When to Identify Assumption vs. Assertive - This Could Be the Reason You're Not Keeping Your Clients

In the fast-paced world of event planning, client retention is a critical metric of success (honestly, it’s vital to any industry/business). However, many unknowingly sabotage their efforts by falling into the trap of assumptions. Understanding the distinction between assumptions and assertiveness can be a game-changer in maintaining and strengthening client relationships. In this blog, we'll explore how to identify when you're being assumptive and how to cultivate assertiveness to keep your clients happy and coming back for more.

Understanding Assumptions

Assumptions are beliefs or statements taken for granted without proof. They often manifest in subtle yet impactful ways in client interactions.

Common Assumptions in the Events Industry:

  • Assuming client needs based on past events.
  • Assuming client feedback means satisfaction.
  • Assuming what works for one client will work for another.

These assumptions can lead to misaligned expectations and eroded trust. For example, when you assume a client's needs based on their previous events, you might miss out on their evolving preferences, new expectations, or the fact that they’re tired of doing the same old thing.

Previously, I was working with a client who had a compressed timeline. With limited information, I ran forward executing with expertise, delivering everything at budget or below and ultimately delivering an event like all the rest of them – HOW BORING. After the event, I contacted her and asked for her feedback. She said everything was “fine,” it was “good,” and thank you. I have never felt so deflated. How could this event be “fine?"

Afterward, I took a moment to contemplate and realized I never really asked her what her measure of success was. Of course, the timeline was compressed, and due to my quick reaction, it was a “successful” event but lukewarm. The misunderstanding was so subtle, and I realized that, in the end, there was no reason for this client to continue doing business with me. I didn’t get down to the reason why she wanted to do this in the first place.

My lesson in this was to make space to ask the WHY. Her answer could have had the exact outcome, but I would have at least had a goal beyond execution and successful logistics. I would have planted the question in her mind that might have made her ask in the end…Was this what I wanted?

Ohhhh, now I see what she was asking. That lens would have been placed, and she would have processed through a different POV, thus securing a deeper relationship and proving that I could offer more than execution and logistics.

The Power of Assertiveness

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In client communication, it means being clear, direct, and proactive.

Characteristics of Assertiveness:

  • Clear and direct communication.
  • Proactive problem-solving.
  • Confidence without aggression.

Benefits of Assertiveness:

  • Building trust and transparency.
  • Ensuring all parties are on the same page.
  • Improving client satisfaction and retention.

Being assertive creates an open dialogue with your clients, ensuring that their needs and expectations are clearly understood and met. This proactive approach can significantly enhance the client experience and build long-term loyalty.

One of my core attributes is assertiveness (something that I have in abundance). Now, in the dating world, that scares the sh*t out of men, but in the business world, it’s an honored skill. 

So many client stories – in this one, my client pushed for gifts as an incentive. Historically, she had always gone for name-brand gifts, like Tiffany’s, Rolex, etc. But these were multi-millionaire clients – they can buy these for themselves. So, as we sat down and reviewed the options, they just felt wrong. Instead, I asked her about her thoughts on indigenous gifts. Why not give something that reminds them of where they were, what they did, and the memories that became core in their consciousness?

While this particular story isn’t overly exciting, at its core is the assertive approach to change it up. Think about the guest experience vs. the name brand they’re going home with. If I had not been assertive, I would be looking for the next new Tiffany thing.

Identifying When You're Being Assumptive

Self-reflection is critical to identifying assumptions in your client interactions. Here are some techniques to help you recognize when you're being assumptive:

Self-Reflection Techniques:

  • Ask yourself if you have all the information needed to make a decision.
  • Consider if you're basing your actions on past experiences rather than current client needs.
  • Reflect on recent client interactions where expectations weren't met and analyze why.

Feedback Loops:

  • Regularly seek honest feedback from clients about their experience.
  • Implement surveys, follow-up calls, and feedback forms to gather insights.

Creating effective feedback loops helps you understand your clients better and adjust your approach accordingly.

After the experience I outlined above (the client with the lukewarm event), my biggest takeaway was from the qualifying questions. I needed to ask to ensure I was listening and not assuming as the planning moved forward.

Cultivating Assertiveness in Client Relationships

Developing assertiveness requires practice and a conscious effort to improve communication skills. Here are some practical tips to help you become more assertive:

Practical Tips:

  • Practice active listening to understand your client's needs fully.
  • Use clarifying questions to ensure you have all the necessary information.
  • Role-play scenarios with your team to practice assertive communication.

Building Confidence:

  • Boost your self-confidence by celebrating small successes in assertive communication.
  • Encourage your team to adopt an assertive approach and support each other in this journey.

You can collectively improve client relationships and satisfaction by fostering a culture of assertiveness within yourself and your team.

In the events industry, understanding the difference between assumptions and assertiveness can make all the difference in client retention. Recognizing when you're assumptive and cultivating assertiveness can build stronger, more transparent relationships with your clients. Remember, everyone makes assumptions, but our ability to learn and grow from these experiences sets us apart as successful event professionals.

Final Thoughts

"Assumptions are the termites of relationships." - Henry Winkler

By replacing assumptions with assertiveness, you can ensure your client relationships are built on a solid foundation of trust and clarity. And quite frankly – you become irreplaceable. Take that to the mattresses. 

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