All business owners know that in order to grow or even to survive they have to cultivate and nurture relationships with existing and potential clients. Why? Well, you have to assume that in the natural course of things some clients will fall by the wayside for no fault of yours, it just happens and you need paying clients to stay in business. So, while you do have a positive relationship with your client you want to do all you can so that they stay with you, refer you to others or increase their spending with you. A productive relationship enables you to better understand their needs and for them to more fully understand what you have to offer – they may only be aware of a small percentage of what you do.
Improving your client relationship simply makes sense and worth putting some effort into even for the smallest of businesses. Some ways to help build and improve these relationships are :
1. Listen More Than You Speak – and answer more than you question. No-one likes being endlessly quizzed about each and every part of their business and their requirements, it’s a real off-putter. You need to understand what someone needs in order to determine whether you have anything to offer but it’s far better if it comes out as part of a natural conversation. Once people are at ease they are far more willing to talk about the things they are passionate about, i.e. their business, so it always pays to spend a little time on the small-talk to start with.
2. What Isn’t Being Said – listen out for what people aren’t saying when you get into conversations about business needs. It may be that they don’t believe they have a need in that area or that another supplier is already satisfying those needs. Either way, it’s worth gently probing just to find out if there is an opportunity for you to offer something that maybe your client wasn’t aware you provided.
3. Explore The Boundaries – your understanding of your client and their understanding of you is probably based on previous or existing business or maybe on the referral from someone else. It doesn’t matter how you get round to having the discussion but you must always remember that the client only knows what they know based on what they’ve experienced or have been told. Make sure you let them know of the related products and services that might be of interest to them and enquire about other opportunities in their business. It’s surprising but even established business relationships built on a singular service or product can be developed into something more.
4. Genuine Feedback For Free – yes free. Don’t go giving away all your IPR but be generous in offering advice and thoughts to your clients as a way of building trust. Remember, the more the client trusts you the more likely they are to tell other businesses about you and we all know that is the best form of marketing we can get.
5. Don’t Push But Be Prompt – anyone knows that a pushy salesperson gets nowhere in the long-run but once you have committed to a delivery of your product or service you have to be prompt about it. A strong relationship built up over years might get away with a late delivery occasionally providing the client is kept informed along the way and they are assured that it won’t happen again but it takes an enormous amount of excellent service before then for that to happen. Keep your client appraised of how deliveries are coming along, provide regular updates on progress (even if they aren’t expecting the updates) and be completely transparent especially if and when problems do arise – honesty is the key. Above all, don’t make a promise you know you will have difficulty delivering on. Far better to be open to start with and deliver what was expected than to surprise your client with a great offering only to let them down later.
Excellent client relationships are the key to all business success yet it’s surprising just how often it gets forgotten and 100% of the effort goes into selling a product or delivering a service. Yes, you will get known for your product or service providing they are truly market leading but your clients have ever-changing needs and you need to be constantly aware of them.