Working with international clients introduced me to a completely different method of interacting with people when I first began working with them in 2015.
Meeting people from different countries and cultures has forced me to reconsider how I do my job and communicate with them.
And, just a few days ago, I came across a short video by @cfowlerdesign in which he discussed 10 tips for improving your client relationships.
These points all resonated with me, so I've included them here, along with some of my own notes.
10 tips for maintaining good relationships with your clients
Be punctual. Show up on time (or early) every day.
When maintaining a client relationship, it’s important to show that you actually care about them, their business and the project you’re working on.
There are many ways to start a good relationship and have a good first impression. But from my experience, being on time for meetings and calls, or (at least) giving a heads up if you’re late, is a sign of good manners.
Most people are always late. This is your chance to stand out by being punctual and showing up on time (or even earlier).
Join the Zoom meeting 5 minutes before it starts. Come to the client's office 5 minutes earlier. This is a good step in establishing trust with the client.
Record all meetings with clients.
People forget things. And it’s fine. But for the success of the project, it’s crucial to capture every detail. Recording meetings and calls helps prevent situations and unnecessary negotiations around small details.
Details matter, but they're easy to miss when you're trying to take notes while also paying attention to your meeting. A recording ensures that you have all of the important details and allows you to go back and review the meeting to discover details you may have missed the first time around.
You can prevent the back and forth by recording meetings and getting immediate feedback about what was (and wasn't) decided. This can clear up any misunderstanding between you and your meeting participants, allowing you to get to work and take concrete actions to execute.
Busy people frequently have to miss meetings because they are double-booked, or they are pulled into solving an important and urgent task. It is easier to get an understanding of what they missed if they have a recording of the meeting.
Speak less and ask more (open-ended) questions.
Because they can not be answered with a single word, open-ended questions spark a conversation. "Where do you want to be in a decade?" is an example of an open-ended question.
The answer varies from person to person and can only be addressed with a fresh view, which usually leads to a longer conversation.
Open-ended questions prompt the start of a longer conversation by beginning with "why," "how," and "what if?"
Closed-ended questions can only be answered with a single word, such as "yes" or "no."
Impress clients by asking about their three favorite topics:
- Their business
- Their project
Then be quiet and let them talk. They will love you. And they will walk away from the conversation wanting to talk with you again very soon.
Send a quick follow up after every meeting.
The connection you make with someone you meet does not end when you shake hands (I miss that a lot) and say, "It was nice to talk to you!" If you want to improve the quality and effectiveness of a meeting while also developing a meaningful relationship with someone, spend some time after the meeting.
Even if you record all of your meetings, it's a good idea to send a follow-up message via email or Slack to confirm what was discussed, answer key questions, and provide next steps.
Although it does not take much time or effort, a simple follow-up message after a meeting can do a lot to help you develop your network.
Your follow-up message should have a defined goal. Do you want to express your gratitude and offer your assistance? Are you going to discuss the next steps? Do you want to request an introduction or feedback?
It's a good manner to send a follow-up message within 24 hours of a meeting, while you're still in the other person’s mind.
Finish by saying "What else would you like to know?"
During the project, it’s critical to know that everyone is on the same page.
By asking "What else would you like to know?" You open up a space for the client to think about something they might forget.
Always discuss/explain the next steps.
Before you end your meeting or call, there is one thing you must always do. And, no, it isn't getting your prospective client to sign the contract on the spot (though that would be ideal, and it is sometimes worth a shot).
At the end of your meeting, the best way to keep the conversation moving forward is to define and agree on the clear next steps.
The next steps could be anything related to the project or client, such as scheduling another call to discuss pricing, visiting the client's office, or demonstrating your work to additional stakeholders.
The point is that you need to talk about it and come to an agreement before you end the meeting.
In relation to point 4, ensure that both you and your client understand the next steps.
Include the next steps in the follow-up message to keep track of the things that need to be done during the project.
Under promise and over deliver.
One of the most effective ways to develop strong client relationships is to establish credibility as an individual contributor who delivers exceptional results. Make sure that you do not overvalue yourself or make unrealistic promises.
Setting reasonable expectations allows you to impress the client with the project objectives and position yourself as someone they want to continue working with.
I first heard it from my mentor and was impressed by its impact on the work I do for my clients.
Don't promise a smaller outcome. Instead, provide the full scope, then add a little extra on top of it (a cherry on a pie). Related to 1, it shows that you really care.
Book your next call before signing off.
I'm sure this one is pretty straightforward. But let's quickly go over it.
To prevent a lot of back and forth, make a habit of scheduling the next meeting before leaving.
You don't have to put it on the calendar right away, but agreeing on a timeframe will help you understand what to expect when you meet again.
You can also include the time for the next meeting and its details in the follow-up message.
Set expectations early and don’t deviate from them.
The client comes to you looking at your marketing and personality. But they come back for the outcomes you deliver.
The things you promise should be delivered, otherwise the client won't come back. It's good to leave a client with good communication and support service, but they come to get the results.
So be honest about your skills, tasks you can complete and outcomes client will get by the end of the project. Making sure that you're clear about the responsibilities of the parties is crucial for project success.
Maintain digital eye contact.
In the world of endless Zoom meetings, keeping eye contact is so important.
Eye contact is how we show others that we’re engaged and listening. It’s a powerful form of nonverbal communication. It has been suggested that body language may account for between 60 to 65% of all communication.
Turn your camera on, show your face and listen actively. This will build trust in you.
No matter whether you are a freelancer or a large corporation, maintaining positive client relationships is a critical aspect of any successful business.
People buy from people.
When you demonstrate that you genuinely care about them, their business, and their products, they will come to you for help and support when they require it.