When you run a service-based business, your relationships can be your lifeblood. Communication can help build long-term relationships (and referrals!) by reinforcing mutual trust. We have found five simple ways that can help improve communication and build longstanding relationships.
1. Start new projects strong.
Hitting the ground running with your client is one of the most important parts of starting a new business relationship. With so many new tasks on our plate, it may be easy to overlook the need for effective communication. But avoiding this step can lead to misunderstandings and missed deadlines- not to mention loss of business. Onboarding should set the tone for the rest of the project and make the client feel confident about the process.
2. Constant communication is a good thing.
Nothing is worse than paying a lot of money and not hearing from that vendor for weeks. Your client wants to know that you are working. One thing we do in our agency is create weekly emails detailing what we are doing, what we need from them, and what we need them to work on. This gets everyone focused on the project at the beginning of the week. We also like to set weekly 30 minute phone calls to catch up on progress and address any questions.
3. Practice active listening.
Active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it includes verbal and nonverbal cues (like eye contact, nodding, “Mmm hmming” in agreement) that reassures the speaker that you are listening.
Your client deserves your full attention. Even on our worst, most distracting days, don’t multi-task. Focus on your client, allow space for them to share. They are your partner and they are trusting you with their problems.
4. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
While you might be a rockstar in your industry, your job is to help your client. Keep the focus on them. If you focus on your client’s needs and their problems, they’ll be more likely to choose your services over those of a competitor.
5. Repeat their words back to them in your understanding.
“So what I’m hearing is…” can be one of the most useful phrases you can use in your industry, especially if the client is not communicating their idea well. If you are able to repeat back to them your understanding of what they said, they will be able to confirm or adjust it. Plus, it shows that you are listening and actively problem solving as they talk.
Good communication is the key to building long-term client relationships. When you truly listen to your clients, you’re able to give them the best solutions.