By Peter Figueredo
Great companies succeed because they understand the people they serve. When you begin working with a new client, you don’t sit across the table from balance sheets and industry numbers; you meet with people — all of whom have unique personalities, ambitions and challenges. Getting to know those people can be the difference between a lasting partnership and a failed sales pitch.
On one hand, you have each client’s personal side. Who is this person in front of you? Why did he pursue this job? What are his passions, hobbies and interests? As in any relationship, your connection with your client begins by feeling out each other’s personalities and establishing common ground.
On the other hand, you have your client’s professional side. What is this person’s role in the company? What are her responsibilities within her department? What are her career goals and ambitions? Understanding the challenges your client faces at the office helps you tailor your services to meet her specific needs.
While you can serve your clients adequately with an okay relationship, you can do much more with a great one. When you truly understand your clients, you can anticipate needs before they happen, navigate moments of crisis as a trusted partner, and establish a connection so your clients stop thinking of you as a vendor and start thinking of you as a part of the team.
These seven strategies will help you foster trust with your clients and put them in the best position to succeed — personally and professionally.
1. Give before you take
Offer up some information about yourself before you start asking the same of your client. Start the conversation with more honesty and openness than you normally would. For instance, before asking your client about his weekend, provide a little information about yours. Maybe it wasn’t great because you broke your toe doing housework. Maybe you took the kids to a birthday party. Share a slice of your life so your client feels more comfortable sharing his.
2. Don’t be afraid
Your client isn’t going to bite; don’t be afraid to ask about her life. Start with basic questions. Don’t get too personal, especially in the beginning. Keep it light, and try to leave the first meeting knowing at least one interest you share with your client.
3. Reach out on social media
Many people love to make new connections on LinkedIn, so make that your first step. Establishing that public, formal connection shows your client that you want to work together and have nothing in your public presence to hide. As your relationship with your client deepens, consider reaching out on more personal sites such as Facebook, but judge whether to make this request on a person-to-person basis.
4. Research your client
Everyone has an online footprint these days. Research your client to see what’s out there. Whether it’s a sports blog or a Pinterest page full of Italian recipes, you can learn a lot about people by what they share online. This is especially helpful for clients who are reluctant to connect on social media. But exercise caution; if you bring up things in conversation that your client hasn’t shared with you, he might be put off or feel like you’ve invaded his privacy.
5. Know bonus and promotional requirements
Nothing makes clients trust you more than helping them achieve their individual goals. If your client’s company’s objective is to increase sales numbers in one category by 5 percent, but you know your client will receive a bonus at 7 percent, focus on that goal. Not only can that strengthen your relationship with your client, but it can also give you an ally within the company if he gets promoted to a higher position.
6. Keep an updated organizational chart
You need to know more than the names of VPs and directors. Understand which members of your client’s organization are your champions (those who appreciate what your business does and understand its value) and which are your challengers (those who disagree with funding your services or mistrust you). Prepare to speak with anyone in the organization so you won’t be caught off-guard if your point of contact shifts suddenly.
7. Understand your client’s workflow
Know whom your client has to work with for certain projects so you can tailor the best plan for each situation. If your strategy would normally involve mass website changes but your client’s company has miles of red tape surrounding online makeovers, you need to know that so you can budget your time properly and ensure your proposal explains why changes are necessary.
Remember, your clients’ companies might look like unified, faceless entities on the surface, but behind the brands are ordinary people who want to be understood and treated like individuals. Meet those needs and strengthen lines of communication to separate your company from the pack, and improve mutual production as your relationships with your clients grow personally and professionally.
Image credit: Pixabay
As a partner at House of Kaizen, Peter Figueredo focuses on strengthening relationships with and growing results for clients. Figueredo is head of client services, and his New York City-based team is responsible for client happiness and meeting client goals to achieve long-term engagements and organic growth. House of Kaizen provides end-to-end digital performance marketing services to clients such as Avis Budget Group, Tiffany & Co., Audible, Red Roof Inn, Businessweek, and Total Gym.