Building a strong relationship with your clients is key to long-term success. The positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations that have contributed to the success of Brave Factor are a testament to the importance of positive client relationships. Embracing the concept of playing the long game, rather than seeking quick wins, is a fundamental principle that guides my approach to client relationships.
Playing the long game involves considering the client’s best interests in the long run, rather than focusing solely on immediate gains or financial transactions. I’m happier to “lose” a sale, knowing the solution or timing is not right, rather than push them to pay for something they don’t need. And it has worked – I’ve had people return to me a year later, ready to build a new site. Because I already established Brave as caring for their business’s success over my own, I’m usually at the top of their list of agencies to call.
Your clients hire you or your agency because they believe you can solve their business problems. This requires trust and communication to build a healthy relationship with them where they feel secure. So this creates the question, how can I build a healthy repertoire with (essentially) strangers seeking my services?
Building trust before and during a project:
- Display confidence: If you don’t feel confident, fake it. (Confidence is the only trait that you can fake, in my opinion. In everything else, be honest.) Avoid ending with a question mark or using uneasy laughter to fill the silence. If you don’t know the answer to a question, confidently state that you will look into it and provide a timely response. Clients give us money because they believe we can fulfill our promises. Confidence helps display competence.
- Display expertise: Expertise can be as simple as guiding them through your project’s process. Even if you aren’t an expert on UI best practices or custom development hacks, you can still display expertise in your ability to lead the project and keep it on time.
- Prove consistency: Deliver on your promises and commitments. If you say you’ll send an email tomorrow, make sure to do so. If unexpected delays occur, communicate them as early as possible. After a sales call, I always promise to send an email by a certain time and make it my priority to deliver by then. Before even closing a project, this can be the first proof the client has to know that I do what I say I will do.
- Be honest, transparent, and authentic: Authenticity builds trust. Establish an environment of honesty and transparency. Communicate openly about project progress, challenges, and potential solutions. We don’t have to pretend like we know it all. I’m not afraid to let clients know my shortcomings if need be. (”I’m not an expert on AI, but let me chat to someone who is and get back to you.”)
- Connect on a personal level: Foster a personal connection by sharing experiences, genuinely caring about their business goals, and actively listening to their needs and concerns. (If you forget things easily, take notes to refer to.)
- Don’t force your solution on your client: Listen attentively to the client’s needs and preferences. Respond with confidence and provide solutions that align with their requirements rather than imposing your own ideas.
- Demonstrate experience through asking the right questions: Ask deeper questions to gain a better understanding of the client’s business and project goals. Thoughtful inquiries showcase your experience and expertise.
- Put their business first: Show that you prioritize their business over your own. This could be advising them against increasing the scope if you really think that their idea isn’t going to create much value. It could be when they make a request that’s not following best practices and you help guide them towards a better solution. Clients can tell when we authentically are trying to help and when we put their needs above our own.
I was working on one project, and things were going pretty smoothly until we hit a major roadblock. The stakeholder interviews, which were supposed to be quick and straightforward, dragged on for months longer than we anticipated. As a result, the project timeline went off track, and we faced potential delays, and thus, late fees. I knew I had to have a serious conversation with the client about the situation. We had to be transparent and let them know that the project would be delayed, and they might incur additional charges as per the contract. However, I didn’t want to leave them hanging or make the situation worse.
I proposed a compromise to the client. We could temporarily pause the project without any additional cost to them, allowing them more time to get everything in order. It was a bit risky for my agency because it meant putting their project ahead of our financial gain. But I believed it was the right thing to do to maintain a good working relationship and build trust. The client appreciated our offer and recognized our dedication to their success, even at our agency’s expense. They decided to push forward with the project despite the potential increase in the bill.
And you know what? It turned out to be a wise decision in the long run. Once the project was successfully launched, the client was so impressed with our work and the level of service we provided that they referred us to another business. (One that had an even larger budget than the first project!)
Sometimes taking risks and prioritizing the client’s needs can lead to unexpected rewards. It’s all about building trust, demonstrating your commitment, and going the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction. As you get more and more experience managing projects, these things will get easier. The ultimate goal should always be to cultivate a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with your clients, as this can significantly impact the growth and success of your future business endeavors.