Now that you’ve worked hard and earned a new client, don’t think that you can sit back on your laurels and catch your breath. It’s now just as important to build a great relationship with them. In fact, the success of every business depends on the relationship it maintains with clients. Once you convince your clients that they can trust you, your ability to offer excellent client service and the strong relationships you have is what will ensure the continuity of your business, guaranteeing you more referrals and incoming business as well as distinguishing you from your competition.
Top tips to excel at client relationship building
1. Keep a positive attitude
Having a positive attitude will benefit any relationship of yours. It’s often hard to stay upbeat when you feel like your success is at the mercy of the market and your clients, but no matter how tough the times are, you must show a positive face. Your clients are people, and no person will be attracted to and enjoy working with a harrowed or overwhelmed vendor or partner.
The trick to staying positive is to simply take a few minutes off before you meet a client. Either in your head or with someone who you trust run through an exercise of appreciation for the little positive things that often get forgotten in the grind. Make it a deliberate exercise, saying something like “I’ve got my health…I have a fantastic family…” You’ll be surprised how easy it is to shift focus back to a positive place, and this will make all the difference when you go on and meet your client.
2. Value their time, like you value your own
It’s common for small business owners and freelancers to find themselves running short on time. When clients or vendors push back projects, delay discussions, phone calls and other scheduled tasks in an already time-pressed schedule, it can leave a bad taste in the mouth.
For good client relationships, it’s important to make sure that you respect your clients’ time just as you want them to respect yours. This means returning phone calls and responding to emails promptly and not leaving any point unaddressed. With scheduled meetings and conference calls, try to adhere to estimated end times. If any of your clients are disrespectful, they might pick up a thing or two about valuing time from you too.
3. Always ask more questions
Healthy client relationships are built on trust and there should be a frequent exchange of ideas and opinions. Ask a lot of questions to have a crystal clear idea of what your client wants. Stay in touch and ask their opinions as often as possible. It’s also a good idea to accommodate your clients’ work styles by establishing what kind of communication suits them. For example, right at the outset, ask them how they prefer to communicate – Skype, email, phone call or breakfast meetings – and make sure you can accommodate those.
4. Be transparent
If you want to nurture your client relationship into a strong and long-term one, you should be as transparent and open as you can when it comes to your relationship and ideas about the project and its issues. You may want to seem agreeable at all times, but that is not advisable. You should be ready to say no if you’re asked to do something that’s beyond your interest or capability. Clients will respect your honesty and desire to do a good job.
5. Give more than is expected
Giving your clients more than they’ve asked for is a great way to encourage their trust in you. This is where value comes in. One way of exceeding expectations and providing value is to meet a need that your client may not even have noticed they have. When you do this, you gain an edge over your competition. Clients are likely to remember you for the extra service you provided them. On the other hand, if you just meet expectations, it’s not likely to excite clients. Exceeding expectations facilitates growth through better relationships.
Relationships lie at the heart of business interactions. Business success invariably hinges on relationships with clients, vendors, partners and others. Learn how to handle your client relationships and you’ll find it really easy to keep and develop your existing clients and even attract new clients through word-of-mouth and referrals.
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