If I were to name the one most important factor determining the success or failure of your business, it would your ability to initiate, develop and maintain relationships — specifically with clients but with vendors, mentors, coworkers and colleagues and yourself (yes, you!) as well.
This post is about how you can create ideal relationships with your clients. Everyone brings unique values, strengths, weakness and style to their relationships.
- Provide tips for getting along well with clients
- Introduce one of my new clients and
- Share some ideas about discovering your unique relationship style
Tips for Developing Client Relationships
Here are some “tried and trues” that will help you get along better with everyone:
- Be reliable. Do what you say you’ll do when you said you would do it. This will develop trust and good will.
- Provide an excellent product. Maybe it goes without saying. Let’s say it anyway. Be good at what you do. The best way to be good at what you do? Love it!
- Learn to listen. Listening carefully to what your clients say — and don’t say — reduces misunderstanding.
- Communicate. The flip side of listening is talking. Make sure you keep clients up-to-date — especially if anything unforeseen arises during the project.
- Be humble. There’s no reason to be a know-it-all. If you make a mistake, ‘fess up and move on. No one is perfect.
- Avoid over-committing. If you over commit — either by under charging or spending more time than you comfortably can on a project — you will resent your client. This is a recipe for personal unhappiness and poor project outcomes.
- Say “no”. Although it can be scary saying no to work, you will benefit from focusing on the work you love and are good at doing.
- Be human. Without being unprofessional, let clients into your world. Sharing who you are and what your interests are will help your clients understand and communicate with you.
- Be enthusiastic. If you choose projects and clients you enjoy, showing enthusiasm will come naturally.
- Be generous and thoughtful. There are so many ways to be generous and show you care. Some, like knowing a client’s birthday, are free. Others, like sending a thank-you gift when a client gives you a referral, are a worthwhile investment.
- Have fun. Show your lighter side and share it with clients. If you truly enjoy your work it will show and clients love that.
Pro tip. The most important relationship you have is with yourself. Reread the suggestions above and imagine what your work and life would be like if, much like putting on the proverbial oxygen mask, you applied them to yourself first.
Introducing Kira Mead, Founder, 49 Doors
Now that I’ve given you some general tips about how to get along with clients, I’d like to get more specific and introduce my new client, realtor Kira Mead.
Kira was born in Olympia, Washington. She developed an instant love of real estate when she bought her first home with her brother — and worked with Portland Alternative Realtors.
The agents she worked with were, “smart and professional, but creative and real,” Kira said.
“Real estate is about helping people find a path to home ownership — even in competitive markets like San Francisco’s. It’s also about connecting with like minded real estate professionals to build a network of smart people who want business to be innovative and fun.”
What she loves most about real estate?
- Meeting with clients, taking them to homes and “learning how they want to live”
- Marketing that creates a “buzz”
- Putting together a listing and
- Developing an offer and “having it accepted”
She sums it up like this, “Houses and people. That’s what makes me happy.”
The main reasons I love working with Kira are these:
- She loves what she does
- She’s cares about relationship and
- She has a vision
When clients love what they do, I’m automatically more interested. I can’t help it! My grandmother was a realtor and I’ve always loved real estate. I don’t have to fake my enthusiasm for Kira’s work — and that is very important to me.
Kira and I both care about relationships. We recognize their importance for good business and we enjoy people. That makes it easier for us to enjoy working together.
My favorite thing about working with Kira is that she has a vision. She doesn’t just want to sell houses, she wants to help people live well and love their homes in our beautiful city.
Like me, she loves creative marketing (my role is to help her bring her marketing ideas to life on line), houses, great design and San Francisco style.
For me, nothing could be more exciting than working with a client who thinks big.
What About You?
I’ve just shared what makes an ideal client relationship for me.
What about you?
If you hate real estate, think San Francisco is for hippies and really couldn’t care less about design, Kira is perhaps not your ideal client.
When you think about your ideal client relationship, ask yourself about your values and work style.
I asked Laney Silverman, Founder of The Design Boutique, what she thinks makes the best client relationship and she said, “The best client relationship is the kind where we have respect for each other’s expertise and the client let’s me leverage my 10+ years of design experience to create branding that gets results.”
Laney specifically values respect, expertise and results.
Another example is developer Stephen Standridge. He said, “The perfect client relationship is where we meet each other half way. The client has their own ideas, but wants to use my skill as a developer to make something bigger than he or she could create on his or her own. They don’t just think of me as a ‘coder’ but want to work creatively and strategically with me.”
Stephen values collaboration even in situations where he has substantially more technical skill than his clients.
The point I’m making is that each of us as people and professionals has values we cherish that are unique and nuanced.
It’s important for you, as you develop professionally, to understand what you value — and why.
It will get easier and easier to find clients who are a “good fit” both strategically and relationally.
What do you think makes the ideal client relationship? Share your opinion in the comments.
Eikenberry, Kevin. 10 Ways to Improve Your Client Relationships. TechRepublic. July 11, 2008.
Gardner, Jeff. 8 Strategies for Successful Relations With Clients. Smashing Magazine. October 9, 2008.
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