Once you’ve won a new client’s business, you’ve also won their trust. Using a good business proposal, proving your expertise, and having a cost-effective retainer helped you land the job, but you were also chosen because the client felt they could trust you.
As with any relationship, trust is an integral factor to helping both sides work together to achieve objectives. This is especially true in professional collaborations with clients, especially at the outset. Here are six ways you can win over your clients right from the start, and ensure a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership.
This is a given, but it’s always good to be reminded about the basics of acting professionally in a business relationship. For example, show up to meetings on time; getting there before the client does is even better. Also, communicate clearly and in a timely manner. When the client calls, pick up the phone. When they email with a question, respond as quickly as you can with a well thought-out response. When a deadline has been set for a project, be sure to do everything you can to meet it. If you see that you might need more time, ask for it with as much notice as possible, as it might impact other people’s schedule.
Be a true partner in their business
When business is good, life is good and everybody’s happy. But when the going gets tough, that’s when the client needs to know you’re there to support them and that you’ll do what it takes to deliver results.
There’s really just one approach to achieving a true partnership, and it’s to have the client’s best interest in mind with whatever you do. Don’t just be a foot soldier waiting for orders; be proactive and see past what’s in front of you. For example, show dedication with the project you’re working on, but also have an eye on the future with regard to the client’s bottom line.
Moreover, ask probing questions that show the client you are genuinely interested in their business and the many ways you can help. Counsel them when needed, as you were hired to be an expert in certain areas of the business that they’re lacking.
When you’ve become a true partner with your client, their problem becomes your problem, but their success hopefully is a direct result of having you on their side.
Get as much face time as possible with the client
A proven way to get in the same mindset as the client is to spend time at their office. We’re not talking about normal face time during weekly and monthly meetings, but actually working on-site at the client’s. Set aside a few days each month to do so, especially if your office is close enough to the client’s that you can drive there. By immersing yourself in their day-to-day operations, you can benefit from spontaneous conversations with other employees that can help you do your job better.
Think like the client
Acting like a true partner with your client is one thing. Before you know it, you’ll start thinking like them – and that’s a good thing. Developing a client-oriented way of thinking demonstrates that the client can trust you with their operations. Be proactive with ideas and suggestions about a project you’re working on, and certainly take the initiative to bring up a potential problem that needs to be addressed. Eventually, you won’t be anticipating the client’s next thought – you’ll just automatically think it! When you get to this point, the client will recognize it and view you as more than a contractor, but a true ally.
Follow through on your promises
Winning the client’s business was the easy part. The real work began once you signed the working agreement. Always be mindful of what was in the RFP and the responses you gave in the business proposal, as these are the promises you made to the client should they award the job to you. If you don’t follow through on your promises or go against what you discussed in the business proposal, the client will think twice about whether they can actually trust you to do the job.
Be accountable – especially when you make a mistake
Mistakes are still bound to happen, no matter how organized and detail-oriented you try to be. This could be anything from missing a project deadline to a clerical error with billing. It’s simply human nature to mess up every now and then, so clients are willing to forgive an infraction as long as it wasn’t done maliciously. So, we suggest owning up to any mistakes you make as soon as you or the client discovers it, making sure to be transparent when discussing it with the client. Moreover, view the mistake as a learning experience for you and your team, so that it doesn’t happen again.
While winning a client is one thing, keeping them in their good graces is another thing entirely. However, if you’re able to stick to the commitments you set at the start of your engagement, winning over your new clients isn’t as hard as many imagine it to be.