Most business leaders would agree that client relationships are the lifeblood of any organization. Essentially, their happiness and satisfaction is what keeps the lights on. They are the foundation of the business, the very reason it exists in the first place.
As a result, it’s rarely a good move to charge into these relationships blindly. It takes a thoughtful approach and a quality engagement strategy. For this reason, one of the biggest priorities for any founder should be developing a solid game plan for communicating with clients.
Here, we’ll break down some of the biggest areas where businesses can level-up their client relationship skills, earning trust through outstanding service and operational excellence.
Be a Team
It’s important for business leaders to look beyond the traditional understanding of the client/business relationship. Effective organizations should instead view client interactions as an opportunity to work together on a deeper level, collaborating in a sincere effort to achieve mutual goals.
By embedding your objectives with your client’s own goals, both parties will reap the benefits of wins and successful outcomes, deepening the strength of your business relationship. Time and time again, this philosophy has been shown to improve outcomes. In the words of entrepreneur Jodie Cook, “The more you immerse yourself in your client’s business, the more value you add.”
Don’t be afraid to dig in deep, and truly align yourself with every success (or failure) your client has.
Don’t Get Comfortable
Growth and comfort rarely coexist. Keep this in mind when working for clients as it’s important to avoid complacency. Every step in the development of this relationship should be filled with uncomfortable moments and anything to the contrary could be an indication that you simply aren’t taking enough risks.
To stay on a path of continued growth, founders should make an effort to learn continuously, deeply researching clients and uncovering new things about their respective industries on a daily basis.
In addition to deepening your own domain knowledge, this also allows you to perform better as a business consultant and enables you to provide your clients with advice and insights that even the most entrenched industry leaders may not have considered. Here are a few ways founders can keep moving forward, showing clients you’re invested in their success:
- Continue learning. Take courses and webinars, delving deep into the topics and challenges your clients are dealing with on a daily basis— no matter how technical or complex.
- Be creative. Suggest new strategies, constantly putting yourself out there and innovating, even when your ideas don’t fit into mainstream schools of thought.
- Think outside the box. Give yourself some room to brainstorm, and spitball ideas with clients with no judgments or reservations. Creativity thrives in an environment of openness and acceptance.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel, completely. Revamp old strategies, adding new spins on techniques that have been proven to work in the past. Continue to iterate and build on these strategies, and don’t grow complacent just because something is “good enough.”
- Always inquire. Ask uncomfortable, hard-hitting questions, both of yourself and of your client, uncovering the deeper motivations and ambitions driving their business.
The only way to effect meaningful change is to take bold action, and bold action isn’t always comfortable. By getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, however, founders can ensure they’re always growing, becoming the best version of themselves and continuously improving their client relationship skills.
Not getting too comfortable goes hand in hand with being consultative. While fulfilling client requests is important, it’s also important to utilize your expertise. They hired you for a reason, so it’s okay to disagree. Don’t be afraid to push back on ideas and suggest new, better ones. Keep your recommendations pointed and specific. Giving clear and concise advice is the best way to provide value, directly addressing your customer’s biggest pain points through actionable insights.
In many cases, business challenges may stem from a client’s emotional attachment to a particular strategy or idea. Perhaps they need to spend less time marketing a pet project or tone down the amount of “personality” in their consumer-facing communications.
Sometimes, this advice won’t be easy for your client to hear, however, as long as you’re willing to be patient and accommodative, clients will appreciate the fact that you’re keeping the dialogue open and honest.
Hear Your Client
It’s not enough to simply listen. It’s crucial for businesses to truly hear what their clients are saying. Effective leaders internalize and reflect on feedback at every opportunity, writing things down, repeating things back for clarity, and reading between the lines. In doing so, founders can build their credibility and demonstrate trustworthiness, making clients feel you’re paying attention to their problems and well-equipped to solve them.
One of the best ways to demonstrate that you’ve heard a client’s comments and concerns is to follow up. Any time you communicate with a client, it’s a good practice to loop back with a brief summary of the conversation, highlighting key takeaways and next steps. These notes will not only serve as the foundation for iterating forward, improving your ability to collaborate and make a plan, they will also show you hear what they’re saying, and truly care about providing value.
Show Them You Care
Even when you’re interacting with clients in a professional setting, it doesn’t all have to be business (and it shouldn’t be). Keep in mind that the individual sitting across from you is a person with their own ambitions, ideas, and emotions. Take an interest in more than just the bottom line, exploring every dimension of their life that they’re willing to share.
This is where you can immerse yourself in the relationship, becoming not only a business partner but a true part of their team. There’s no shortage of ways to show a client you care:
- Remember birthdays, special upcoming events, and other important life milestones.
- Show that you respect their time, double-checking whether scheduled meetings are still convenient for them, and keep discussions time-boxed appropriately.
- In meetings, don’t just jump straight into talking business. Ask what’s going on in their life outside of work, keeping conversations friendly and personable.
- Don’t share boilerplate materials or cookie-cutter content. Go the extra mile, customizing your presentations and communications with a personal touch.
- Be present during meetings, even when distractions fight for your attention. Stay focused on the conversation, and don’t check emails or browse the internet in the background.
Yes, in many cases, “business is business,” and it’s important to remain professional when interacting with clients— especially when the relationship is new. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be stodgy or impersonal. Showing you care about a client brings an extra level of positivity to your professional relationship, and who knows, you may earn yourself some new clients, partners, and friends along the way.
We’re currently experiencing an age of rapid transformation— in politics, in technology, in economics— and the business world will continue to evolve with each new wave of change. For this reason, it’s important that your client relationships grow with you, adapting to the new dynamics each shift presents.
Still, navigating these tumultuous times is no simple task, especially alone. Having access to a group of peers who are going through the same thing, or have done something similar, can be a real advantage in working through this process. That’s where growth10 comes in.
As a community and educational platform for connecting with entrepreneurial peers, growth10 enables business leaders from around the country to join a like-minded community and network of talented subject matter experts for feedback and advice. From monthly member meetings to workshops and a robust library of courses and content, growth10 is the ultimate tool for upping your client relationship skills and beyond.
If you’re a founder looking to grow and scale your venture quickly (after all, speed is the name of the game in almost all business efforts), growth10 is equipped to help you do just that.