10 Tips for Building Stronger Client Relationships
How much focus do you put into building strong relationships with your clients?
The success of your business, especially if you are a B2B company, is largely dependent on the kind of relationships you build with your clients.
This is particularly important when you are a small company or when your company is still in its early stages and has not build a strong enough reputation.
There are a number of reasons why building strong client relationships is a key factor in the success of your business. According to this article published on Huffpost, attracting a new client costs 6-7 times more than what it takes to retain an existing client. Another article by McKinsey & Company notes that 70% of customer’s buying decision are based on how the client feels the company is treating them, which is a key factor of client relationships.
Finally, another study by Salesforce shows that 72% of customers will tell others about their positive experiences with your company. This means that, if you focus on building strong relationships with your clients, you can easily turn them into brand ambassadors.
On the surface, forging strong client relationships might seem like a simple thing to do, but in reality, it is a challenging task that requires time, effort, commitment, and tact. Good client relationships go beyond simply delivering what your clients need from your company.
Good client relationships are about making your clients feel that your company is a partner that is committed to the success of the client, rather than simply being a service provider. They are about cultivating trust in your clients and making them know that you care about them and are ready and willing to listen to them.
They also depend on qualities like trust, open communication, active collaboration, mutual concern, long term perspective and keeping commitments.
While establishing strong relationships with your clients might take a lot of your time and effort, the benefits are enormous.
Such clients will reward you with bigger and better projects, increased business, additional connections, and most importantly, positive word of mouth advertisement.
So, question is, how exactly do you build and maintain strong client relationships?
Below, let’s take a look at 10 tips that will help you enhance the relationships between you and your clients.
1. REALLY UNDERSTAND YOUR CLIENTS AND HOW THEY WORK
If you are a fan of sports, you probably have an idea how teams prepare for matches.
The coaches and their tactical teams watch several of their opponents’ previous matches and try to understand the opponents’ style of play, their strengths and weaknesses, their best players, their weakest players, their mindset, and so on.
Armed with this information, the coach can then come up with a game plan that gives them the greatest chances of beating their opponents.
While your clients are more of partners rather than opponents, the same kind of preparation should be applied whenever it comes to working with a new client.
Once you get to a point where you are considering working with a certain client, start by doing a thorough research about the company. What are their main products or services? What is their mission and vision? What projects have they been working on in the recent past, and what projects are they working on currently? What exactly are their expectations in case they decide to work with your company?
Doing this kind of research and knowing everything you can about the client has several benefits. First, it will give you confidence and enthusiasm from your very first interaction with the client and allow you to create a good first impression, which is critical in building good relationships with clients.
Doing this kind of research also allows you to speak to the client in their own language.
This shows the client that you know what they are about and understand what their needs are.
It also makes the client confident that you can actually meet their needs, which is also a critical part of establishing a strong relationship with the client.
2. CHECK IN FREQUENTLY
I want you to think about some of the people you are very close with, such as your parents or kids, a very close friend, or your significant other. How often do you communicate with each other?
I’m guessing that at most, you cannot go more than a few days without getting in touch.
Both of you understand that this is part of maintaining the strong bond you have between the two of you. The same thing applies when it comes to creating strong client relationships.
Whenever you are working on a client’s project, get in the habit of checking in with them every few days or at least once a week.
During the check-ins, give the client an update of how their project is coming along, ask questions about anything you might want clarification on, share any challenges or pain points you are going through, and ask the client to share any information, concerns, or feedback that will help you deliver the project satisfactorily.
Such check-ins show the client that you actually care about them and the success of their project.
If you happen to find yourself in the client’s neighborhood, don’t be afraid to walk in for a quick hello.
Such casual meetings are a great way to show that the client is more than a paycheck for them, and creates an opportunity for you to develop a personal relationship with them.
3. ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Most companies only ask for feedback from clients once they have completed the client’s project. However, if your aim is to forge strong relationships with your clients, you should consistently ask for feedback over the course of the project and constantly try to find out how you can improve the project.
For instance, let’s say you are developing a website for a client, and you have already identified the client’s goals and defined the scope of the project. Instead of waiting until you have completed the whole project to ask for the client’s feedback, you can request their feedback after each milestone.
For example, after creating a sitemap and wireframe, give the client a quick call and find out if there is something that has been left out.
From there, after the website content has been created, show it to the client and get their thoughts about the content. One you have created mockups for the site, call the client once again, share the mockups with them and hear what they think about it.
By regularly asking for the client’s feedback, you are subliminally letting them know that you care about their opinion and the success of their project. It also increases the likelihood of delivering something that the client will be very satisfied with.
For this strategy to work, however, there are some things you need to keep in mind. First, you should make it clear to the client that you are open to all sorts of feedback and encourage them to share any feedback they have. Second, you should not just ask for feedback for the sake of it.
Any feedback shared by the client should be implemented. If you feel that the client’s suggestions are not realistic, or do not make sense, don’t just ignore the client’s feedback. Instead, have a professional conversation with them and let them know why their suggestions might not work.
Doing this makes the client feel that their opinion is respected, which is an important factor in establishing a strong relationship with the client.
4. DELIVER ON THE CLIENT’S EXPECTATIONS
A key part of building strong relationships with your clients is setting expectations, and then delivering on these expectations.
You cannot forge strong relationships with your clients if you are constantly missing deadlines, delivering under par results, and so on.
To do this, the first thing you should do is have a conversation with the client and set clear and realistic expectations about how you are going to deliver their project, when you will deliver, how you will communicate to the client over the course of the project and so on.
Here, you need to be honest about the capabilities and limitations of your business so that you do not end up promising something that you cannot deliver.
Once you have done that, you should then do everything within your capability not only to meet your client’s expectations, but to actually exceed them.
If you do this, you build the client’s confidence in your company, and you can bet that they will always look for you whenever they have another project.
5. KEEP THE CLIENT ACCOUNTABLE
I mentioned earlier that a good client is like a partner. When you have a partnership with someone, you are not the only one putting in all the effort. Everyone in the partnership has their set of expectations that they need to deliver. This applies even when it comes to your clients.
Once you have made it clear to the client what they should expect from you, you should also make it clear what you expect from them. Are there some deadlines that the client needs to meet (such as payment of deposits or provision of materials crucial to the project)? When is the client allowed to contact you? Are there some tasks in the project that are the responsibility of the client? Make sure that these expectations are put in writing.
After creating expectations for the client, don’t stop there. You will also need to keep the client accountable to their end of the deal. If they fail to hold up their end of the deal, reach out to them and let them know that their non-compliance is holding back the project.
Now, I know that many people might find it intimidating to confront a client to hold them accountable for their part of the project, but doing so shows the client that you care about the project, that you are in control, and that you are confident.
It also reduces the likelihood of something in the project going wrong, and makes the client respect you more.
Remember, respect is one of the foundations of a strong relationship.
6. EMBRACE YOUR ROLE AS THE EXPERT
To create strong client relationships, you need to get the client to trust you. One of the best ways of getting your clients to trust you is to portray yourself as an expert who is exceptionally qualified and self-assured.
A lot of people think that portraying yourself as an expert is all about making sure that you deliver on your promises to the client. While this will contribute to portraying yourself as an expert, it is only part of the equation.
You also need to show the client that you have deep knowledge of your industry, and that this knowledge influences how you get your work done.
One way to showcase your expertise is to be willing to act as a reliable resource for the client to learn things about your industry. Create a policy of openness between you and the client and encourage them to feel free to come to you with any questions they might have about anything related to your industry.
When they do this, you should then go ahead and provide knowledgeable and deeply insightful answers to the client. In addition, every once in a while, you should do something to help the client learn more about your industry.
You can do this by recommending an industry event they might want to attend, sending over links to an industry related article they might find interesting, and so on.
Part of embracing your role as an expert also involves sharing your honest expert opinion, even in situations where doing this might not be in the best interest for you, or in situations where doing this might mean telling the client something they do not want to hear.
For instance, if the kind of solution the client wants is more expensive (more money for you), but you feel that a less costlier solution (less money for you) would actually be more effective, sharing your opinion with the client will make them more trusting of your opinion.
Similarly, if you feel that you cannot deliver what the client expects, letting them know and recommending someone who can do it for them will also build more trust.
Doing this shows the client that what you care for most is the success of the project, not just making money at the expense of the client.
7. WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATION
Communication is a very important aspect of relationship building.
It is impossible to build strong relationships with anyone without proper communication. When it comes to building strong relationships with clients, there are a few communication tips to keep in mind.
First, if possible, you should lean towards communication that provides a personal touch, such as in-person or phone conversations.
It is a lot easier to form a strong bond with someone you talk to face-to-face compared to someone with whom you have only interacted via email.
That said, I know that it is impossible to have in-person or phone conversations all the time, and therefore, you also need to know how to effectively communicate with your clients online. When it comes to writing emails, make sure that your emails are clear and to the point.
No one wants to read a 10 paragraph email when what you are saying can be communicated in a single paragraph. In addition, all your emails should have a call to action so that when they are done reading, the recipient has a clear idea of what is expected of them.
You also need to make sure that your emails do not have any spelling and grammar mistakes. Such small mistakes can make you look unprofessional, which will in turn undermine your ability to forge strong relationships with your clients.
Finally, it is advisable to follow every in-person or phone conversation with an email highlighting what you discussed and what was decided.
This does two things: First, it provides a record for everything that was discussed and ensures that it is clear to everyone what needs to be done. Second, it holds both you and the client accountable.
8. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR MISTAKES
In an ideal world, everything would be done perfectly, and each one of your clients’ expectations would be met without a challenge. We don’t live in an ideal world, however, and therefore, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen.
How you handle these mistakes will greatly influence your ability to build strong relationships with your clients.
When you notice that a mistake has happened, the first thing you should do is to reach out to the client. Let them know what has happened, and if the mistake was your fault, apologize to the client for it.
Don’t be afraid to take responsibility for the mistake. From there, tell the client what you are doing to correct the mistake, and how these solutions will impact the overall delivery of the project. From there, put all your focus into implementing those solutions.
For instance, let’s say you are working on a construction project for your client, but then the procurement officer within your company purchases the wrong materials, something that negatively affects both the budget and the delivery time. Once you notice that the mistake has been done, you can reach out to the client and say something like:
“I wanted to give you an update on the progress of the project. There was an issue of internal miscommunication, and as a result, our procurement team procured the wrong materials for the interior finishes. We do realize that this mistake will negatively impact the project, and we sincerely apologize for that. We have already made an order for the right materials, and we will incur the cost of the wrong materials that were already ordered. We have also taken action to ensure that this will not happen again. However, we wanted to let you know due to the time it will take to have the correct materials delivered, the completion of the project will be pushed back by a week.”
Even though you have made a regrettable mistake, taking the initiative to communicate this to your client, letting them know how it will affect the project, and showing that you are ready to incur the costs resulting from the mistake will make the client respectful of your professionalism and will enhance the relationship between you and them.
9. TREAT EVERY CLIENT AS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ONE
Very often, you might be tempted to treat your clients differently depending on the nature of business they do with you or the amount of revenue they bring to your company.
However, if you want to strong relationships with your clients, you should treat all of them in the best way possible, even if they don’t bring as much money to your company.
Remember, word-of-mouth is very powerful. The small client you are treating poorly might have connections to another one of your big clients, and if word goes round that you are treating the smaller client poorly, even your big clients will assume you are being pretentious with them.
Actually, there is no point in treating any of your clients poorly.
Even if a client doesn’t bring much money to you, they could end up referring big clients to you, and this will depend on how you treat them. Alternatively, the small company of today might grow into the huge company of tomorrow, and their continued business will depend on how you treated them and the kind of relationship you built with them today.
10. DON’T BE ALL BUSINESS
Even though a client hired you to get some work done for them, don’t just be all business while interacting with them.
If you want to build strong and lasting relationships with them, you need to show that you care about them as an individual, not just as a client with a fat checkbook. Cultivate a personal relationship with them by remembering to focus on the small details that make them an individual.
For instance, before settling to business, you can ask the client about their weekend or about their children. If the client had notified you that they were going for a trip, remember to ask how it went.
If the client received a promotion recently, remember to congratulate them for it. Such small gestures will show the client that you care about them beyond the money they are bringing to your company, and this will definitely strengthen the relationship between the two of you.
If you want to build a successful business, it is absolutely important that you focus on building strong client relationships. Strong client relationships lead to benefits like bigger and better projects, increased business, additional connections, and positive word of mouth advertisement.
While building strong client relationships takes a lot of effort, time, commitment, and tact, the tips shared in this article will set you on the right path and ensure that your clients remain around for the long term.
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