When you're focused on the bottom line, it's easy to forget the importance of client relationships. Relationships can seem burdensome and time-consuming. On the other hand, you may find that client relationships can make your work less stressful and more satisfying as your clients become people you work with and not just business contacts you work for.
The distinction may seem slight, but it can make a huge difference. In the end, client relationships do affect your bottom line and can result in years of successful collaboration.
First let's look at 5 ways to damage or even break client relationships:
1. Confuse Them
Right from the start, be nebulous about your abilities, time frame, and goals for the project. In person, explain your position and your plans, and then contradict your verbal plans in your emails.
2. Be Unavailable
When you get client's message about an issue you haven't tackled yet, ignore the message, knowing you'll take care of it soon anyway. Fail to return phone calls, and let your email inbox fill up.
3. Do the Bare Minimum
Your contract says you only have to deliver such-and-such. Do what you lay out in your contract and not one bit more. Your client has a question about something else you know about? That wasn't in the job description.
4. Put on a Facade
Have a different persona for work and for play. Pretend to be whom you think the client will buy from.
5. Miss Deadlines
If they really need you, they won't be bothered by a missed deadline or two, will they?
Now that we've seen what you can do wrong, let's look at what you can do right.
Ways to Create Lasting Client Relationships
1. Clearly Plan Your Projects
From your very first contact with the client, you should be as clear and thorough as possible. If you're asked to draw up a quote for a project, provide accurate and detailed specifications. Be clear about materials, labor, costs, potential roadblocks, and prerequisite tasks. The clearer you are from the beginning, the fewer miscommunications there will be along the way.
2. Communicate Well
Another thing you need to settle from the beginning is how you'll communicate with your new client. What works best for them: phone, email, texting? When your client communicates with you, respond as quickly as possible, and if you can't fulfill a request immediately, at least contact them and explain when you'll be ready with the answer. Good communication makes both parties feel secure in a business relationship.
3. Be Generous With Your Expertise
As your business relationships unfold, you may find that your clients could use your help in other ways. Yes, you were hired for a specific set of knowledge and expertise, but you undoubtedly have skills beyond that narrow scope. If an opportunity arises that allows you to wide that scope with your client, go ahead and help out. You will become even more valuable in that client relationship.
4. Share Your Contacts
Networking isn't just valuable for new business; it's also valuable in your client relationships. Your new client will need contacts for different vendors, advisors, and so forth, and if you share contacts in your network who have been reliable partners, your new client will find even greater value in you.
5. Mange Your Time Well
Dependability is key in any relationship, and it's especially important in business. If you miss a deadline, you could create a falling dominoes scenario for your client, wreaking havoc on their timelines and deadlines. Do everything in your power to manage your time well and meet deadlines. Plan personal deadlines ahead of client deadlines, leaving yourself a few days or even weeks to iron out any last-minute problems so you can always deliver on time.
Review your progress and make any adjustments necessary to deepen your client relationships. Client relationships can make or break you.