your client’s needs, wants, and desires, they are busy concentrating on running their business, managing their team, taking their kids to baseball practice, refinancing their home, improving their golf swing, and the list goes on. If they don’t immediately return your call, text, or email, take a breath and relax. They most likely have an issue that is pressing, and your priorities are not their priorities. This doesn’t make them arrogant or selfish; it makes them practical. Discovering where you fit in their existence will be a valuable part of the relationship.

Part Two begins with “Be a Servant Leader.” This may seem self-explanatory and something you already aspire to, but Belsky really takes this one to heart. Create a culture where you put your team’s priorities above your own. Find ways to make their lives easier and more fulfilling. Look for opportunities to lighten their load or suggest solutions to their greatest challenges. When a team sees the boss willing to make the coffee, clean up after the late-night Chinese food meal, or take on a critical task in an important project on deadline, the willingness to go the extra mile for that boss is a natural result.

Part Three focuses on the behaviors of a leader. I love chapter 27: “Be the Reason Your People Love to Come to Work.” People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. When the boss is an idiot, an autocrat, or incompetent, people will run for the door. Conversely, an appreciative, humble boss with a clear, definable vision that he or she can articulate and help the team achieve is exactly the individual who will attract and retain great talent.

These are only three of 27 chapters that are designed to create positive change in the lives of those who interact with people both inside and outside of your company — which is just about everyone on your team.

Check out all the titles in Dave Donald’s Business Book Club.