Keeping a good relationship with your clients is the key to a successful business – everyone will tell you this and they will be right. But how should we approach our clients in order to build a strong, long lasting, trusty relationship? Some of my thoughts on this topic are gathered in the present article.
1. Don’t talk about what you can’t do, but rather about what you can do.
If you cannot do it, the other company can. When engaged in a discussion with a client we often tend to explain ourselves and linger too much on the negatives rather than the positives. Next time you are in this situation, talk about what you can do, give relevant details, but be honest, and admit what you can’t offer. For instance, instead of: We cannot send you the product today. We need more time to prepare it, but you will get the best quality at the best price on the market, you could tell your client: We can offer you the best quality on the market at the best price, and we can prove it, but in order to be able to give you that, we will need a short deadline extension. Will you be willing to wait another day to get the best there is or settle for what you can get today?.
2. Don’t start your sentence with an apology.
When we work, we make mistakes. It’s only natural to happen and when It does, you have to be able to admit it. However, the way in which you chose to do it can influence your future relationship with your client.
Although it may be tempting to open with First of all, let me apologize for the …, try to avoid it and rephrase so that your first sentence is one with a positive message, such as: Thank you for allowing us the time to process your request. Your business is appreciated and we are doing our best to fulfill your requirements. However, we have encountered a small difficulty, which has led to a delay but your project is in good hands and right now we are working on it.
And another thing – avoid saying if that has caused any inconvenience – it’s redundant and actually kind of annoying. Of course it has caused inconvenience, how would you have felt if one of your providers was 3 days late in sending you the product you needed? Instead, give your client a reassurance and show them some real comfort by offering something real, something they can put their finger on, like a discount on that project or the next one, or a great offer on one of your own products that you know they need. You’ll figure something out for sure!
3. Put yourself into his/her shoes.
They say you shouldn’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Which brings us to our next point – try to really understand your clients by putting yourself in their place. What would you want? How would you like your collaborators to treat you, to talk to you?
You will notice that half of your frustrations and half of your anger will start to dissipate as you get in the head of the person standing in front of you. But you won’t be able to do that before learning about the business, about its particularities. During the past years, specialists have pointed out that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is actually more significant that IQ and could produce major results in business communication.
Anyhow, if you really get into character, it works like a charm!
4. Be human.
Remember that you’re not a robot, but a human being. And your client knows that. So make small talk, ask them about their kids, about the weather, or anything you know they would enjoy talking about.
Making a connection with your client will ensure a faster reaction from their side, they will become more malleable and it will also be more fun working with them.
5. You don’t have to be friends with the client.
However, don’t cross the line with too much small talk or else you could slide to inappropriate behavior. You don’t need to ask your clients to go out for a beer or for a family holiday or a fun double date, unless your relationship has dramatically crossed the lines of professional collaboration.
Otherwise, keep it simple and do your best to please your client through your work and through great quality results exclusively – this will gain their respect and confidence and in the end, it’s really all you need to accomplish.
6. Be honest.
Don’t set up expectations you aren’t ready to accomplish. In a highly competitive environment, sometimes we tend to promise the Moon so that a good client will pick us. Don’t trick yourself into that! All you will accomplish is to get a bad review from an unsatisfied customer. Honesty is the best policy – tell your client exactly what you will offer and at what cost, so that they know what to expect at any time.
7. Pick up the phone every now and then.
I know you’re busy, we all are, but once in a while, picking up the phone and calling your client will actually prove fruitful.
We are all too hooked on emails and they are so impersonal. So good for information exchange, but so bad for human relations. Emails are too easy – it takes almost no time and very little effort to write an email. But calling a person or even meeting with them for 30 minutes will make a difference.
So next time you get an email from your customer asking you what you thought of their recent idea, just call them. Tell them over the phone what you thought of it and wish them all the best with their future work. You’ll be there to support it and they will certainly come to you for it!
8. Don’t take it personally.
This is a very important rule of the game and if you fail to learn it, it will most probably be no fun for you. Don’t make it about yourself! Don’t take it personally when a client is shouting at you over the phone (or over the email, via 10 question marks at the end of a sentence that doesn’t end with thanks). Don’t make it about yourself when they are disappointed or they’re acting superior. Try to detach yourself from the matter and handle it with calm. Maybe they’re having a bad day or maybe the service you have offered them was really below their expectations – either way, you need to find a solution, not cry in the bathroom and wonder why they hate you so much. It’s just business and there’s a fine line between caring for what you do and taking it too far!
9. Remember that in the end you’re not supposed to sell a product in itself, but create a human reaction.
This one is easy – think about a child’s reaction to a present in a box – it’s almost impossible to fake! This is what you have to get from your clients – the honest, spontaneous, positive reaction to your product. Think about that for your next project!
10. And finally, do your job well.
Because if everything else is great, but you don’t have much idea of what’s really going on with your business, it’s just all in vain.
Learn how to do what you do at your best, put a lot of passion into it and all the above will just come natural.