Building and maintaining positive relationships with clients is a skill that few business owners can do without.
Entrepreneurs understand that maintaining positive relationships with clients is a skill few businesses can do without, but managing clients is a process of trial and error.
Below are a few general tips to adopt, and mistakes to avoid during this process:
The dos of client management
Set expectations early on
Often, your client relies on you to advise them on the best way to achieve their goals. In those initial meetings where clients express their desired outcomes, avoid future difficulties by educating them on the realities of the task, while suggesting changes to the scope of work to accommodate their objectives.
Be risk averse
Client perceptions are created by what we do and say, so manage potential challenges early on rather than waiting for the inevitable tough call or meeting. For instance, if it’s unlikely you’re going to meet their deadline, rather tell them in advance, and offer alternative approaches that will speed up delivery.
Related: 7 Ways to deal with an angry client
Bring new ideas to the table
Show an interest in your client’s company and industry and suggest ideas that could be helpful or informative.
Be flexible within reason
Flexibility in client management means understanding that clients are allowed to change the brief or struggle with their own delays. These should be accommodated within reason, although potential cost implications should be discussed if it adds more pressure than necessary.
The don’ts of client of management
Don’t advise clients on matters you’re not an expert in
Where a sound rapport with a client has been established, lines of appropriateness can be easily crossed. A client meeting, for instance, may digress into a session where he/she complains about their line manager. Always maintain your neutrality during these discussions, as you never know where well-intentioned advice/comments can lead.
Maintain professionalism at all times
Never assume a client’s friendliness equates to them lowering their expectations of you as a service provider. For instance, it is appropriate to ask about their partners or children or hobbies, but it is not appropriate to ask them more personal questions.
Don’t make excuses or be seen to complain
There is a fine balance between being honest and bringing up issues clients have little control over. For instance, if your client’s delay hampers your ability to do their work then mention this, specifically the impact on deadlines and quality. However, if your complaint is that the client contact is unreasonably demanding, rather emphasise the ramifications of his/her demands while educating him/her on industry best practices.
Related: Vusi Thembekwayo's lessons learnt on practising the skill of management
Ensure quality of service at all times
There is nothing worse than a service provider who shows little interest in the client’s needs once they have signed on the dotted line. Clients are more likely to recommend your business to others if they received quality service.
Always remember that a client is more likely to renew a contract with a service provider who is diligent in their duties, passionate about the client’s business, and takes the time to understand them as people.