Using the Engagement Box

More than a decade ago, I attended a seminar where the facilitator talked about clients’ walls. They felt stonewalled by someone they were trying to reach out to. Focusing on in-person meetings, using the phone, email and even social media, this facilitator shared 5 ways to destroy client walls and overcome reluctant prospects.

From the start, I felt there was something wrong with all of this.

Since 2001, I’ve been working with organizations around the world to understand their clients. Studying research carefully, I’ve also collected hundreds of stories of when people said they felt most engaged in things they needed to do.

From my work, I’ve learned that when client walls go up, the problem isn’t them—its us. That can be hard for people to understand or accept, so I want to share a tool I have created to think differently about it.

Following is my Engagement Box. It can be used by anyone trying to connect with other people, including salespeople, managers, teachers, social workers, politicians and others. It can be especially useful when client walls go up!

Description of the Engagement Box

The Engagement Box is made of four walls, and divided in four by an x axis and a axis. The axis is marked “Traditional” at the left, and “Nontraditional” at the right. The axis marked “Convenient” at the top, and “Inconvenient” at the bottom. This tool is from your perspective as the user.

Each quadrant of the Engagement Box should be labeled accordingly:

  • Between “Traditional” and “Convenient”, the quadrant should be marked “Traditional & Convenient Engagement”;
  • Between “Traditional” and “Inconvenient”, the quadrant should be marked “Traditional & Inconvenient”;
  • Between “Nontraditional” and “Convenient”, mark the quadrant “Nontraditional & Convenient”;
  • In the last quadrant between “Nontraditional” and “Inconvenient”, mark the box “Nontraditional & Inconvenient”.


Using the Engagement Box

To use the Engagement Box, the first thing you should do is pull out two blank pieces of paper. On the first, draw a line down the middle.

In the left column, write all of the things—everything—you currently do to engagement your clients, whether they’re potential customers, employees, students, food stamp recipients, or others. Write all of this on a piece of paper.

In the right column, brainstorm all of the things you could do to engage your current and potential clients and list them. Remember that in a brainstorm there are no dumb ideas, so don’t inhibit yourself.

When you’ve completed that, take out the blank page and draw the Engagement on it, filling the entire page. Follow the directions above.

On the second sheet, copy the graphic of the Engagement Box detailed above.

Then, read through the columns you’ve written already. On each, circle the items you want to keep doing or start doing.

Then take those items, and write them into the corresponding quadrants of the Engagement Box using the following questions:

  • Is this activity something that is easy for you? Then it belongs to the “Convenient” axis.
  • Is this activity something you or your organization has always done? Then it belongs to the “Traditional” axis.

If an activity is “Convenient” and “Traditional” then it goes in the quadrant you’ve labeled “Convenient & Traditional”. Do this in all four quadrants.

Its NOT All About You

When you’ve finished filling out all four quadrants, take a quick tally. Are most of your current activities in the “Convenient & Traditional” quadrant? That means that you’re doing most things for yourself and not for your client. The reason their walls are going up is that you are not meeting them where they are at. Instead, you’re insisting they come to where you are.

Differently, if all of your brainstormed activities are in the “Inconvenient & Nontraditional” quadrant, then you are trying to meet people where they are.

Engaging with your clients, whoever they are, is not all about you—but a lot of it is. As I’ve led thousands of people through this activity, I have seen eyes open and heard the power of learning to see things a new way. Suddenly, business owners have seen where they’re losing customers, principals have seen why students are dropping out, and managers have seen why they can’t retain employees.

By shifting your perspective from meeting your own needs to actually meeting your clients’ needs, you can also see other effects. You might grow compassion, discover empathy and feel reciprocity. You could also stop some of your bad habits and rejuvenate your perspectives towards the people you serve and work with everyday.

Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Ultimately, the Engagement Box can teach you how to show people how much you care.

THAT is the secret of bringing down the walls.

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