Recently, I was in a meeting. I had been hired by an agency to do some work and we were meeting with their client. In the middle of the meeting, the head of said agency leaned over and said, “You need to agree with them.” Them, meaning their client. And the directive to me…stifle your true thoughts during this brand trajectory discussion and simply nod.

No thanks. By not contributing, you are not getting what you are paying for and your client is certainly not getting what they are paying you for. It is a lose-lose.

A few days later, a former client called me up to tell me about an award her company had recently won and wondered about the possibility of publicizing it. I said I didn’t think the award would be big enough to garner media attention and that she should save her money.

My company lost approximately $20,000 for acting in the best interest of the client. Did I lose any sleep over it? No way. Is this a blog post touting my high ethical standards in hopes that referrals will result? Nope.

It is a commentary against the “yes” people of the world. The people who nod and thoughtlessly agree to whatever their client is saying. The people who are hired not for expertise, but instead for that dependable nod. The people who are hired to aggrandize others’ ideas for the sake of filling coffers.

I’ve written about this before , but I continually see consultants unable or unwilling to say no to their clients. It is baffling. In a business relationship, your client is counting on you to shoot straight. Whether it’s the results you’re getting, your capabilities, the cost of a project, or what they should or should not do to meet their goals and invest wisely in a marketing initiative.

So what does honesty in a client relationship look like? It’s built on mutual respect, transparency, and trust. Your client trusts you to be able to do the things you’ve promised—and to advise them in a strategic, ethical way. Share your “yes” people stories…stories about consultants who have agreed with their clients for all the wrong reasons and to the client’s disadvantage. I’m sure you have them; these people are everywhere.


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