It’s all good and well finding clients and building business relationships, but that’s only the beginning. Indeed, finding them can often be the easy part; the difficulty lies in making sure they’re happy, satisfied, and that you have a professional, cordial relationship. If you take steps to make sure that you and your clients (and anyone else you have dealings with) are on the same page, then you’ll find it’s much more straightforward to have a long-lasting relationship that suits everyone. But how should you go about this? We take a look at some tried and tested tips below.
They say that you should start as you mean to go on. Alas, many business owners don’t do that. Instead, they start with a lot of talk, and then, later, it emerges that they can’t walk the walk. It’s much better to begin from a place of honesty, and offer a straightforward assessment of your skills and how they can be used to help their business, rather than promise the world only to ultimately underdeliver. In any case, there’s little advantage in talking a big game and making yourself sound better than you are. It might get you some attention, and maybe even a new customer, but it won’t be long before the wheels come off.
Face to Face Meetings
Technology — and especially the internet — has made it easier than ever before to stay in close contact with your customers and the other companies you work with, but you won’t want to become solely reliant on the internet when it comes to staying in touch. It’s much more effective to meet face to face, even if it’s only every once in a while. You’ll be able to say everything you want to say in an email or over a Skype call, but they won’t replace the immediacy and personal touch that spending some time face to face can bring.
While there’s nothing wrong with just delivering the job that you said you would deliver, it’s much better if you try to focus your efforts a little bit more, so that they’re better suited for your client’s overall mission and industry. For example, if you’re working with a company in, say, the healthcare sector, then there might be ways you can alter your output slightly to make it more suitable for that specific industry. This isn’t expected, and indeed, may not always be possible, but it’ll be appreciated by the people you’re working with. It’ll make you a more integral part of their operations, too, which will make you an indispensable part of their team.
Now, it’ll go without saying that you’re going to have some clients who, you know, are more valuable than others. They give you more work, contribute more to your bottom line. For these and other reasons, they can become a pretty important player for your business. However, it’s best if you don’t get sucked into treating your clients differently from one another. They should all receive the same high standard of service. It’ll keep everyone happy! Plus, it’ll also prevent you from falling into the trap of focusing too much of your energy on one client. If you focus on them too much, you may find that, suddenly, you’re dependent on them. The key to long-term success is to have as many options as possible, not to have all of your eggs in one basket.
You may have friendly relations with one another, and be generally trusting, but to help reduce the possibility of confusion, it’s important that you have contracts in place. This will highlight the duties and responsibilities of each party, the terms of the arrangement, and so on. It’s not about covering your back — though that is another advantage — but about having everything set in professional terms. It’s also advisable to have a contract management system in place; it’ll help you keep all your contracts organized, and reduce the chances of human errors (which can have far-reaching, negative impacts). It really is important to have contracts in place, no matter who you’re dealing with. It just keeps everything as straightforward as it can be.
There’s not a relationship in the world that wouldn’t benefit from improved communication. If there’s nothing that’s important being left unsaid, then it’s much easier to move forward on the same page. Now, you don’t have to be quite as open as you would be in your personal relationships (hint: definitely don’t do this). When it comes to business, it’s all about keeping the lines of communication open, so that the other party knows that you’re always available to chat should they need to speak to you.
Every relationship has bumps in the road, including business relationships. Things could appear to be going just fine, but then, something happens that derails the positive feelings. It could be a mistake that impacts their bottom line, or vice versa. It’s important to keep in mind that a small hiccup doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship (big hiccups are a different matter). You may have to set the tone for this one, by giving some leeway if the other party makes an error. You’ll want to ensure you have your line that cannot be crossed, however (such as something that affects the reputation of your brand, late payments, and the like).
We don’t mean for it to be the case, but sometimes we can take our clients for granted, especially if we get to know them personally or we’ve been working with them for a long time. It’s crucial, however, that you don’t let your standards slip. It sometimes happens that businesses try overly hard to impress their new clients, and, in the process, neglect their long-term clients. Don’t let this happen!
Indeed, not only should you avoid letting your standards slip, you should actively work on improving your services year-on-year. You can do this by getting feedback from your clients, and enact any suggestions they have for you to improve your services.
Remember, there’s more to life than business! While you’ll want to keep a professional tone, it’s important to make a small effort to get to know them personally. It’ll show that you’re in it for more than the bottom line, and that you want to know them as a person, too.
Finally, remember that attitude counts for a lot in this world. There are multiple ways of seeing everything. Make sure your way is positive, that you’re not letting the grind of life wear you down too much. This is good for you in an obvious way — you’ll be better able to handle setbacks — but also good for business. Positive companies are the ones who go places, and they don’t want to be brought down by negativity. Energy inspires energy. If it seems like your company is looking back rather than forward, then they’ll find a company who is just as ambitious as they are. Remember, there’s no obstacle that can’t be overcome. It’s just that the only companies who overcome them are the ones who believe they can!
It’s worthwhile cultivating positive relationships with clients and other companies you do business with. If you get it right, and put the necessary amounts of time and effort into making sure everyone’s happy, then you’ll be able to develop arrangements that last for years. You’ll have a mutually beneficial relationship that’s a win-win situation for all involved.