Monday, October 3, 2011

10 Strategies to Stay Connected With Your Clients

Though most of us went to school because we love to design or build things or engineer them, we are in a “people business.” Relationships are the foundation of successful projects. But, do we really understand what it takes to form a real connection with our clients?

A previous survey of 200 buyers of professional services indicated that 85 percent encountered at least one major problem with a service provider during the sales process, including: “Did not listen to me” “Did not understand my needs” “Did not respond to my requests and correspondences in a timely manner.”

The following 10 strategies can vault you past the less proactive and unsuspecting competition:

1. Have a plan. Determine your client targets and include action items that will be meaningful to your client. Include costs and timetables. Monitor your progress periodically.

2. Know their business. It’s impossible to understand a client’s needs if you don’t understand their business. Start by finding out what they read and which organizations they belong to. Read those publications and attend applicable functions and become familiar with their concerns and needs.

3. Know them personally. Figure out ways to get to know their interests outside of work. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from just a quick visit to their office. You are not trying to become their best friend. That’s not a reasonable approach. You just want them to feel comfortable around you. Clients are going to work with those they feel comfortable with.

4. Listen with your ears and your eyes. You can tell when someone isn’t really listening to you. So can your clients. While they are speaking, look at them and listen with your eyes. They’ll pick up on your nonverbal communication. Don’t look at your watch, your blackberry, or any other distraction. The only time you look away is to take a brief note on an important item that will need to be followed up.

5. Make the most of meetings and phone calls. An occasional “how are you” call is certainly okay. As a general rule, have an agenda for each client communication. Leave the meeting or end the call with action items and next steps. Action items and next steps make the next contact easier. And, you will gain the reputation as a dependable “closer” when you follow-up.

6. Expand your network within the client organization. Sure, there’s usually one ultimate decision maker in each company. But, don’t exclude the influentials. They can be extremely valuable in your information gathering. Plus, they often influence the decision maker. Get to know as many people as you can within the organization.

7. Share leads. Find ways to help your client be successful in their industry, such as sharing information about industry trends or passing on business leads to them.

8. Confidentiality is critical. A breach of trust is the quickest way to sever a relationship— client or otherwise. Don’t do it. And, don’t pretend to give them information that was given to you in confidence. That only shows you break confidences.

9. Give and give again. It’s not going to happen overnight. Don’t expect to get awarded a project after the first face-to-face meeting.

10. Stay focused. Again, it’s all about your plan. Use it and refer to it often. Revise it as necessary. Keeping track of your progress will ultimately enhance your existing relationships and help you form new ones.

Maintaining a great relationship with your clients will ultimately benefit you and your firm’s bottom line. As a PM, make strengthening your client connections a priority.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great insights you have here. Thanks for the very helpful information!
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