Building Better Client Relations
The success of a B2B company hinges largely on strong client relationships, especially for a small or early stage company. At Lab42, exceptional client service constitutes a core value for the business, and we always aim to become a trusted partner of our clients, rather than viewing ourselves as a vendor. We have been able to differentiate ourselves from the competition through strong relationships, and our level of service is one of the very reasons clients continue to work with us. The list below outlines what I believe it takes for companies to transition from a vendor consideration set to trusted partner.
- Be patient in building new relationships. Relationships take time. Resist indulging in disingenuous schmoozing, as it can be a severe put-off. Instead, take the time to get to know your client, and share a little bit of yourself. Most importantly, remember that your work for your client is paramount in building a relationship. At the end of the day, no amount of personal connection can substitute for great work.
- Get to know their industry and company. Keep up with your client’s company as well as their industry. You don’t have to be an expert, but this will help you speak the same language as the client, understand what keeps them up at night, and cater your interaction and offerings accordingly.
- Go the extra mile. As you grow your business and your client relationships, there will be times that you’ll have to make a decision on when to adjust or expand your core offerings to cater to the needs of a client. The benefits of offering customized solutions are two-fold: 1) clients remember the times you came through for them and 2) it may open up additional revenue streams and new product offerings you had not previously considered. A word of caution, though: if you are making a significant departure from your core offerings, ensure you are adequately compensated.
- Treat every client as your most important one. Simply put, happy clients are more likely to make referrals. Provide all clients with your best service, regardless of whether they are a Fortune 500 company or a small business. You never know who your clients may know or to whom they will refer you. Just as importantly, when they switch jobs, either within their company or to a new one, you want to be the partner they recommend to their new team. Lastly, it is important to remember that today’s small companies could be the big companies of tomorrow, and it’s incredibly fulfilling to be a trusted partner fueling that growth.
- Respond promptly. When a client emails you, acknowledge the receipt of the email as quickly as possible, even if you do not have the answer they are looking for. You will give them comfort by simply acknowledging the receipt of their request and by communicating that you’re on it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I often see relationship managers worry about having the right answer, and as a result, they forget to acknowledge that they are on the case.
- Be more than an email address. Despite its prevalence in business today, email communication can often be misconstrued, especially during stressful situations, if senders and recipients do not know each other well. Use other channels to help shed light on who you are. Consider a phone call, Skype or an in-person meeting to put a face (or voice) to a name. Often the phone gets a bad reputation (e.g. using it to ‘get on the same page’), but if used for good news, a phone call is a great way to build a better relationship with your client.
- Always summarize next steps. No matter how quick or trivial a client meeting seems, always recap the conversation with next steps. Many vendors skip this basic step. You think you’ll remember all of the details, and maybe you will, but your client may not. Aligning on the same page with next steps prevents a lot of confusion down the road.
culled from forbes.com