Establishing expectations from the start is critical to the long-lasting success of any relationship. In business, the first opportunity to set those expectations is prospecting and early sales conversations. In these early stages, doing the small things can be really impactful. Follow up quickly, arrive to meetings early, provide only useful information and support that information with insight that is easy to understand. Essentially, demonstrate that you respect them and value their time, because you will want the same.
Once a prospect becomes a client, there are other areas that require attention to maintain the positive growth. Don’t overlook the details needed to manage these relationships. To ensure details aren’t missed, implement a client management plan that includes these key areas:
- Set Goals and Boundaries
In a business relationship, both parties enter with their own goals. It’s important to clearly define and share those goals. Be on the same page and have an understanding of what your clients are looking to achieve. Communicate the steps necessary to accomplish their goals. At the same time, it’s important to set boundaries. Say no when necessary. Insist deadlines are met. Don’t allow yourself or your team to be talked to in a manner that is offensive or hostile. When both parties agree on goals, boundaries and expectations, a successful partnership is practically inevitable.
- Planning is Everything
Strategic planning and defining project deliverables will guarantee the project remains on track. Whether the project deliverables affect your customers or your business, it’s crucial to clearly define the scope-of-work. Take time to outline the project details, budgets and metrics to alleviate any confusion associated with the work. Establish clear deliverables with realistic timelines, review each deliverable with the client and answer any questions prior to moving forward.
- Communication is Key
George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communications is the illusion that it has taken place.” As a business owner, it’s your job to ensure that it does. Develop a conversation early on and communicate until it hurts. Strong communication increases client retention, improves a client’s trust in you and enables a better client management process. Communicate, listen, be proactive and be personable to ensure valuable connections are made with each client.
- Be Realistically Transparent
Transparency opens the door for stronger, and often, more profitable client relationships. Clients are attracted to honest, realistic and truthful companies. It’s vital these traits shine through in your work ethic. From invoices to project plans, to payment collection, be clear, upfront and to the point. Provide an explanation about processes, pricing and updates to overcome client uncertainty. Recognize conflict quickly and admit errors when they occur. Acknowledge mistakes, apologize for the oversight and assure your clients a solution has already been implemented. All relationships have a strong chance to thrive through open and honest communication.
- Under-promise, Over-deliver
This is a common sales mantra that every team member should follow, regardless of their role. Strive for excellent client service by doing more than you say and exceeding the client’s expectations. You’ll not only impact your individual credibility but the business’s credibility too. To successfully accomplish this, be aware of what you, your team and your business can actually accomplish.
Aligning expectations early on is important to cultivating valuable relationships and ensuring success for the long haul. Outline these expectations in a client management plan and insist your team follows that plan. When executed consistently, an effective client management plan will improve client satisfaction, client retention and increase referrals.
Many business owners will find the notion of creating a client management plan daunting. We suggest working with someone who has helped other business owners through the process. A business advisor, who has helped to implement systems with many entrepreneurs with many different challenges, is an excellent resource. We are that resource, when you’re ready.
Since the beginning of time, humans have communicated using primitive drawings, bartering, nonverbal actions and face-to-face conversations. These early forms facilitated the spread of knowledge, ideas and the formation of relationships. As times advanced, communication took on an entirely new face – a digital face in an increasingly technology dependent world. Through the best of change and the worst, no matter how fast-paced, communication has always played a fundamental role in all facets of life.
Effective communication is essential to developing a strong business. Successful client communication is key to gaining new business. Initial contact establishes the tone of the relationship. As the relationship progresses, it’s critical the communication does too. Regular conversations with your client base guarantees you’re always adapting and growing to meet their requirements. However, maintaining regular communication can be difficult at times. It’s imperative that you implement a client communication plan to effectively manage conversations with your clients.
Communication is an effective tool to gauge client satisfaction with your business, products and services. Utilise your communication plan, to outline and monitor which techniques best attract your ideal prospects. Once you onboard that prospect, adjust your communication plan to better support the relationship. Identify how you will communicate – phone, email automation, social media, personalised email, etc. – with each client or group of clients. Address how often you will communicate with each client. Follow up quickly, request feedback, provide useful information and update clients regularly. Use new information gained for potential upsells and new client projects.
Understand that, more often than not, over-communicating is more beneficial than under-communicating. That being said, there’s a fine line between effectively versus ineffectively over-communicating. You don’t want to come across as if you’re bombarding or pestering your clients. A strong communication plan will ensure all of your communication efforts are valuable, powerful and effective. Not to mention, it will provide clarity around timelines, deliverables and what’s important to both client and business.
Demonstrate your firm’s high communication standards and hold your team accountable to following the communication plan. Your client relationships will thrive leading to increased client satisfaction, retention and referrals. Ultimately supporting your main goal of generating more revenue.
Developing a client communication plan will be a difficult, time-consuming task for many business owners. There are many details that are incorporated into an effective communication plan. We recommend working with someone who has experience creating and implementing different strategies. A business advisor is a perfect resource to complete this process. When you’re ready, we’re here to help.