Today I am negotiating with a client. I am negotiating a contract for my coaching services. This has been an ongoing client that I have worked with for quite some time.

I realized that we have become friends through the process of business. I know how many kids he has, about his divorce and about his previous marriage. I know what his wife does professionally, and I know what his own parents do professionally. I know his buttons and his hot points and I know that he is slow to negotiate and that he also has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.

I know that the best way to work with this client is to be as friendly as possible, but as firm as possible. Give a little but not so much that I am backed into a corner. I know that he has a soft side as well as a very deliberate business side, and that he often uses silence to get his way. He makes his opponents wait for the answer so they’ll break.. or back down.

Today I’ve realized how valuable that it is so really KNOW your client. It’s not enough to know what they do in their jobs or profession, but to really KNOW them as people. For instance, how does he/she deal with conflict? Do they have a mate at home? Does he value her or does he take advantage of her? Is he there for his kids or is he merely a figure head? Knowing these things may tell you how attached he might get to be with his clients and customers. The better relationships he is able to develop at home, the more he’s learned about business, that’s for sure. Keeping a long term marriage and having kids makes a person much more malleable. It requires endurance over the long haul and the ability to be flexible because you won’t always get your way.

What about his hobbies? Does he have them? Is he overly meticulous about them or is it more for fun? Is he talented at something that is unusual? How much dedication did it take to learn or accomplish it? What about his alma matter? Did he go to a college that he is proud of? Was it nearly impossible to get into the university or did he go to the local state university that was convenient? How did he or she pick their profession? Were they talked into it by their parents for the practicality of it or did they experience it during an internship?

These things can all be important to you as the account executive, sales person or executive. Knowing your client as a PERSON is probably the greatest asset that you can develop over your competition. They might be selling their product or their service, but if you know the client, their likes and dislikes, their moods and their work habits, you’ll know when to call, when not to call, when to push a little harder and when to back off. You’ll know when to endorse your client’s strengths and when to give him information that he needs to make a decision. In the beginning it takes time to read the moods, habits and the personality of your client, but after time, the relationship becomes established and many times the bond can’t be broken without someone making a serious blunder.

I’m also coaching a consulting/recruiting company whose job is to book people within other organizations. One of the most important things that they’ve done is to study up on the cultures of each organization. What sorts of people do well there? Do they value individuality and creativity or more of the corporate type? Do they want out of the box thinkers and dressers versus the person who will fit into a new organization with no problem.

Sometimes, taking one look at a person, you’ll know if they are a leader or a follower. You’ll know if they can deal with corporate politics or if they’d prefer to mesh within the organization and not create waves. Other times, it takes time to find this out.. but it’s always good to know before you place a client in the wrong culture.

Another sales organization I’m working with books people with people! They are a dating organization! Their job is to figure out who actually might be a compatible mate for one another. I’ve discovered while that much of this goes on instinct, its up to the account executive to do a complete job of getting to know the candidates before they set up two people. Just the fact that two people are nice does NOT equal chemistry. There always needs to be that respect factor figured in. Respect for their individual choices they’ve made in life and for their accomplishments. When people are looking for that perfect “someone” they don’t want to settle. They want the cream of the crop. So pairing up people who are equally as accomplished is harder to do. Philosophy on life is another place to review well. Do they take charge and go after life? Do they take risks? Have they followed their dreams or a very safe path of employment and life? There are benefits to both, but often times, one won’t mesh with the other.

My friend Elisa has used their service a few times. She’s an electric and motivating personality. She’s accomplished a lot as an entrepreneur and has traveled a lot nationally and internationally. She’s been matched with some very nice people, but they didn’t have the worldliness or the culture that she’s become accustomed to. She didn’t know how to put her finger on it, so I told her how she could better position herself so they’d know how to “pitch” her. (An old agent’s/publicist’s trick! )

Tell them: “Elisa is an accomplished, world class traveler and professional. She is cultured and sophisticated but her down to earth style puts people at ease. She’ll be most comfortable with a man who has been married before, has children, and who is successful himself. He should have financial stability and like to travel, know the time and commitment kids take, and to meet new people and have fun.”

Taking the time to know the person is the most important thing that any sales person can do. The upfront time that it takes to do this can be extended if the relationship is conducted over the phone. If you are lucky enough to get to meet the potential client in person or at a conference, see if there is anyway to spend time out of the office at lunch or at a conference together. Building that bond in the beginning can create lots of money in your pocket in the end. And while it’s nice to get new business of course, it’s also great to do business with people you’ve gotten to know, like and enjoy.