As a growing company, you can sell your services all you want, you can expand all you want, but you will never truly sustain long term success if you neglect to strengthen the relationship you have with your current clientele. Those long term professional relationships are the backbone of every company, and they provide the foundation for your business to explore and take measured risks.
Like any relationship, there should be some give and take, and following these five strategies should make sure that you are doing your part!
Maximize your Communication
All relationships, both personal and professional, are built on solid communication. This is especially important in the business world, where availability and comfort levels are a bit more rigid. Your clients need to know that they can depend on you to have open lines of communication when they need it the most. They should know the details of how and when to connect with you best. These days, the variety of ways we can communicate with each other is astounding and seems to grow by the hour. There are the tried and true methods like a phone call or email, but texting is more common than ever for business practices, and collaboration software like Google Hangouts or Slack provide excellent platforms for business to communicate with each other. Be open to what works best for your client!
Remain Confident and Enthusiastic
Some people’s work environments can be a real drag. When it’s time for them to work with an outside party (you), make sure that you try your best to make them feel comfortable and at ease. Who knows—this could be just the break they needed in their day! By maintaining a positive attitude, combined with excellent and competent service, you are reinforcing the idea that Your Company=Good to Work With.
However, when things do hit a snag, your client needs to feel comfortable enough to work together to find a solution. If they know you typically attack issues with optimism and confidence, they are much more likely to bring things to light that you may have not thought of before. These are the kinds of issues that strengthen professional relationships.
Take the time to really connect with your client and explain your thought process behind certain strategies or changes. In a professional relationship, there’s always going to be aspects of your services that you understand at a level they really don’t need to, but it’s important to communicate with them about your decisions: “Here’s why we do this, and here’s why it works”. Having a better understanding of everything you’re doing for them builds trust and respect between the two parties. Don’t ever frame the relationship as one party working for the other—you’re peers working together.
Sit Back and Listen
Sometimes listening can be harder than talking. We all want to share our ideas and get our feelings out, but it’s vital to know when it’s time to just truly listen to what your client is communicating to you. When your client is speaking with you, don’t get mentally distracted by beginning to form your counterpoint in your head. Just let them speak, digest the information, and respond thoughtfully and blatantly aware of the information that they have given you. Even if you are 100% positive that you already know what they are going to say, or that they have misinformation, or that you can solve the problem, you must fully hear them out first. Sometimes people can surprise you with where they land during a long-winded tangent. Remain patient, attentive, and respectful.
Give them Thanks
Don’t worry if this strategy can seem a little one-sided sometimes—always take the high road when showing your client gratitude. Gestures like handwritten cards, break room treats for the office, or treating them to lunch during a routine meeting can have an enormous impact on your relationship. From their perspective, you never want to be the one client who doesn’t send anything around the holidays, or forgets to acknowledge a big milestone, no matter how unlikely that would be!
Another great way to show appreciation and gratitude that businesses sometimes neglect is to take an interest in your client’s community outreach programs. Are they hosting a food drive? Running a fundraiser? Take action on those opportunities and show that you are invested in the community and your professional relationship.