In business, how successful you are depends hugely on how successful your relationships are with your clients, especially in B2B. Your aim should be to make clients feel more than just a customer; you want them to be a business partner that knows they can trust and rely on you be an asset to their business.
Achieving that is all about delivering a highly personalised service, but how do you define ‘personal’? After all, for some, there’s a fine line between delivering an attentive personal service and becoming intrusive. Sharing personal matters such as financial or relationships issues, for example, is a no-no, as is airing grievances you have with colleagues or other clients. Every client has different expectations, so what you need to do is attempt to ‘read’ the client in order to get an idea how close they want to be with you and your business. Some will expect a more informal and friendly approach, while others will seek a more professional and even detached style. The key is to let the client be the guide when setting a level of personal interaction you’re both comfortable with.
Here are few pointers that can help you along the way:
Good relationships take time to build. Don’t rush it! Stay in touch with important updates about work-related matters, but don’t put your client under pressure by doing anything that might appear intrusive - a sure-fire way to scare off new clients. Respond to queries quickly, deliver great work on time, professionally and respectfully and, all the time, demonstrate that you will go the extra mile if needed. Let your client set the pace and never pressurise a client into making a quick decision. You’re more likely to get a ‘no’ and lose repeat business.
Know their business
With any new business partner, the first thing you should try to do is understand their business model, their culture and their goals. Not only can this be useful when developing and delivering a service that’s meets their needs, it also helps you tailor the way you communicate and interact with them in a way they understand and will appreciate. Being interested in their plans for the business, for instance, can be a guide for you to tailor services to help clients realise their goals. You may even be able to recommend ways they can do better – which makes you an even greater asset to their business.
Little things that make a big difference
Once you’ve achieved this better understanding of your client’s business and the key people who work there, you can do much more to impress. Get on first name terms with key contacts, make small talk, be interested and listen. For example, you might be made aware of an important event coming up, such as a product launch or an award, so you can offer your congratulations. Perhaps, you could even help in some way. Or, it could be as simple as sending a birthday greeting to a key contact. It sounds like very little but it really can make a difference to keep your business front-of-mind when your client is outsourcing new business.
Treat every client the same
The happier the client, the more likely they are to recommend me you to partners and associates, which could mean new business, so it’s in your interest to treat each and every client as a VIP – regardless of how much, or how little, they spend. After all, you simply don’t know who they know. Someone they send your way could become one of your biggest spending clients in future.
Be more than just an email address
Email might be quick and convenient for getting a message across, but it’s cold and clinical too. If you really want to build a warm relationship with your clients offer to meet up for face-to-face updates. A phone call is often the best way to avoid miscommunication or confusion, while Skype is good for putting a face to a name. Most people want the human touch, so personalise all communication using first names (both theirs and yours) whenever possible.