To Win, Be Easy to Work With
March 11th 2023
“Be easy to work with. It matters,” Wen-Szu Lin, author of Deliver, shared in a recent guest lecture at Johns Hopkins University. Whether you’re working to attract clients, hold onto clients, recruit employees, or negotiate with a potential vendor or partner, being easy to work with can make or break you.
It can even be a competitive advantage.
Not exactly sure if you’re easy to work with? Consider how you respond to requests, whether you consider the impact of your efforts on others, and if you receive repeated or follow-up inquiries from clients or colleagues. If you’re easy to work with, others should gravitate toward you and prefer collaborating. If you’re not, you likely receive one-time requests with no follow-up, or business relationships may be short-lived.
Make Life Easier for Others
At its core, being easy to work with means making life easier for others. “Others” are anyone you interact with, including clients, colleagues, supervisors, vendors, family members, friends, neighbors, service providers, and random people on the street. The more you can make being easy to work with part of your daily routine, the more you will be seen as such.
Demonstrating how easy you are to work with can start with holding the door for others, allowing someone in a hurry to go ahead of you, or giving up a seat on the subway. At work, being easy to work with looks like responding quickly to emails, offering to take care of a small task to reduce the burden on someone else, or simply living up to your promises; be dependable.
You don’t have to be a martyr to be easy to work with, fortunately, and you can set boundaries. But here are some specific opportunities to demonstrate the advantages of working with you:
Sometimes the best way to help someone is to provide resources or introduce them to someone else who can help them make progress, if that person isn’t you. For example, if a colleague is looking for printer recommendations, make a few phone calls or email inquiries and compile a list for them. Not only does that help them narrow the field of options, but you’ve shown that you’re trying to make their life easier. That’s big.
Or, if you have to let an employee go because they’re not a fit for the job they are in, rather than just showing them the door, you could provide a list of career coaches or even current job openings that you think would be a good fit. Again, you’re demonstrating that you’re trying to make their life easier by giving them a hand in finding their next job.
Go Above and Beyond
To make yourself indispensable to customers or employers, do more than the bare minimum. Sure, you’ll want to deliver on your promise to do whatever you committed to, but how about getting the project done before the deadline and maybe even under budget? That’s going to stand out.
You’ve probably heard some of the legends surrounding the impressive customer service that retailer Nordstrom has long been known for. Most are stories where employees went above and beyond, in order to make life easier for their customers. One story involved a Nordstrom worker delivering a tailored suit to a client after hours at his hotel, to be sure he had it in plenty of time for an important presentation the next day. Another famous tale was about a clerk who allowed a long-time customer to return four car tires that were the wrong size, despite the fact that Nordstrom has never sold tires.
You probably don’t want to go that far and take a loss to make a customer happy, but think about what you can do that would ease a customer’s concerns or quiet their nerves. If you’re a retailer, can you offer free gift wrapping or local delivery? If you’re a salon, can you provide a quick video on how to maintain a client’s new hairstyle or how to operate a styling tool you’ve sold them?
Anticipate Questions or Concerns
No matter what business you’re in, you probably know some of the common questions customers will ask regarding your products or services, because you’ve heard them countless times already.
Maybe it’s about how something works, about alternatives, or about next steps. Whatever those common questions are, if you can anticipate them and answer them before they are asked, you will impress your customer. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, can you provide samples of your design on a variety of surfaces, so your client can get a clear picture of how it will be read? If you’re a venue popular for wedding receptions, can you offer recommendations as far as preferred vendors for photos, flowers, music, and invitations?
Brainstorm what you can give your customers that would help them make their life easier, or help them make the most of their purchase, without costing you a lot of money.
Do What you Promise
Even if you can’t do more than you promised, at least do what you said you would. Be on time for meetings, turn in assignments before the deadline, anticipate questions others may have and provide answers in advance. That saves others time, which makes their lives easier.
Knowing that you are reliable, that you will do what promise, is another way to become a go-to vendor or employee, because you make others’ lives easier by reducing the risk that something will go wrong for them. Consistency and reliability are other ways to build long-term, profitable relationships, because you are easier to work with than others who are inconsistent.