We all know how important it is to build and maintain a strong relationship with your clients. It’s not unlike a relationship between two people; each of them has something to contribute that will benefit the other, and the partnership continues because of these shared advantages. By providing a product or service that appeals to a client on a consistent basis, they’ll remain loyal to your organization. If the relationship maintains this mutually-beneficial quality, clients will come to see you as more than just another business.
A relationship like this doesn’t always occur organically. It will often take some work on your part to cultivate a connection that will be of value to both of you. Here are a few tips to help you create a client relationship that will benefit you and your clients.
1. Understand their business
You wouldn’t want business advice from someone who knows nothing about your business, right? Your clients feel the same way. Understanding your clients’ business will allow you to better understand where they are coming from, which will let you know how to work with them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, just don’t make these questions seem like you’re prodding them to buy from you.
Display genuine interest in their profession. If you have some knowledge of the clients’ business prior to communicating with them, conduct a bit of research and learn about their company before you contact them. Find out how their business makes a profit, who their target audience is, and their best-selling or most recent products. Take this a step further by finding out what their competitors are doing. Knowing a bit about their business, and better yet their specific role within that business, will not only make you seem knowledgeable and credible, but you will also be better prepared to meet their needs.
2. Provide an education
Just as you need to understand your client’s business, it is important that they know exactly what you do. Give them the background of your organization, nothing formal, just a brief overview of how long you’ve been around and what you strive to achieve. Work yourself into this history and let them know when you started with the company. This will build a sense of experience and give the client a better concept of your role in the company. It will also help personalize you, which will come into play through your continued interactions.
Next, tell them about your methods and explain how you help your clients achieve results. Just as you learned about the nature of their business, explain to them how your organization can best meet their needs. This isn’t the time for gloating; just let them know that you’ve worked with similar businesses in the past, and you’ve consistently exceeded their expectations. Explain why your product or service is superior to those offered by your competition. Ask them if they have any questions, and answer them as transparently as possible.
3. Anticipate their needs
Now that you have knowledge of your client and their business, you’ll have a better understanding of their needs. This will begin as a superficial understanding; for example, you’ll be able to estimate the average price of their orders, and you’ll learn that summer is their busiest season. As you continue to interact with them though, their needs will become more apparent to you. Eventually, you will know what your client needs before they do, and none of their requests will take you by surprise. This insight will let you take care of any issues that pop up preemptively, which will increase the perception that you are looking out for their best interests.
4. Maintain contact
This tip is very important, but it can often get lost in the shuffle. It may sound like a hackneyed line from a rom-com, but we all know that the most important component in any relationship is communication. You need to stay in contact with your client as often as possible. It’s important that you balance your contact in a way that sufficiently reminds your clients of your services without inundating them with messages. Don’t be overbearing: no one likes to be nagged. Likewise, don’t push them toward business with every correspondence. Sometimes you just need to send them an email asking if they need anything from you. Make them see that you aren’t doing this out of self-interest, but because you care about their best interests.
You’ll likely end up taking the brunt of the communication responsibilities on yourself. This entails not only reaching out initially, but gauging their reactions as well. If you have a phone meeting scheduled with a client, then you should be the one to call them. If you haven’t heard from a client in a month or so, don’t assume that they’ll take the initiative to get ahold of you. As much as you’d like to think that they need you, they’ll be quick to look elsewhere for the services you provide if you can’t make yourself available.
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is failing to respond to their calls and emails. If a client leaves a message for you, then get back to them as soon as you can, even if the message isn’t urgent. They’ve taken the time to reach out to you, which signifies an appreciation for you and your services. Believe it or not, this is one of the most important things you can do to help you develop a more meaningful relationship with your client.
5. Foster a friendship
This one is fairly obvious. If you deal with clients on any level, then you probably already understand the value of getting into their inner circle. Let’s face it; we treat business associates differently than we treat our friends. We’re willing to say and do things for our friends that we simply wouldn’t do for clients. Let them know what’s going on with you and your company, offer them benefits that aren’t available to the general public, or give them superior service.
Make sure they’re aware that you appreciate their business and that you’ve come to see them as more than just another client. Doing so could produce several potential benefits. First off, they’ll be much more likely to continue doing business with you if you’re on friendly terms. In addition, a good impression will motivate them to recommend your product or services to other business in their industry, which is a massive networking advantage.
6. Be honest
Honesty is another one of those timelessly important qualities for a healthy relationship. Lies and deception won’t get you anywhere with your client in the long run, so be as honest as you can manage. Besides, you’ll get more out of an honest partnership than one that is based on pretense. Don’t inflate your limitations; if you do, your client will come to expect more out of you than you’re capable of doing. This will disappoint the client and cause them to lose faith in your abilities, which will make you seem ineffectual when compared to the standards you built for yourself.