Episode #19: Developing Clients For Life With Ivy Slater

In our careers, in some way or another, we are all serving clients. Unfortunately, far too few develop the necessary skills and strategies to develop and keep those clients for life. Ivy Slater joins Betsy Westhafer and Tony Bodoh on today’s podcast to share how you can develop clients for life and discusses the importance of listening to your client with more than just your ears. A professionally certified business coach, speaker, bestselling author, podcast host, and entrepreneur, Ivy is an expert at cultivating and facilitating relationships that are the hallmark of any successful business. Don’t miss this episode to discover Ivy’s story of a lifelong client, why asking questions is essential, and what creates real opportunities with clients to grow sales.

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Developing Clients For Life With Ivy Slater

Listen With Your Whole Body, Not Just Your Ears

We have Ivy Slater as our guest. We have her here because she is going to talk to us about developing clients for life. I think that’s such an important thing for us to look at and understand that we want to bring her on the show and dive deeper into this topic.

Tony, I’m excited to have Ivy on the show. I already learned so much from her. She’s a successful businesswoman. She facilitates growth, expansion and works with leaders and has this incredible work experience that she shares some of her learnings with us. Without further ado, Ivy, welcome. We are happy to have you here.

I always love to join you guys and chat.

I gave a high-level overview of your career, but I’d like to dive in a little bit and give our audience a flavor for your career path. You’ve had an incredible career so far. You are a successful businesswoman. Could you give us the road trip that you’ve been on in your career?

This successful businesswoman learned early in cutting her teeth. I was fired from my first job out of college. That was success number one because I got out of the way early and learned how to navigate it and not stop you. In that experience, being in my young twenties, I was devastated. From that devastation came opportunity. People saw in me. People referring me to jobs and my next, and I’ll always say in every situation that you think we have troubles, we have an amazing ability to have opportunity, possibility and it’s for us to be grounded enough to see it. That was the number one experience and through that, I got referred to a job. I worked for a woman who owned a series of health clubs in the New York metropolitan area. That was New York, New Jersey and Long Island.

The New York metropolitan area is broad. It draws a 100-mile radius and that’s what you have. She owned a series of health clubs. I was her right hand for several years. It would be like, “Ivy, I want to do sales training. Start gathering the district managers, start setting up the calendar with all management.” This is way pre-computer or internet. “Here’s a stack of the materials. Try to figure all this out and put together a training.” I’m like, “I’m on that.” That’s all you can say as a young woman. I worked for her for several years. I ended up planning a YPO event or Young Presidents’ Organization. The readers are familiar with that organization. She’s like, “I’m having this event, handle it, organize it.”

Nobody sits with spouses who want things. This was what you now call networking. Back in the day, it was like nobody sat with a staff. Everybody was strategically placed by industry, by this and that. One of the things I did was to hire the corporate event company to do the event portion of it and the catering. In that debrief, we had a conversation and they want to know about more of her business. I said, “I want to understand more about what you do and a little bit more about your organization.” It’s out of the mouth of a 25 or 24 years old at the time. ”I’m the person who reads Gourmet magazine cover to cover every month. I love food and entertaining.”

She said, “I just gave notice. My parents bought an inn out in Pennsylvania and I’m going to go run their foodservice and events for them. Would you like to interview for my job?” The key thing I learned at that moment was if you don’t ask, you don’t receive. Continue to jump forward, I did that for a whole bunch of years. I was married. We knew we wanted in the next few years to start a family. I said, “Working seven days and nights, which is the event industry, was not conducive to my vision of being a working mom. I wanted to at least have a five-day a week job, not a seven.”

In a convoluted way, I ended up in the printing industry. I was told early on I had to learn the industry. I had to learn what we were selling. I did this training program, which wasn’t much of a training program. Three weeks in, most of my money was on commission and it’s time to make some money. I said, “Where do I start? How do I get clients? I’m ready for this commission stuff. Let’s go.” They were like, “It’s the Yellow Pages or the pavement. Pick one and go. The Yellow Pages is in the front closet, open up to an industry and start calling or this is New York City, put on a pair of walking shoes and get out.” This was the time when we talk about elevator pitches and things like that and introductions. This is truly when you used to ride the elevators and try to meet people because there was no security at this time in New York.

Introverts make amazing salespeople because they ask questions and listen and are not filling the gaps with talk.CLICK TO TWEET

You could walk into the Chrysler building and get on the elevator and smile and say, “Where are you heading?” That was the beginning of the elevator pitch. I was like, “In no uncertain terms, that sucks. I don’t want to do either, but I needed money.” Young, newly married, living in New York City, you needed two strong incomes and I was making bupkis at the time. I called my old boss and I said, “I want you to know that all the events that I was involved in and the clients I handled, I’m going to call them up and see who they can introduce me to. I don’t want you to think I’m coming into competition or anything. I’m in the printing industry.”

She looked at me and went, “What do you think you were going to do? Go to Times Square and take your clothes off and attract clients? You’re not standing next to the naked cowboy. That’s what you do in sales.” I was like, “Got it, Jocelyn,” and we are still connected. I called my old clients and I used to handle one of the partners at Goldman Sachs. I handle all of his charity and his wife’s charity work. I had finished Columbia University’s business school’s graduation so I called them up like, “How are you?” When we talk about clients for life, that’s how you get clients for life because they are lifetime relationships. That’s my long short story.

I love how much context and energy you bring to those stories too because we have so much to dig into and I am excited to learn more of your story. Thank you for sharing that. I think the one thing that comes to mind for me is to remember that for people that have reached a certain point in their career, it wasn’t always like that. People have had to work hard. This has come up with me in several conversations of people saying, “It’s a twenty-year overnight success story.” It’s always good to hear that there were some times, where you had to do the hard stuff for sure.

I will say I rode some elevators in New York for many years. You learn to ask. I was a shy, introverted kid, so this was not in my comfort zone.

I find it interesting because the asking part, there is something that we tend not to want to do, many of us at least. Can you dive a little deeper into that? What did that look like for you early on and maybe what does asking look like for you now? I’m sure with the changing of times, there are probably things that have stayed the same, but there are also things I’m guessing that are different too.

Huge things are different. One of the key things is we walk around with a computer and a phone 24/7 and that is very different. We have been trained to expect immediate results versus truly working for those results because in a blink of an eye, “I want to do this. I’ll just Google that.” Be that as it may, when we look at mindset and habits training and what that teaches us, we look to what is relevant now versus what we had back in the day. When you talk about the ask, I think one of the things that is most misconstrued about it is opposed to people think about, “You’re asking for things. You’re always asking for something.”

When I think about the ask, I think about it coming from a place of curiosity and a place of, “How can I help you?” If I don’t ask, “How are things with you? What is of interest? How can I help? What is working or not working in your world? If you could change anything, what would it look like?” When somebody lays that out and if I have the ability to either help them myself or know somebody to help them, then I find it rude and insensitive not to offer that and ask if they’re open for help. I’m not looking for work. I’m not looking to sell anything. I’m looking to service and help people achieve something that they want to achieve. I’ve come from that place of curiosity to ask what they’re looking to achieve.

I love that so much because curiosity is something I’ve been intrigued by. Several people in my circle talk about curiosity and I’m trying to wrap my head around what that means. Someone said to me, “You have a very curious mind,” and this was a prospect. That made me feel good because I thought, “I must be asking the right questions.” I appreciate your confirming that approach. One of the things that you shared with us was about somebody that has been a client on several stops in your career. Can you share that story with our readers, please?

That’s probably been for a while. I track this thinking about my kids. I was a mom, a printer. At that point, I had a small piece of the company. I was more of a junior partner. She was the head of the marketing and advertising department for a company called Chantelle Lingerie, which is an intimate apparel. It’s a global company with a parent company out of France. She was one of the accounts that I landed because when I did get started in printing, I was never handed an account or a referral. Everything I built, I built. Through building relationships, through an opportunity at one place to another, I met a designer who was doing work for one company and he was also working for Chantelle. He goes, “They’re going to be doing some printing. Let me introduce you.” It’s always a relationship.

Developing Clients For Life: If you can help people yourself or know somebody who can, it’s actually rude and insensitive not to offer that and ask if they’re open for help.

We started doing business. For years, I did their two big print jobs, which were their catalogs for all the stores for their spring and fall lines. With all the lot changes and the code changes, we would direct ship it to Nordstrom, Neiman, Bloomingdale, Sachs, Dillard’s and Macy’s. We started getting the smaller collateral for their sales meetings and things like that that were done in the States. It is a very good piece of business. Printing is manufacturing and when you’re dealing with any manufacturing, you’re dealing with a potential something that can go wrong. One year, one job, we hit that something went wrong. It was produced in the summer. There was a lot of humidity in New York City. The paper came in. It was no good, so the paper was returned.

We got the next lot of paper. The air, the paper, the humidity and they could stretch on the sides and it was called black with knockout white type. When you stretch it, all of a sudden, that thing I had to register. It was one problem after another. No matter how we got to the next steps of that printing process if it was bindery because the paper was no good, the score cracked. Everything we touched went bad. It’s all based on the paper issue and the ripple effect goes forward. We eventually come down to, “Let’s get this job delivered. Let’s get it sold. Let’s get it shipped. It has a deadline.” For some reason, the spring catalog isn’t waiting for us. It’s a very timely situation or the full catalog because it was the summer print.

It comes down to sitting down in that meeting and you know you haven’t delivered the quality that you stand behind. You have to have that uncomfortable conversation. That uncomfortable conversation has to do with slashing your prices, owning your responsibility, and taking it. Although I didn’t make the paper, my name is on the door. She said, “Ivy, I like you very much. I’m sorry to say you’re off our vendor list.” That’s called being fired by a client. That was firing number two. I’m sure there were many others in there. You choose to only count so many. Technically, I was fired and I said, “I understand. I’m sorry. I know we’ve been full service. We’ve stood out as a vendor for you for many years and this hurts. The one thing I don’t want it to hurt is the relationship we have built over the years.”

I said in that moment, “I might not do business with Chantelle again, but I can do business with this woman.” If I handled this politically correctly as a lady or a gentleman, I could still have this relationship. Jump forward a year or two, every so often, I sent a note. “I hope you’re well. Happy Holidays. Wishing you a great summer travel.” She always traveled in the summer. You build the relationship. You know what somebody likes. You know about their hobbies. You don’t just know them on a business level and this is one of the key things. A couple of years later, she changes jobs. Funny how people do that. That was an opportunity. I chatted with her again and this is jumping forward to 2008, the year I opened Slater Success. I ran both Slater Success and Slater Graphics for two years  simultaneously.

I said, “I heard you’re back in New York,” this, that and the other thing. “Yes.” I said, “Would you want to meet for coffee?” “I would love to have a cup of coffee with you.” We did and I shared with her that, “I’m still doing Slater Graphics and I’m opening this new company.” If you think about it, all the women I have worked with over the years have a woman leader, having somebody in your corner as a leadership consultant, as a how to grow in scale, and what’s possible and owning your value, understanding your worth and looking in the mirror and seeing that every day. She looked at me, and she is a very strong, powerful woman. She went, “I love this. This is what you’re going to do.” I was like, “Okay.” She’s like, “I’m going to introduce you to Joi Gordon. She’s the CEO of Dress for Success. I’m involved in Dress for Success.”

I said, “I know because I printed those invitations that we’re honoring you three times until you were happy, and the program that went with it as a donation. I know how involved you are.” She went, “This is what we’re going to do. You’re going to sit down. You’re going to meet with Joi. You’re going to see how you can get involved. I am part of the lead the young executive committee. These are all the young leaders that donate their time and young executive situations. You’re going to get involved and you’re going to speak for them. What do you speak on?” I take a breath and I was like, “I have several topics. Let me get back to you on ones that would be most impactful. Tell me a little bit about the people in that group.” I have my notebook. I am diligently taking notes and I’m asking questions.

I said, “It sounds what you’re saying is these are the emerging leaders of tomorrow. They are young women who are doing well and on the executive track. Do they talk much about goals?” She went, “Probably not enough.” I said, “What if we did something around goal setting. We can help them establish their goals and then I could come back in about six months and we could check on them.” She goes, “I love that.” That was the beginning. That goes to the next level and the story’s not over. That job didn’t work out. She goes on and changes jobs again. She was hired by a company that you guys might know or not, but it’s a skincare line called Caudalie. They were opening their first New York City spot in the Plaza Hotel. She was hired to bring their brand to New York City. “Hi, Ivy.” “How are you?” That’s the next conversation.

We had lunch and she told me, “I’m doing this. One day, in the work I’m doing, I could see myself opening my own marketing agency.” I said, “That would be great.” “Maybe you could help me with that.” I said, “I probably can. Let’s look at what that could look like.” I asked her, “Do you remember back in the day, what are those goals for you? What is your vision for your life? What is the vision for this company that aligns with those?” I asked all those questions and then she went, “I think I want to do this. What does it look like to work with you?” Back in the day, I charged almost nothing because I was teaching how to step into your value and I was that woman business owner who wasn’t. I gave her this small price that she went, “I would never pay that.” I was like, “Of course, not.” She went, “I have several friends who might also be interested in working with you. Would you work with us as a group?”

I said, “Of course, I would.” I made another note in my notebook. I said, “Let me come back to you with how that could look.” They paid me to write my first group coaching program for over nine months. Jump forward again, she was like, “The Dress for Success is having this event. You’re going to come for breakfast, aren’t you?” A hundred dollar check later, I said, “I’m going to come for the eggs I don’t eat, the coffee I don’t drink and a cold cup of tea,” because in those 500 person breakfast, by the time they come around with tea service, the water is ice cold and pitch black. I mentioned that I am an introvert at heart. I showed up at the Rosewood Hotel with 500 women. My stomach gets left on the elevator because I do not know how in the world I’m going to survive this, let alone navigate it. Eventually, I checked my coat and I smiled.

Great sales come from great listening because you can give somebody what they’re looking for.CLICK TO TWEET

I was walking around, smiling, and saying, “I have nobody to talk to. I know this one woman, the CEO of Dress for Success. She doesn’t want to talk to me with 500 people here.” I finally find her and she takes me by the hand and she goes, “I’m glad you came. Come with me, I’m going to introduce you to your next client.” She walked me across the room and she goes, “She’s running this team. They’re wiping the floor with her and she needs to take control. You’re the woman to help her. Have a conversation. She’ll hire you.” I then sat next to another woman who said, “I have this side business. I’ll hire you one day when I’m going to build it out,” and she did. She hired me again to expand it. Jump forward another couple of years, I got an email from her. At this point, I was full time in Slater Success for a bunch of years. I was releasing a weekly newsletter and she responds to a newsletter I had written and she went, “Do you have a few minutes to talk tonight after hours?” When she says something, you respond. I jumped on the phone and she’s like, “This may be crazy. I’ve been reading what you write every week.” I said, “Somebody reads that? I thought I just wrote it.”

I think we’ve all been there. In fact, Tony and I were talking about releasing newsletters and hoping that people are reading it. Newsletters, LinkedIn posts, videos, podcasts, everything.

Readers, respond to us. Let us know you’re listening to these episodes. Let Betsy and Tony know your feedback. What impacted you? What makes a difference? As people who release content, we want to know so we can serve better. Jump forward, I get on the phone that night with her and I was like, “How are you? What’s up? What’s going on?” She went, “I have to talk to you. I’m being recruited to go back into full-time employment and let go of my agency.” I said, “That’s pretty significant. What’s your why in doing it?” She went, “I want to buy a second home.” She takes me through and based on the work we had done, we referenced back. I said, “It sounds like you’re in alignment with your purpose.” She went, “This is what I want you to do. I want you to help me negotiate the position.” I said, “I’m not an attorney. I don’t do legal negotiations.”

I walk into every potential client and say, “I’m not an attorney. I’m not your CPA. I will raise questions and I will make sure you go to the proper professionals or your financial planner, but all those things is part of your team and what you should have covered.” She went, “I know you’re not an attorney, but I have done enough of your reading that I know you’ve truly believed in stepping into your value and earning your worth. I’m the first woman to get hired in this role. I want to make sure I’m negotiating for the same salary and I end up with the same package. I want you in my corner to help me stand up for myself.” It’s about doing that in a work.

I said, “You got it. I’m in. I want you to succeed like there’s no other.” She said, “How much are you going to charge me?” Remember, she has kicked back. She is diligent in her numbers. I said, “Nothing.” She went, “I know you, Ivy, for a long time. What are you going to charge me?” I said, “Honestly, absolutely nothing. I want a couple of phone conversations. I want you to get this job. When you get this job, I’m sure it was going to be a win-win for both of us.” She got the job and I got a client called Van Cleef & Arpels. She is now the president of one of the other Richemont organizations. I do coaching, consulting and strategic leadership work for them as well, some trainings. That’s what this is about. This is a relationship that a bunch of years ago. I figure it out because I remember my son was at this summer in day camp the year that bad printing job went south.

It’s such a cool story because there are many stops along the road. It shows that when you invest in a relationship, the return on that investment I’m sure has been huge for you.

It goes through the triple effect of all the people I’ve met through meeting her. The people I met through the people who introduced me to her. The people I have met diligently through Dress for Success that I do an enormous amount of volunteer work for and some non-volunteer work when they have leadership issues and some of their teams are brought in. More than that, when her dad passed away a few years ago and I heard about it, I sent a handwritten note again instead of that email, and that led to another catch-up conversation.

I’ll see she posts something on Facebook. I might comment on it and then I’ll personally reach out and say, “Through leading a global team during this pandemic, how are you holding up? How are you taking care of yourself?” She’s like, “It’s been tough.” I was like, “I’m just a phone call away. I’m always here for you,” and that’s a no-charge thing because the relationship now is beyond the connections and what she brings me in business-wise is something else. Woman to woman, person to person, we have a relationship and that’s a golden ticket.

Developing Clients For Life: When you invest in a relationship, the return on that investment is huge.

This is an astounding conversation, not where I thought we were going to go in this show. I’m grateful for that because it’s revealed so much. I’ve got a number of things running through my mind. I’ll piece them together here as we go. Number one, and this is the thing that comes out most significantly is you said that you’re an introvert. I know I’m an introvert as well. I would much rather be behind the camera, behind a microphone like this, having a one-on-one or one-on-two conversation. I look at my business and what I’ve learned which you’ve described eloquently is how relationships matter in building a business.

If you’re an introvert reading this and you’re running your own business or you’re in a sales role and you believe because you’re an introvert, you cannot sell. I’m telling you, there is a method that works for us as introverts, and that is relationship building. You don’t have to sell like everyone else. You don’t have to pick up a phone 100 times a day. Relationship is how you sell and it is powerful. The beauty of it is it goes with you as you change roles, change jobs or as they change roles, change jobs. As you’ve described, Ivy, it goes with you. I wanted to put that little bent on it because it’s meaningful and powerful for a lot of people that I think it might open the opportunity for them to grow.

I think introverts make amazing salespeople because they ask questions and listen. They’re not filling the gaps of talk because that’s not their comfort zone. Their comfort zone is somebody else talking. Because great sales come from great listening, you then can give somebody what they’re looking for. I truly think it’s the unknown factor that introverts make. Whenever I look at sales teams, one of my first questions, if I’m coming in to work with a sales team is, how many extroverts? Everybody’s like, “I can talk to anybody.” I’m like, “How many introverts on the team?” I look at the goal because the extroverts have to be trained out of talking.

It’s interesting because it ties into the Really Know Your Customer element of this. I’ve never thought about that before. I love that we have you here sharing this because to really know your customer, you have to ask those questions. We know that part of it, but to make that connection, especially in a sales realm for the introverts, they’re the ones that get to know and build those relationships is powerful. Thank you for bringing that to us.

I would throw in that speaks to how we train executives before we go into an advisory board meeting. We tell them, “You’re there to listen 80% and talk 20%. That 20%, while you’re talking, you’re asking deep clarifying questions.” That’s exactly you’re on point with that. It translates obviously into a sales position as well.

Sometimes people say, “I listen. I lean my ear in.” I was like, “Listen to it with your whole body. Your gut is going to give you information. Your heart is going to give you information.” If you’re truly listening, you’ll hear when somebody’s tone changes and you’ll ask a question about that. It’s not always what they say in words, it’s how they string their words together and the entire delivery, not just the language of it.

It’s fascinating because Betsy was talking about the client advisory boards and the work I do, I look at the feedback, actual words that customers are using. There’s software that helps detect emotions and things like that, but I find the most value in reading the feedback itself. A resort is an example that I did work with years ago. The customers who were the guests who complained about pricing called it a hotel. The guests who realized it was a resort and spoke about it as a resort defended the pricing, and said, “This a resort. It’s going to be expensive.”

This is all on TripAdvisor. Those little nuances like we had to go to the hotel and say, “You’ve got 5,000 employees. It’s one of the massive resorts.” All of them have to talk about this as a resort. Your marketing has to say resort because that crafts a feeling tone that people feel differently when they read that, when they see it, they’re informed it’s a resort. It’s interesting that all of that comes into play as you’re saying, understanding, and asking those questions like, “What do you think? What do you need?” That all comes out.

You’re right because a resort versus a hotel is a very different place for me. A hotel is where I’m going to go and stay the night or stay a couple of nights and I’m going to go out and do my thing. A resort, I’m going to go get taken care of. I’m going to be booking spa. They’re going to be bringing me those umbrella drinks on the beach, whatever it’s looking like. Everything’s going to be at a whole different level whereas a hotel, I drop my bag and unpack and I go do things. It’s a completely different entity.

Every time we do something, we’re going to get better chances and more opportunities.CLICK TO TWEET

Words matter and the meaning they convey. You said to us that you didn’t sell printing. You sold a service to your clients that make them look good. Talk us through your mindset around that.

I was going to say every other printer, except there was not a lot of women selling printing in New York City when I started. I didn’t look like them. I didn’t have a trench coat. I didn’t have a briefcase and I didn’t have a cigar stench to me. Be that as it may though, you’re told to have this portfolio of samples and this is what you present. I did that a couple of times and then I would get to somebody’s office and I would ask them instinctively because I came from a corporate event catering background. In that training was very much, “What’s the vision for your event? What are you looking for?”

I was taught early on to ask about that, even when I worked for the job that I wasn’t fired from, this exercise studio. It’s like, “What’s your vision? What do you want to achieve? What are your goals?” Even back in the ‘80s was what it was about. I showed up in printing and they’re like, “Take some samples and go walk New York.” I would sit down and I wouldn’t take the samples out because I didn’t know what to show them, but I always knew to ask questions. I was like, “What type of work do you guys do?” They’re like, “We do this or we do that.” I was like, “What I have isn’t what you’re looking for.”

I realized it early on. I finally said, “I need to stop taking these damn samples because it’s messing up my whole thing,” because then they want to see what I have. I couldn’t get a job because I wouldn’t have the right thing for their company. I scrapped the samples and early on, I said, “What kind of work do you do? What are some of the greatest experiences you’ve had with your printing vendors? What are some of the things that have disappointed you?” They never get delivery on time. “If I asked for Tuesday by noon, it comes Wednesday in the afternoon.” “Delivery is important to you. I would think that somebody makes a commitment, you make a commitment.” In my previous job in corporate events, the party couldn’t happen the next day. It was a day of. I’m going to deliver the day of and that’s my background. That’s the only way I know to do this. They said, “Let’s get to know each other.” I would ask the questions and then be of service.

I learned early that the people, the marketing managers who I was selling to, who had the power to buy in the publishing industry, which was a big network for me, reported to certain people. If they looked good, they would hire me. If we delivered well, the jobs looked good and everything was on time, they looked good. My goal after I started figuring it out, I was in my late 20s, early 30s at this point. It took me a little bit to figure it out. I was like, “Every time we do something well, we’re going to get a better chance. We’re going to get more opportunities.” I started realizing, the better I can make my clients look to their bosses, the more I can sell. When I ask for referrals, “Do you know anybody else? I know back in the day, you always said one of the frustrating things is not delivering on time. That’s something that I stand for. Anybody else that you might know that has that similar situation?”

I didn’t say, “Who else can you introduce me to?” I got specific. That was the transformation. I stopped trying to peddle my samples, which was irrelevant. I created a goal of every time they look good, I had a better opportunity for the next job. It didn’t matter if my price is on point or not. They told me where I needed to be because then I could say, “What’s your budget for this?” “We’re looking this way. We’re going to bid it out.” I said, “That’s fine. I expect you to bid it out. What’s your budget? What are you looking at? Why are you looking at that?” “We still have to do this else to do this year.” I would make notes in my notebook. They still have this and this to do this year. What months might those be? Put that in my calendar. It wasn’t rocket science. It came from asking and being curious.

I love the point about how you ask them what it is that they’re looking to achieve, not going into it with, “What can I sell you?” It’s such a different mindset.

I have to say, I was incredibly fortunate because it came from the training that I didn’t even realize I was learning. Through corporate events, it’s 100%. Some of it is corporate and some of it is personal because what happens is you do a corporate job and then they hire you for their personal stuff. It’s a beautiful trickle-down effect. In corporate, they would show up and say, “We have this budget.” I was like, “What can you give us for the budget? What can we make happen?” As long as you made it happen with ease and beauty and it was on a budget, they were thrilled and you got hired again. Some partners, some organizations or something was at that event and that would be the next referral. That might be a personal referral, but if somebody is hiring you to do something personally, the budget becomes on par with their vision. They’re only going to hire you if you’re connecting on their vision.

I think the point you make about making it pretty much painless for them, like removing that friction is such a big part of knowing your customers. Knowing what their friction points are and what drives one person crazy may not be a problem at all for someone else. It’s getting to know that customers and know what their friction is, what their pain points are personally as well as with the company and then trying to be that buffer.

Developing Clients For Life: When you go into an advisory board meeting, you’re there to listen to 80% and talk 20%.

What I’ll refer to is listening with your whole body, not just your ear. Listen with your eyes. When you’re sitting in a meeting with somebody, see how they surround themselves in their office. What are their hobbies? Get to know that person. I knew that story. I told you about that eighteen-plus year old client is a huge baker. That is her thing. She loves to bake. She loves to invest in real estate. When this whole pandemic started, my question was, “Where are you sheltering?” I know she has several properties. I come from a place of caring, thinking of her.

I think that’s such an important aspect. Betsy and I talk about this a lot and in really knowing your customer, it starts maybe with knowing what they need, what they want, and what their vision is and their business. It then goes so much deeper into that relationship, knowing who they are as individuals, whether it’s B2B or B2C, the same thing is true. In fact, we had a conversation where I told Betsy, “In this pandemic, no smart person is going to pick up the phone and call their clients or customers and say, ‘What’s next on the business agenda?’” They’re going to first say, “How are you doing? What’s going on with you? Is your family okay?” They’re going to ask those empathetic questions and move that along first and deepen the relationship before they get to the business because that’s the only way that business is going to continue to grow.

When you come from that place of caring, and I’ve been on the phone with many people, “Wasn’t your son supposed to be getting married this spring? How has that evolved? What are they looking for?” “We’re going to do this first.” “What is it looking like?” “My kid got married on Zoom.” “I never pictured homeschooling. The teachers have been great.” “The teachers have been terrible.” All that information is coming. In that information is what I refer to as that golden nugget, because that’s where a true relationship is. When you know somebody, that’s when they talk in sales that know, like, and trust. That’s where trust is.

Ivy, I’m going to get down in the weeds here. With the way you approach these relationships, how do you personally keep track of this? Do you use a CRM? Do you have a notebook? How do you do what you do so well?

Let’s not say I do it well. I mess up plenty and I’m committed to it. I think that there’s the thing. I was on a webinar. Do you know I did two webinars back to back two days in a row and two different topics?

Yes, we do.

We talked about relationships and the other was on effective virtual teams in 2020. One of my slides was a picture of CRM systems, a good old-fashioned Rolodex that you turned with all the layers, an index card box, and a calendar. I am that perfect hybrid of going from the old-fashioned Rolodex and index card box to the new-fangled CRM system to calendar. I do both. I’m going to share what I’m going to do. I want every reader to know I mess up plenty but it doesn’t stop me from reaching back out. I do use the CRM system. I make all my notes in the CRM system. When we were first introduced and we had that very first, “We met through a mutual friend and colleague,” I made notes on my CRM.

Where I fail is I never put my follow-up in my CRM system. I never put that date on the calendar. That’s where I go back to my old school. Even if my calendar is electronic, I put that in my calendar. I was like, “I should be talking to Betsy and Tony again here. Betsy has that boat. I should touch base with her in July and see how their summer on the boat is.” Smart efficient people to stay strictly with great CRM. We’ll put every piece in there and put their prompts in there. When I found I did that and it told me what to do that day, I never listened to it. The old school training of being very calendar-centric kicks in for me. That’s the way it is.

It’s not about right or wrong, but more what works best for each person. I have some things that I do paper notes. I’ve tried OneNote. I’ve tried Evernote. I’ve tried all of these things, but when I use them, I’m like, “I get it. This is good,” but I’m not compelled to use them as much as writing down in a notebook. I think it’s about what works best for just the way your style is.

Absolutely, and taking the time to truly know yourself.

The greatest leaders are the ones that build themselves teams that support every weakness they have.CLICK TO TWEET

I’ve mentioned this on our show, but I had this dentist’s office that I’ve gone to for many years. I go twice a year for an hour and yet every time I go back, they’re like, “How’s such and such?” I don’t see them. They must be behind me taking notes, but they always are on top of whatever it is that’s been going on in my life. It’s remarkable to me and impressive, thus I’m a client of this dental practice. I think it’s important to do that. I get inspired by knowing how committed you are to it because I want to be that committed. I try hard and I do take good notes, but like you, the follow-up sometimes falls through. I’m getting there and I’m figuring out my own system.

That is key. It’s not about trying to be perfect about it. It’s about being committed to it. I mess up plenty. I keep a notebook. “I’ve been meaning to text that person. I’ve been meaning to email or call that person or whatever.” All-day, these ideas are coming down and I add it into my notebook. At the end of the day, I can then plan things out. If 70% to 80% happen and 20% to 30% fall off, but those people I do care about that they’re going to come back to me.

I got an email from someone. It was a stay-in-touch email. He was like, “I can’t believe how fast the last four weeks had flown. Last time I talked to you, you were heading down to the lake. How was your trip?” He clearly has a tickler and a system and took some notes. I thought, “That is impressive.” It’s somebody that I could ultimately end up hiring to help with my business. It elevates your idea of who this person is that they care enough, are organized enough, are action-oriented enough to follow through with that. I think that’s a good point.

I had one more question that came up as you were talking. You said you have to know yourself and I’m curious what’s your take on the more you know yourself, the better you’re going to able be to know your customer. How does that play out for you? What do you think about that?

I think as leaders, we have to know our strengths and weaknesses because as leaders, we have the ability to own what we’re good at or willing to see what we’re good at because sometimes we don’t. We’re willing to see what we’re not good at and as opposed to stuff that into a drawer, bring in support around it. They say the greatest leaders build themselves teams that support every weakness they have. When you show up that way, then you can show up with a great heart to know your customer and to know when, “If I’m not organized in a certain fashion, I know my team has my back and we could then be of service to people.” None of us are graded 100% of anything. We all stink at something and we’re not supposed to be good at everything.

From the Barre to the Boardroom: Choreographing Business Success Through Authentic Relationships

We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. I come from a line of women and there’s an organizational track that runs through this women’s line in my family. From my mom in her day in her sweet spot, both my sister and I, my daughter, my niece. I do strategic planning, growth development for companies and organizations. I think I’m pretty organized. My sister and my daughter talk in front of my face like, “Ivy I will never get that. She can’t stay organized that way.” I truly think my daughter cuddles with a spreadsheet. Know what you’re good at and know where you’re not. Have that as a backup. I have an uncanny memory with some things and I have a lousy memory with others. My mother who is in her high 80s might not know a lot of things or remember a lot of things anymore, but she knows her numbers. We always said, “We’ll know if she has a memory issue when she doesn’t know her numbers.”

Ivy, this has been such a great conversation. Thank you so much for joining us. Where can people find you if they want to reach out or to follow you?

Please feel free to join me at SlaterSuccess.com. You’re going to find a ton of resources. There is a video of seven traits of great leaders. My podcast is called Her Success Story with interviews with smart gutsy women and a few wonderful men, as well as my book, From the Barre to the Boardroom: Choreographing Business Success Through Authentic Relationships.

Thank you again for being here. We have truly enjoyed this conversation. I know there are tons of knowledge that our readers gained from the conversation with you. We wish you continued health and wellness.

Thank you for the opportunity. It’s been a joy to be here with both of you.

I don’t know how we follow that up. That was an amazing conversation. I think some of the things that I pull out of that conversation with Ivy is that really knowing your customer means asking the questions. I think going in without the agenda, without saying, “I’m here to sell something,” but truly opening up from the heart and asking what is it they need, what is it they do, wanting to learn is such a key component of this. I know she didn’t use that word learn, but I think that that’s what underlies all of this. She did use the word curiosity.

What I got from that that I hope I will start implementing it because I grabbed onto this was about not just listening with your ears, but listening with your eyes, your heart, and your gut. I thought that was such a good, tangible, visual, mental image that you can use when you’re sitting down and talking to your customers. We have talked about surveys on paper or electronic surveys versus getting in front of them, having a conversation, reading body language, observing interactions, and that kind of thing. That’s one thing I love to do at the advisory board meetings is to step back and observe how our client is interacting with their customers and try to get the vibe of what’s going on in the room. I thought that was a brilliant thing that she said about listening with your whole body.

I find the same thing to be true. When I’m doing the analysis on the customer experience and reading the feedback, reading reviews, the survey comments, I do that from a full-body experience. It’s hard to teach people to do. I don’t think it’s impossible. You’ve got to have that willingness to do it and that openness to be vulnerable because it does have an effect on you when you feel someone else’s emotions when you’re reading that. Another element that stands out to me is that if you want to really know your customer, you’ve got to really know yourself. While we haven’t talked about it extensively in this show so far, the element of personal development is key to leadership success.

If you’re the C-level executive or a business owner reading this, you’re more than likely to have gone through some type of personal development work. They may have called it coaching or something else, but that’s an area where you may look and say, “How do I go deeper into that? How do I understand myself? Who can I get as a mentor or a coach to help me through this?” It will accelerate your results in so many ways and it will have an impact on your business as well. I know as a small business owner, and Betsy I’m sure you’ve seen this as well, your business can only grow to the extent of the weaknesses that you rely upon. It doesn’t matter how good my strengths are. If I have a weakness that I am the one delivering the value in that area, that’s the best I can get.

It’s funny thinking about knowing yourself about what I’ve observed with various clients on those leaders that are open to feedback from the customers versus those that immediately feel defensive. Fortunately, 99.9% of the people I work with wouldn’t hire us if they didn’t have some ability to be open-minded toward the feedback. I have had that occasional leader who the minute the customer would start talking, you could feel their body tense up. They were already thinking about their response instead of listening to understand. They’re thinking, “How can I respond?” That personal development side and knowing yourself well enough to know that sometimes these feedbacks are not easy to hear, but it’s going to help us grow as individuals and grow as a company. She’s got a lot of good mojo with her clients and has such great skills as far as being a good human and caring about her customers. That’s it for this episode with our guest, Ivy Slater. We look forward to seeing you next time on the show.

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About Ivy Slater

Ivy Slater is a professionally certified business coach, speaker, internationally bestselling author and podcast host. After owning and operating a 7-figure printing business, having been in the industry for 20 years, she started Slater Success, which focuses on developing great leaders and facilitating business growth and expansion. Ivy works with private clients, hosts roundtables for business leaders and offers corporate training on topics including communication, sales and strategic planning. She speaks nationwide on the topics of leadership, sustainable growth and the value of relationships.

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