This post continues the recent theme of examining the habits of superstar associates. The habit of being of service is so important it gets its own post. This habit incorporates other habits previously discussed on this blog including the value of deeply understanding your client’s business, learning to adapt, being vulnerable, and anticipating client needs.
What does it mean to have a mindset of being of service? Consider the following example from the book, “How to Sell a Lobster” by Bill Bishop. Bill describes a “basketball mind trap” and gives the example of a company that has been selling basketballs so long that the balls are all they think about. But, as the author points out, they are really in the business of helping those involved in the sport of basketball succeed. So, when their product is no longer popular, the company with a mindset of being of service thinks, “how else could I help basketball players?” Perhaps one could provide software for coaches, uniforms, new basketball courts, training videos, etc. The lesson is that the successful company is always focused on how the company can help its customers thrive.
Similar thinking shifts can be done for associates. The superstar associate has a mindset of “being of service” to clients (who are generally partners in the early years) because they understand the following:
1.) They get that the client may need more than just xyz advice.
A great example is a tax associate who understands that, in certain contexts, she may really be functioning as a business lawyer that specializes in tax. That associate gets that tax is one of a series of issues involved in a transaction or litigation matter such that she can provide additional value by raising questions and identifying relevant issues outside of the Internal Revenue Code. It is likely that there are issues outside the tax law that keeps the client up at night (#2 below). The superstar associate has a handle on these issues and helps by providing practical advice where possible.
Perhaps ultimately someone with specific experience in the area(s) identified will have to be brought in to help but the superstar associate understands that to achieve continued success for the client (and for herself), she has to open up to new learning experiences that may make her feel uncertain and incompetent at worst. The bottom line is the superstar is not afraid to broach an area she knows nothing about. She admits she is not an expert (or knows nothing about it) but keeps going (serving).
2.) They deeply understand their client’s business and what worries the client.
They are curious. They ask open-ended questions and listen to the responses.
They start the process of understanding the client’s business by really kicking the tires. They go visit the client, meet with employees, and learn more about the product or service.
Superstar associates also read as much as they can about the client’s industry and its competition in local and national newspapers, magazines, catalogs (if relevant), trade journals and trade association publications, government publications, the Internet, etc.
3.) They treat others' problems as their own (and come up with solutions).Superstar associates own the client’s problem as their own. As a result, they are constantly coming up with potential solutions and do not stop until the matter is resolved. They are making calls, researching the issue, bouncing ideas off of others. Think of the example of looking for a new car. You would spend whatever time was necessary to get this task done right. You would get input from various people, research as much as you could about type of car, determine who has the lowest price, learn what the experts were saying about the car, etc. Superstar associates put the same energy and resolve toward the client’s problem as they do their own.
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