Keep Leading!® Podcast Episode 055: Client Leadership

Keep Leading!® Podcast Episode 055: Client Leadership

Andrew Sobel
The leading authority on how to build clients for life!
Client Leadership

Episode Summary
Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on the strategies and skills required to earn lifelong client loyalty and build trusted business partnerships. He is the most widely published author in the world on this topic. His books have been translated into 21 languages. We discussed his new book: “It Starts With Clients” and the reason leaders must have key external relationships they focus on.

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Bio
Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on the strategies and skills required to earn lifelong client loyalty and build trusted business partnerships. He is the most widely published author in the world on this topic, having written nine acclaimed books on developing the relationships that matter—with your clients and for your career. In addition to It Starts with Clients, these include the international bestsellers Power Questions and Clients for Life as well as Power Relationships, All for One, and Making Rain. His books have been translated into 21 languages. He has also published over 400 articles and contributed chapters to four books on leadership, strategy, and marketing.

Andrew’s unique relationship-building and revenue growth strategies have been taught to well over 50,000 professionals around the world. He has codified them into both unique, live training experiences and an engaging series of popular online courses available at www.Learning.AndrewSobel.com.

Andrew has worked for more than 35 years as both a strategy advisor to senior management and an executive educator and coach. His firm has attracted over 150 leading, global companies as clients. These include established public corporations such as Citigroup, Cognizant, and Lloyds Banking Group, as well as many privately-held professional services firms such as Booz Allen Hamilton, PwC, Bain, and Grant Thornton.

His articles and work have been featured in a variety of publications including USA Today, The New York Times, Business Week, the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and strategy+business, and he has appeared on numerous national television programs.

Andrew spent the first 15 years of his career with Gemini Consulting (formerly the MAC Group), where he became a Senior Vice President and Country Chief Executive Officer. He lived and worked in Europe for 13 years and speaks four languages. He graduated from Middlebury College with honors and earned his MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School. He is founder and CEO of Andrew Sobel Advisors, a global consulting and training firm. He can be reached at www.andrewsobel.com.

Website
https://andrewsobel.com/

Other Website
https://learning.andrewsobel.com/

LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-sobel-60767/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/andrewsobel

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/andrewsobel/

Leadership Quote
“The leader everyone wants to work for gives their team the credit when things go well, and takes the blame when things go wrong.”

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https://andrewsobel.com/it-starts-with-clients/

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It Starts With Clients

Transcript

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This podcast is part of the C Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to promoting leadership development and sharing leadership insights. Here’s your host, The Leadership Excelerator®, Eddie Turner.

Eddie Turner:
Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to leadership development and insights. I’m your host, Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. I work with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact through the power of executive and leadership coaching, facilitation, and professional speaking.

Did you know that client leadership is a leadership competency for 21st century leaders? I did not know that but because of my guest today, I learned that it is imperative that today’s business leader can no longer be satisfied with having an internal focus. Today’s leader must be externally focused as well and develop key client relationships. Here today to talk about quiet leadership is Andrew Sobel.

Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on the strategies and skills required to earn lifelong client loyalty and build trusted business partnerships. He is the most widely published author in the world on this topic. He’s written nine highly acclaimed books on developing the relationships that matter with your clients and for your career. His books have been translated into 21 different languages. He has published over 400 articles and contributed chapters to four books on leadership, strategy, and marketing. You’ll find his work in USA Today, the New York Times, Businessweek, Harvard Business Review, Forbes and others and he’s also appeared on numerous television programs. I am super excited to have with me today Andrew Sobel.

Andrew, welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast.

Andrew Sobel:
Thank you so much, Eddie. I’m really delighted to be here and to have this conversation.
Eddie Turner:
Well, Andrew, I always say I’m excited to have my guests because I always have because each person is so unique but I’m going to say something to my audience that I don’t even think you know and that is that I have very few people I consider a business hero but you’re one of them. And you’re one of them ever since I met you with Bob Dean back at Heidrick & Struggles. And you’ve just released the book All for One, if I’m not mistaken, at that time.
Andrew Sobel:
Yes, that’s right. Yeah, 2009.
Eddie Turner:
Yes, yes. And so, we brought you in to work with our executive leadership around the globe. And I was extremely impressed. And I read that book and later on your released Building C-Suite Relationships and my favorite book is Power Questions that you released but you also had a podcast at that time. And I still have that podcast on my iPhone to this day and my favorite episode was the episode that you produced about Leonardo da Vinci.
Andrew Sobel:
Yes.
Eddie Turner:
I’ve pronounced it correctly because you told us how it’s to be pronounced on the show.
Andrew Sobel:
That’s right. A lot of call him da Vinci but actually he’s referred to as Leonardo, if you only use one word, because da Vinci just means “From the city of Vinci.”
Eddie Turner:
Yes, yes. And something else that you said about him and how he was the world’s first management consultant. Can you just share that with my listeners?
Andrew Sobel:
Oh, sure. So, Leonardo had apprenticed at a young age with a famous Florentine artist and I think he, at that point, was around 21-22 years old and was frankly looking for work but most of the big commissions with the Medici rulers of Florence had already been given out to other famous artists. And he wrote a letter to, I believe, it was Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and said “I can help you design very advanced weapons of war” and he wrote this long letter telling him all about the things he could literally invent for him that would give him a competitive advantage. And he was hired by Sforza. And he went up and spent a couple of years in Milan and he was basically his consultant. He consulted to him on military strategy, weapons, on, for example, things like how to drain swampy land so it would be more fit for battle, all kinds of fortifications, you name it. So, I like to say 500 years ago he was the first management consultant.
Eddie Turner:
Yes, yes. And you highlighted so many different things about this person who most of us might have only thought of as just being a great painter. You talked about him being a Renaissance man and all these other areas. And that really resonated with me because I was a person who had multiple skills and was just starting to be able to get the opportunity to leverage them. And there’s a phrase that you introduced that I adopted as part of my own way of describing myself and I always give you attribution and that was you talked about being a deep generalist and a deep specialist.
Andrew Sobel:
Yeah. The deep generalist, I guess the deep part is your core expertise as a provider, whether you’re a lawyer, consultant, banker, you name it, accountant. That deep expertise you need to bring to the table like yours is around leadership and leadership effectiveness but you also have to bring a broader set of skills that you layer on top of that, both big picture thinking skills and relational skills, what we call business acumen. So, you have to layer those broader skills on top of your core expertise. And if you can do that, it’s very powerful combination because then you’re not only able to advise a client about your specific expertise but you are able to contextualize your solutions within their entire business and their business goals. So, it’s sort of like the difference between going to see a really great internist or general practitioner for your health, who’s looking holistically at your health at all your bodily systems versus when you go and see a very narrow specialist or maybe a dermatologist or a podiatrist who looks at your feet and so on. So, I think, in many professions you need to be that deep generalist. And especially, Eddie, if you want to work in the C-suite, if you want to work with top executives, you’ve got to bring that bigger picture thinking, you’ve got to build that deep personal trust that is characteristic of a deep generalist.
Eddie Turner:
Absolutely. And that’s been a theme through a lot of your work that I’ve had a chance to read and what I remember from the time I had the privilege to work with you. And you have a new book coming where you continue to share your wisdom with readers. It Starts with Clients is the name of your new book. Tell us a little bit about when people can access that.
Andrew Sobel:
Sure. It Starts with Clients is being released at the end of March. It’s around March 31, April 1, in that period. It’s going to be available, it comes out from John Wiley & Sons, my publisher. And It Starts with Clients really is a guidebook to growing your client base. It is built around, what I call, a 100-day challenge. So, let’s call it we have 15 weeks. It’s built around a 100-day challenge and it looks at 14 major challenges that all of us face in growing a client base. I don’t care if you’re a banker, if you’re in sales for a company, if you’re in client service, if you’re a consultant, whatever. We all have to overcome these challenges in order to build clients for life. And that’s what the book is structured around. And it really incorporates everything I’ve learned in 25 years of research, interviews with, at this point, about 8000 top executives and successful rainmakers. It really packages all of that around these 14 key challenges. And I’m really excited about the book.
Eddie Turner:
And I am excited as well. Thank you for sending me an advance copy to review before our session today. One of the things that you introduced or that you talked about and that you taught me that I didn’t know is this concept about client leadership, that it is a leadership competency. Can you share with my listeners your thinking around that?
Andrew Sobel:
Sure, Eddie. So, what opened my eyes to this was years ago I began working with a big Fortune 500 company in the New York area, a big technology company, and they were always very client and customer focused. They invested heavily in client service. They had an organization structure that was really focused on the client, marketplace, and so on. And they were very, very successful because of this. They called it their ‘Client First’ strategy. Anyway, at a certain point, I was doing some executive development with them and they shared with me their leadership competency framework which they had spent a lot of time thinking about. And one of the five competencies was called ‘Client Leadership’. And so, this just, I guess, confirmed what I had always just felt intuitively that client leadership, the ability to lead in the client marketplace is a fundamental leadership competency. I’m sure you’re better at this than me but I think somewhat simply about leadership as being in a company there’s internal leadership, there’s managing teams and managing internally, there’s self-leadership which is self-regulation and sharpening your own saw and then there’s client leadership, the external marketplace. Now, you have to think of this more broadly than just purely clients who pay you money for a service. So, I’ll give you an example. It’s easy to see if you’re the head of Sales or Marketing or if you’re a business unit head, you have to go out and meet with clients and customers, right? So, you need to be good at that but it’s also true, let’s just say you’re the head of IT, you’re the Chief Information Officer, you are also going to be meeting occasionally with major clients. In fact, you might be part of a kind of executive visit program where you are given a portfolio of flagship clients and it’s your responsibility to go meet with them a couple times a year so that you might get involved that way. There’s another way you might get involved and that is managing your key stakeholders. So, to use my CIO analogy, the CIO might need to be managing major partnerships, alliances, let’s just say with Amazon or Microsoft or Google or Oracle. And those are critical relationships. And, honestly, the same techniques you use in building client relationships, you need to use with those types of external stakeholders, right? You need to go out and build rapport with them. You need to understand their agenda, what they’re trying to get out of it. You need to then help them with their agenda so it’s a win-win relationship. Eventually, you want to build a personal relationship with them because that creates many benefits. I don’t mean you need to become best friends but that creates many benefits that just having that arm’s length transactional relationship has. So, you can see that the same process you need to apply towards it. And, nowadays, leaders have to be managing these outside stakeholders because of the interconnectedness of our business ecosystem.
Eddie Turner:
Yes, no longer is it okay to just have our one silo that we’re looking at. We have to extend our vision.
Andrew Sobel:
Exactly.
Eddie Turner:
And something about your answer I really love, Andrew, is your depth of experience is very clear. We didn’t say this but listeners should know that you are a past CEO. You are a person who spent years in management consulting. And when our reader reads your work, you don’t just tell theories that you research as an author. You are a bestselling author who has sold hundreds of thousands of books but you always tell the story about your theories that come directly from your client work. And I felt as a leader, and I’m sure others do as well, that we’re getting access to the C-suite when we read your work.
Andrew Sobel:
First of all, Eddie, thank you for saying that. I’m really delighted that you noticed that. Especially in It Starts with Clients, I really try to use my 35-plus years of experience to enrich the book with a lot of important stories and anecdotes. Many of them are my own. Some of them are my clients’ stories, leaders I’ve worked with at these different companies who had incredible experiences because it does bring them to life. So, stories, I think, are critical because we tend to remember them, our brains are wired for them. Just to give you an example, I could talk on and on about the importance of understanding your client’s agenda of what I call agenda setting which is a process. First, you’ve got to react to what they’re asking you to do. Then you need to sense their agenda and really understand it. And then, ideally, you help them to shape it collaboratively to improve it, their agenda being their three to five critical priorities, needs, or goals. So, for example, what really drove that home for me, because a lot of people will say “Well, yeah, of course, you got to understand, you know, what’s important to the other person,” is I worked with the top partner at one of the biggest strategy consulting firms in the world, top partner in the sense that every year he sold more business than any other partner out of hundreds in the firm and every year, consistently, year after year. And I had lunch with him once and I said “Bill, I’m curious what’s your secret. You’re the top performing partner in this entire global firm.” And he looked at me and he pulled a little sheet of paper out of his pocket and he said “Andrew, do you see this piece of paper?” And it was all crumbled up and scribbled on and annotated. He said “On this piece of paper, I’ve written down the names of each of my clients, the individual executives, not the companies, the individual executives. And next to their name I’ve written their two or three most critical goals for this year. My job is to make them successful and help them accomplish those goals.”
Eddie Turner:
I like that.
Andrew Sobel:
And he didn’t define himself as “I’m a strategy consultant. I’m an engineering operations consultant. I’m an innovation consultant.” He defined himself as being in the business of helping his clients achieve their most critical goals. Obviously, in his bailiwick, within his expertise. I can’t help my clients with a risk management program in finance because that’s not really my expertise but you see what I’m saying. That was his focus.
Eddie Turner:
Right. No, I love it.
Andrew Sobel:
And, to me, it’s very powerful to think of yourself that way, whether you’re a coach, for example, a leadership coach. My job is to help my clients achieve their most critical business goals. And actually, personal goals.
Eddie Turner:
Yes.
Andrew Sobel:
It’s not just their business goals, it’s their personal goals. It’s their career aspirations. Perhaps they have a learning agenda. And you can help facilitate that. Perhaps they want to expand their network. Maybe they’re going through a family crisis and just even knowing that helps you be more empathetic. Do you see what I’m saying?
Eddie Turner:
Absolutely.
Andrew Sobel:
So, you need to know both the professional and the personal agenda. And when you do know that to a very deep extent, that becomes powerful because then, when more about your client than any other competitor, when you understand their issues more than anyone else who works with them, that massively differentiates you.
Eddie Turner:
Indeed. And in that answer you reveal the other thing I love about your work, Andrew, and that is not only do you give us graphic illustrations through the stories you tell, I see those characters come alive even as you started describing that, I felt like I was listening to the audiobook but they come alive and you tell us how. You end every chapter with strategies that we can take to actually now do what you’ve explained and illustrate it. And so, just extremely compelling.
Andrew Sobel:
Thank you so much. Well, I’m delighted that it struck you in that way. I’ve had a handful of clients read the advanced copies and they’re pretty exciting.
Eddie Turner:
Good. Well, I’m talking to the amazing Andrew Sobel, a globally recognized executive who speaks four languages and is the bestselling author of nine books in 21 different in languages. He’s a leading authority on the strategies and skills required to earn lifelong quiet loyalty and build trusted business partnerships. We’ll have more with Andrew right after this.

This podcast is sponsored by Eddie Turner LLC. Organizations who need to accelerate the development of their leaders call Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. Eddie works with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact. Call Eddie Turner to help your leaders one on one as their coach or to inspire them as a group through the power of facilitation or a keynote address. Visit EddieTurnerLLC.com to learn more.

This is Patricia Fripp, the presentation skills expert, and you’re listening to the Keep Leading!® Podcast with my friend Eddie Turner.

Eddie Turner:
We’re back, everyone. I am thoroughly excited to be talking to Andrew Sobel, a globally renowned executive who speaks four languages and is the bestselling author of nine books in 21 different languages. He is the leading authority on the strategies and skills required to earn lifelong client loyalty and build trusted business partnerships. We’re talking about his new book, by the way, It Starts with Clients. And through Andrew I feel like I have gained access to the mind of CEOs and what it means to be in the C-suite. And through his new book he reveals strategies that all of us can apply.

Andrew, what separates great rainmakers who are able to earn clients for life as trusted advisors from ordinary professionals?

Andrew Sobel:
So, Eddie, that’s the million-dollar question and one that I have spent many years studying. So, I hope I can give you an answer here. First of all, there’s no one thing, obviously. There’s no silver bullet. And, secondly, I think each of us does have certain gifts that we bring to bear in different measure, right? So, I don’t think every great rainmaker is not a sort of cookie cutter of the other as it were but I think there are a few things. One of them I mentioned earlier in the show, which is, they think of themselves not as a purveyor of a product or a solution, not as in business to sell a particular product or solution but they see themselves as their role is to really help improve the client’s business and organization, to help that client meet their goals. And they may do it through a particular product they sell or a particular service but they have that bigger picture conception of their role. I’m using the word a bit loosely but it’s almost a more transcendent conception of their role with clients, if you see what I mean, as opposed to “I’m a great salesman for X product.”

I think there’s a second interesting quality about these individuals and it is that they are at the crossroads of the market, the best ones are. And here’s what I mean. So, during the talk about recessions in 2008-2009, I had a client who was in the executive search business and he called me up and said “Andrew, it’s terrible out there. I call clients up. They don’t even want to see me. They say “Look, we’re not hiring anyone. We don’t need you.” And I said to my friend “Look, here’s what’s wrong with this picture. Clients should view you as being such an interesting fount of information about the market, about talent, about leadership and all that stuff that they will always be willing to see you. Even if they don’t need your services, they’re going to want to want to see you because you’ll always have something interesting to say.” And so, I think that you do that by actually getting out into the market and talking to lots of people. My co-author, dear late Jerry Panas, my Power Questions co-author, he was very old fashioned and he would say “If you want milk, you’ve got to get out of the house and go out to the barn, no matter what the weather.” And the point is the more you’re out there talking to people, whether it’s prospects, clients, just people you know in the industry, the more valuable you become to your clients because you’ve got the pulse of what’s going on. So, they’re at the crossroads of the marketplace and, therefore, clients are always interested to see them.

Another interesting characteristic of really great rainmakers and trusted advisors is they are a trusted adviser to their best clients when there’s lots of business and when there’s no business. In other words, they’re there even when there aren’t big fees coming in. They’re still checking in. they’re still going and having coffee and offering to be a sounding board and give advice and so on. And so, I think that’s, again, a different way of thinking about it because a lot of people, Eddie, they get busy, they’re delivering on contracts they’ve sold and they kind of forget about all those past clients instead of maintaining this attitude of, it’s almost like “I’m your trusted advisor forever.” Now, obviously, there’s limits to that. I’m not saying you’re just constantly doing free work for people but it’s an attitude and all you need to do is stay in touch occasionally and be helpful and it does give people the feeling that “Hey, Eddie’s there for me. Even if I don’t have a formal coaching assignment with Eddie, he is okay if I call him up once in a while, right?”

Eddie Turner:
Right.
Andrew Sobel:
So, I think that’s also very powerful.
Eddie Turner:
Okay, Andrew, now I have a new set of assignments. I need to put on my to do-list for next week. Thank you.
Andrew Sobel:
You’re very busy, Eddie.
Eddie Turner:
It is really a good reminder and so very true. So, clients should be seeking us no matter the circumstances. And they will only do that if we’ve proven ourselves to be a fount of knowledge who offers value and, as you so beautifully say in your work, move from being just the hired expert to being the trusted adviser.
Andrew Sobel:
Yeah, yeah. And, as you said, Eddie, in terms of my new book, there is a lot of detail in it on the how-to because too many business books are full of platitudes – “You need to listen well. You need to ask good questions. You need to be a trusted adviser to your clients” – but, honestly, often people don’t really, I hate to say this way, they may not have the experience to be able to spell it out for you “Here’s exactly what you need to do.” And that’s something I hope I’ve done for my readers in this new book.
Eddie Turner:
Indeed, you have. In fact, at one point, your book Power Questions was like a Bible to me. I carried it around and I’d go through it really quickly before client engagement. And when I read your new book, I realized I hadn’t read the Power Questions book in a while and I went back and perused it last night. When I picked up the new book, the first chapter I went to was the chapter about the power questions.
Andrew Sobel:
And there’s a few new ideas in there and I hope you saw that.
Eddie Turner:
Yeah. So, when you said that, I loved how you explained instead of asking this question and you’d explain why because it’s trite, because it’s overused and this is what everybody says, you would say “Hey, ask this.” And so, it really helps those of us who want to move from just being transactional to building these relationships by applying what you’ve written there.
Andrew Sobel:
In fact, can I bust a cliché for you? People always say “There’s no bad questions, Eddie.” Actually, sorry, there are bad questions. Well, that’s one myth I hope I bust in the book, which is there are bad questions. There are all kinds of bad questions that people ask. And they make you look less smart, not smarter.
Eddie Turner:
Yes, yes. Bust away, absolutely. And I must stop saying that as well. Sometimes when leading a class, I’ll say that but, yes, there are certain things, especially in our client relationships, if we’re going to exercise client leadership, there are some questions we clearly want to avoid.
Andrew Sobel:
I mean, look, in general, you’re not going to shoot yourself in the foot by asking a question but you could go with a CEO and ask questions that were too basic. And the CEO might be thinking, “You know, you could’ve learned this before you came in to see me.”
Eddie Turner:
Yes.
Andrew Sobel:
Just to give you an example, they might say in the back of their head “You really should have gone to school a little more.”
Eddie Turner:
Yes, I love how you open up in Power Questions. There’s a quote that you used that either you said or one of your senior executives said about what CEOs can tell about a consultant by the type of question that they ask. Do you want to share it?
Andrew Sobel:
Yeah. That happened years ago. I was actually in Chicago, interviewing the CEO of a 10-billion-dollar company for actually another book at the time. And he said to me “You know, Andrew, I can always tell how experienced a potential supplier or advisor is, whether it’s a lawyer or a banker, by the quality of the questions they ask. That tells me how experienced they are.” And you’d notice he didn’t say “I can always tell how good they are by the quality of their PowerPoint slides.”
Eddie Turner:
I started laughing because, yes, that’s what you said. That stood out to me. That’s definitely one of the highlights you’ll find in my copy of your book, that section. Yes, absolutely, that speaks volumes.
Andrew Sobel:
Well, a lot of credit goes to Jerry Panas, my co-author. Jerry was the leading fundraising consultant in the world, a brilliant man. And I’ll tell you a little secret that nobody knows. Originally, when I started conceiving of this book, the title was Powerful Questions and we actually sold it to the publisher with that title. And one day Jerry called me up and said “You know, Andrew, I wonder if Power Questions isn’t a better title.” And I immediately went “Holy cow! How come I didn’t think of that. Of course, it’s a better title.” So, I credit Jerry. Honestly, it’s like a hundred times better. Because a lot of my clients have adopted the language. They talk about “Okay, what’s the power question we’re going to ask in this meeting?”
Eddie Turner:
Yeah, it’s interesting you bring that up because I didn’t think about that. I looked at the book yesterday with fresh eyes. When I read the book before, I was not a coach, I hadn’t gone through coach training but I’ve since had and I’m certified, I’ve done like two different organizations’ training. So, in my mind, I find myself always saying “powerful questions” because that’s what you hear but when I looked at your book again with fresh eyes yesterday, not only did I understand that “It just says “Power Question”.”
Andrew Sobel:
Yeah, exactly.
Eddie Turner:
And then I looked at the illustration where you have the power symbol in the question mark and that didn’t stand out to me before and I got it.
Andrew Sobel:
Excellent.
Eddie Turner:
Okay. So, everyone wants to gain access to the C-suite and to senior executives. Why is it so hard?
Andrew Sobel:
It’s so hard because in the last 10 or 15 years more and more people are trying to meet with the C-suite. And that’s for many reasons. I think, in some ways they’re more powerful than they used to be. They are viewed as almost celebrities in their own right but also, frankly, a lot of purchase decisions, they aren’t made in the C-suite, but they do have to okay them, if you know what I mean, and so on. So, everybody’s trying to get in to see people in the C-suite and C-suite executives, therefore, have become ever more protective of their schedules. Also, they do want to ensure that their teams are empowered to sort of take decisions and to meet with people. They don’t want to be the bottleneck.

And there’s another reason which is the external responsibilities of top executives have multiplied in recent years – dealing with regulators, dealing with key clients, dealing with alliance partners, all kinds of external responsibilities that these executives have. And we now have something both great and terrible called email. So, if you think about it, the demands on their time have just multiplied. There’s actually was an article a few years ago in the Harvard Business Review where they track this. So, 30 years ago, it was something like 1000 or 2000 communication, interactions a year. And now, it’s more like 25,000.

Eddie Turner:
Wow!
Andrew Sobel:
There’s actually a chart in this article showing this because, think about it, first you had just like telephone calls, then you had voice messaging, then email developed and the internet and on and on. And so, there’s been this long almost geometric progression. So, I think there’s a lot of reasons. Therefore, if you want access to the C-suite, you really have to think through what your strategy is. And there’s two parts to it, obviously. A part of it is how do you build a network of more senior executives and the other is how do you get into seeing a senior executive that you don’t know very well. And I’ll tell you right now. Again, no silver bullet here but I’ll tell you right now with senior executives, most of them have told me in surveys I’ve done, and this is corroborated with other research, that they generally won’t see someone they don’t know unless they’ve been recommended to them by a colleague or friend. So, that’s number one. There’s a second condition. If they feel they have a particularly interesting idea.
Eddie Turner:
And the other way around that, I believe, you addressed in your book in the last chapter about becoming a person of interest. Am I right?
Andrew Sobel:
Exactly, exactly. So, person of interest, of course, is a subject of a law enforcement investigation. They generally talk about a person of interest in this investigation. So, I kind of humorously use that term but, basically, what is it about people, business professionals that a top executive would actually seek them out. And, look, it starts with your reputation in your field, of course. You need to have some renown, some visibility that you’re tops – in executive coaching, Eddie is one of the go-to people. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be the go-to person in the world or even the United States but it might be in a certain industry or a certain group of executives you’re known as being a fantastic executive coach, right? And, for me, for example, there’s certain industries I work a lot in like professional services, like financial services. So, I’m much better known in those industries than, say, manufacturing, which is fine. So, you need to build that reputation.

I think there’s a second piece though that’s really important. You have to approach senior executives with a different level of thought leadership. So, I’ll use your business as an example. Let’s just say, an HR executive who hires you might be very interested in your coaching methodology. They’re going to like what training do you have or what methodology do you use and is it this and is it that and what are the checkpoints and how do you ensure continuous learning and all these, whereas if you’re talking to a more top executive, they’d be more interested in knowing about who else have you coached and what results did you get for them. They’re much more interested in the impact and the results and have you handled their issues before. So, that’s just a simple example.

Eddie Turner:
It’s a great example.
Andrew Sobel:
Is that fair because I have a small executive coaching practice and that would be typical for my experience. So, the thought leadership whereas you might be talking to that HR executive or I might be talking to a learning and development executive about more of sort of content and my teaching methodologies and my digital learning suite and all this stuff, whereas with a top executive I’m talking to them about culture change, about creating a clients-for-life organization, how do you align your entire organization towards creating true breakthrough client experiences, what does that look like. And so, you’ve got to be developing that kind of thought leadership. You can’t just go in and talk to senior executives about your methodologies. And I do see that mistake quite often. One client of mine, very quickly, who is an accounting partner at a big four firm was invited to the dinner with a board of directors of his client. And he told me, in front of a big group, he was very confessional, he said he went all prepared to talk about taxation issues and VAT policy and all this stuff. And during the dinner, he said, the questions he was peppered with started with “What do you think is going to happen to the Dollar-Euro exchange rate?” or “What do you think about this macro event that’s occurring?” And he told me he was totally unprepared for the dinner because he didn’t really think that these board members were going to be much more interested in big macro issues than they were in his accounting methodologies.
Eddie Turner:
Isn’t that something?
Andrew Sobel:
And he said he learned his lesson.
Eddie Turner:
A lesson well learned, I’m sure. Wow! So, I got to tell you I’m just fascinated and I’m stuttering because I’m talking to somebody who I’ve wanted to talk to for a long time, who I haven’t talked to in years, actually. It’s like we’d have communication there but haven’t spoken. And so, I have just thoroughly enjoyed talking to you, Andrew. And I got to tell folks It Starts with Clients is a book you want to read. Andrew gets into how we can master the first meeting, how we reframe for maximum impact, something we talked about a lot in coaching, how to use those power questions that I was talking about earlier, and how to build senior executive relationships and so much more.

What is the biggest takeaway you want our listeners to have in this conversation, Andrew?

Andrew Sobel:
I think, maybe on two fronts. In terms of specifically thinking about growing your client base, I want to say one thing. You have to lower the threshold for a client meeting. That is actually one of the secrets to grow your client base because a lot of people feel they can’t go with the expert mindset – “I can’t go talk to a client or a prospect unless I’ve got a brilliant idea or a 30-page PowerPoint presentation” – whereas when you have the trusted adviser mindset, you know you can go talk to clients, have a cup of coffee with them, ask them a few powerful questions and share some observations about their business or about other clients you’re working with and you can have a great conversation. So, lower your threshold for a conversation for a meeting with a client. You’ll get in front of more people and you’ll learn more and then you will become ever more valuable. On the leadership side, of course, as we’ve discussed, I think you have to think about the importance of your client leadership. So, if in a company you have a relationship with a big client, even if you’re the CFO, you want to be building a relationship with the CFO of that other company. If you’re the head of HR, you want to be building a relationship with a head of HR at that other company. Do you see what I mean?
Eddie Turner:
That’s a really good point. I like that. Thank you for sharing that. That’s a different way of thinking about it too.

On the Keep Leading!® Podcast, we like to find out what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received or your favorite quote that you use to help yourself to keep leading. Can you share what that is for you with our listeners?

Andrew Sobel:
Sure. This is one piece of advice I got, which, I’ll be honest, was hard for me to take at the time because it kind of goes against the selfish human heart, right? And that advice was “Andrew, the great boss, the great manager, the great leader is the one, when things go well, when there’s a big success, gives all the credit to his or her team and when they don’t go well, they take the blame.” And it’s a very simple statement but I think it’s very powerful. I jokingly said it goes against the selfish human heart but it is true. When things go great, we want to give credit to the team but we also want to make sure everybody knows that we were masterminding it, is the person in charge. I think, maybe it’s Daniel Goleman who refers to this. It’s part of level five leadership. It’s that humility that people have like the founder of Walmart and so on. I always like that quote and I’ve tried to remember it.
Eddie Turner:
Thank you, Andrew. Where can my listeners learn more about you?
Andrew Sobel:
Two resources. One is just my website AndrewSobel.com. Secondly, my learning academy. I’ve got several great online programs on building relationships externally and internally and that’s simply Learning.AndrewSobel.com. Lots of free resources on both those sites.
Eddie Turner:
Wonderful. Well, we will be sure to place that into the show notes so that people can go to those sites and get access to your resources, many of which you give away at no cost, and folks can do a lot of learning just by spending a little time on your site.
Andrew Sobel:
Wonderful. Eddie, you’ve been a fantastic host, really. This has been a delightful interview. You’ve made me think and I really appreciate being a guest on your program.
Eddie Turner:
Thank you. It’s been just an honor for me. Thank you, Andrew.
Andrew Sobel:
You’re welcome.
Eddie Turner:
And thank you for listening. That concludes this episode, everyone. I’m Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®, reminding you that leadership is not about our title or our position. Leadership is an activity. Leadership is action. It’s not the case of once a leader, always a leader. It’s not a garment we put on and take off. We must be a leader at our core and allow it to emanate in all we do. So, whatever you’re doing, always keep leading.

Thank you for listening to your host Eddie Turner on the Keep Leading!® Podcast. Please remember to subscribe to the Keep Leading!® Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen. For more information about Eddie Turner’s work please visit EddieTurnerLLC.com.

Thank you for listening to C Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

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The Keep Leading!® podcast is for people passionate about leadership. It is dedicated to leadership development and insights. Join your host Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator® as he speaks with accomplished leaders and people of influence across the globe as they share their journey to leadership excellence. Listen as they share leadership strategies, techniques and insights. For more information visit eddieturnerllc.com or follow Eddie Turner on Twitter and Instagram at @eddieturnerjr. Like Eddie Turner LLC on Facebook. Connect with Eddie Turner on LinkedIn.