Client Courtship: The Art of Developing a Strong Client Relationship
When you are seeking a new business prospect, do you set off with the intent to have a quick, one-time, (hopefully) slam-dunk sale? Or would you rather slowly build a dedicated client relationship that will be mutually-beneficial and enjoyable for many years? The life cycle of a prospective client relationship is heavily dependent on your finesse in the customer “courting” process. Here are some ways to win your prospects over:
- Think about how you can please them. When you are figuring out who your ideal client is, find out what would make THEM happy to do business with you. Then enact those things with what you say in your marketing messages, with your customer service, with your business environment, with your client holiday gifts, with your project management, with your level and frequency of communication with them. Make it priority to cater to their preferences, as long as you are being authentic.
- Stop talking about yourself. Sure, you have the best solution for them and you have a list of 500 reasons why they should do business with you. However, you don’t absolutely know this unless you truly know them first. Listen. Learn about your prospects and their businesses. How did their backgrounds get them to where they are now? Maybe even ask about their pets if the conversation gets that friendly. Whatever you do, do not have a one-way conversation or they will take it as an indication that you will likely never ever ever care about their actual needs. If they want to know more about you, they will ask.
- Always present yourself in a positive light. When a prospect first encounters you, your business’s brand image is incredibly important. Invest in quality, such as a sharp and professionally designed logo and business cards, to capitalize on these first impressions. If your current brand image is sub-par, you can only expect to attract equally sub-par prospects. Of course, you still have to back up a sophisticated image with a high-quality product or service. Cognitive dissonance is no laughing matter when you want to capture and maintain a positive image in any market.
- Send them flowers. Well, send some fitting token of appreciation for them giving you the time of day, such as a personal thank-you card. Acknowledge that you enjoyed your introduction to them and that you appreciate them having met with you to discuss their business needs. Do not, however, pressure them in any way to purchase. That is their decision. Just make sure they know what you have to offer – by way of marketing materials, your website, etc. – and how to contact you.
- Don’t be pushy. If they like you and are interested with working with you, they will tell you in some way – maybe not immediately, but eventually they will. Send a follow-up email or make a friendly phone call to them here and there to remind them that they are still on your radar. Be patient and remind yourself that you have the best solution for them (presuming you have, in fact, listened to their needs and know that can meet them). If they don’t value what you have to offer, then wish them well. If they do value it, then you have won them… for now at least. Concentrate on building the relationship, not making the sale. If you are pushy at the onset, you may inadvertently alienate a potentially great relationship.
- Show ongoing appreciation. Once you have begun doing business with a new client, don’t assume that you can let your guard down. Even if you have a signed contract, you have not necessarily won them forever. Never forget that there are many more fish in this competitive marketplace for your client to choose from, and that negative word-of-mouth spreads like a Colorado forest fire during a drought. Make it a point to regularly thank your clients for their business. Buy them more flowers (or whatever gift you now know they actually like to receive). Continue to give them exceptional service and to present yourself positively. After all, it is much easier and more profitable to keep your current clients happy than to go out and fetch new ones.