You’ve done it, you’ve just won that big client you were working on for months that’s set to take your business to the next level. First of all, congratulations. Secondly, the real work starts now.
Yes, you’ve spent weeks talking up your business, making your team sound like the best around and putting together the proposal of a lifetime, but now you have to make all of your promises come true. Now you’ve won a client’s business, the fight to keep them begins.
Here’s how you can build a great relationship with your clients and deliver the kind of work that will help you win the battle.
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Client relationships are all about trust. They’ve invested money and time into you because they trust you can do the work required. You’ve fought to work with them because you trust they will help build your business. The stronger the trust is between the two parties, the better the relationship will be.
Without trust, you’ll experience a lot of unnecessary interference from the client throughout your time working together. If they don’t trust you can do things the right way, they’ll try and get their money’s worth by micromanaging the project.
A client relationship without trust will not only ruin any chance of retaining that client for a long period but stop your ability to do anything substantial. If a client has no trust in you and is constantly asking about every detail, the relationship will break down pretty quickly.
Establish boundaries with your clients, but make sure you do go above and beyond to develop a sense of trust between the two parties. If you feel they’re starting to question their investment, you can use examples of previous projects you’ve worked on to assure them you know what you’re doing.
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Run a professional operation
Clients want to know they’re working with professionals. They didn’t give you all that money to try something you’re not sure will work or wait until the last minute to deliver, they want to know they’ve made the right choice early on and will have professional results by the end of you’re time working together.
You should work on the presentation of your business and how the work you do will come across to clients. Think about how you’re communicating with your clients and the language you’re using. It will mostly be over email, so are you speaking professionally and making them feel comfortable about their investment?
Different clients will have different levels of standards for this kind of communication, so it’s vital to get an idea of their expectations ahead of time and speak in a language they understand. All official documentation should be professionally presented. If you’re sending a scrappy report or content with limited detail at the end of each month, they’re going to question what you’ve been doing.
For this reason, your invoicing needs to be just as professionally presented and clearly outlined. For these kinds of documents, it helps to use template tools such as FreeAgent* or Wave for invoicing and Databox for reporting. Once a client sees this kind of report they will be filled with confidence. It’s all about finding ways to add extra little touches of professionalism to the good work you’re already doing.
Stay in contact
It’s said the key to a good romantic relationship is communication; well, the same applies to client relationships.
Keeping in contact with your clients doesn’t mean calling them for an hour a day. It’s more a case of updating them about what’s going on and making sure they don’t feel like you’re hiding anything. This should be used to complement your end of month reporting. It will add context to those reporting results if they know what you’ve been up to, and make client meetings a lot less awkward, as you’ve already had time to develop a relationship.
Staying in contact with your clients shows you’re engaged with and excited about the project. Looking like you’re trying to hide something can make you seem untrustworthy or incompetent.
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Show your competency
No matter how good you are, how much your hard work speaks for your talents and how strong your pitch was, there will always be some trepidation from your clients. It’s natural to be wary of outside influences, but it doesn’t mean they’ll feel that way forever.
Your client relationship relies on you continually proving you’re the right person or team for the job. Don’t leave that up to your end of month reporting, explain what you’re doing each week and break down the detail to show you know what you’re talking about and have a plan.
If this matches your proposal it will fill them with confidence that you are a talented operation. There’s an important balance to find between not making things seem simple enough that they could do it themselves, but showing that this all comes naturally to you.
Showing this level of competency will help you keep your clients for longer. Quality always wants to work with quality.
Put your foot down and lead the process
Sometimes a client needs to understand that they’re just that, a client. A business relationship relies on both parties understanding where they stand, so don’t be afraid to put your foot down.
This doesn’t mean you have to be rude or confrontational with your clients, but it can pay to be a bit more aggressive when it comes to being left to your work. Clients need to be reminded when they try and interfere in projects that they hired you to get the job done, and if they wanted to be more hands-on they should have hired internally. They will ultimately appreciate the push-back, giving them time to reflect and realize they should leave you to get on with your work.
Unless you have a particularly intrusive client this will not cause any kind of breakdown in the relationship, it’s all part of setting healthy barriers. If it does cause an issue, you have to consider whether the client is really worth the hassle.
Client relationships are delicate things that need to be worked on over long periods, as difficult as they can be when you’re trying to impress with a short contract. Follow these methods and you’ll not just win the battle, but a great working relationship and the payment you deserve.
About the author:
Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer for Micro Startups, your online destination for everything startup. She’s passionate about hard-working solopreneurs and SMEs making waves in the business world. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup and charity insights from top experts around the globe @getmicrostarted.
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