Conventional wisdom among writers is to assume readers have the intelligence of seventh graders. The premise is keep your message simple enough for a child to understand.
When it comes to communicating with clients, I believe the opposite is true. The more you treat your customers like they are smart, well-intentioned grown-ups, the more receptive they’ll be to your expertise. So, before explaining something to a client, demonstrate your confidence in their competence. Start with phrases along the lines of, “You probably already know…” or “I doubt this is new to you…” Not surprisingly, customers like to do business with people who seem to think they are important and smart. It’s a simple, powerful approach I call The Humility Advantage.
I wish I’d learned this sooner. Eventually I discovered that the more you treat clients like smart adults, the more receptive they’ll be to your expertise. Early in my career I used to finish my correspondence with phrases like, “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call…” Today, as a customer myself, I still receive emails that end with that phrase. Clients who have questions know they can ask. The offer to accept their questions is not only clichéd – which sounds like we’re not really thinking about what we’re writing – it’s also condescending. Like the client is too timid or too ignorant to ask questions.
As I point out in my Trusted Advisor presentations, every phrase you share either builds or diminishes trust. Next time you write to your client, you can avoid the unintended insult and invite a response by simply finishing with, “Your thoughts?”