I have had the opportunity to spend most of my working life in a client service capacity thanks to agency experience. While North Highland is a business services organization, my main role really fits a "client-side" description. 

Being on the both sides of the table has taught me one valuable thing about building client relationships. 

It's listening. 

It's not a novel idea. It's honestly pretty cliche. People talk about listening a lot (which sounds odd as I write that). But it's so valuable and terribly underestimated. 

If you work with a lot of clients in a niched space, it's easy to be tempted to somewhat "cookie cutter" your solutions across multiple clients. After all, you know best practices and have been able to replicate success multiple times using a similar playbook. However, not all clients are created equal. 

When you're the service provider or expert in the situation, the natural inclination is to assume you know what's best for the client as soon as you walk in the door. A lot of the times, that assumption is correct! However, every business has nuances. Some may be political, some may be cultural, but not all organizations need the same thing. 

Taking time to listen to your clients needs goes a long way. Not listening in a patronizing way but really listening.

The problem you assumed you were coming in to solve may be something entirely different.

What worked for all of your other clients may not work for this one. 

Clients know when you don't listen. It's frustrating.

I know that I've likely frustrated clients in the past, trying to force fit a solution on them that just wasn't a fit. I've also been on the other end of that table. It's harder to help your client succeed when you aren't solving for their real needs. It takes more work to custom fit solutions for a client need - but that's what they're paying you to do. 

It takes humility to really listen. When you truly take time to listen and learn, you have to go into with the mindset that everything fix-it idea you thought was right going into the engagement may not be right at all. It takes courage and humility to admit to yourself that you may not have been right. 

I've talked enough about listening. What about you? Overrated idea or undervalued?