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If you want to build lasting relationships with clients you need to tell them the truth. Honesty is obviously an important part of building trust, but honesty needs to work both ways. In other words, not only do you need to be truthful with your clients; you also need to be willing to hear the truth from them about your business.
Establish Trust … And Deliver
One of the first things I do whenever I engage with a new client is try to establish a level of trust from the first conversation. I ask as many questions as possible about their business. “What are your goals both short term and long term? Where have you been successful with partners? What have your pain points been?” After learning more about what they want to achieve and what their past experiences have been, only then can I find out how to best offer them something of value. Maybe that value is global resources, a lower price point or speed to market. Whatever that differentiator may be, it won’t make a difference if you can’t deliver the goods.
Learn And Manage Expectations
Now that the relationship has been established and you’ve agreed to give it a go, you can’t just leave the rest to chance. Different clients need different levels of attention and support. Some clients may expect you to hold their hand throughout the process, and other clients might just want to check in from time to time, but no matter who the client is, there is always one essential thing that needs to be established: expectations!
Someone once told me that “expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” The good news is that expectations can be managed. This is where the truth part comes in. Every time I commit to a client, I also have to commit to being honest with myself about my business. We’ve all heard the old expression, “There are two sides to every story.” Just like in any relationship, there are different perspectives. Your perspective of how the process is going might be very different from the experience that your client is having.
In order to close that gap and manage expectations, it’s important to ask for honest feedback along the way. If you really have established trust with your client, then they should feel comfortable telling you when things aren’t going so well. Just remember that if you ask for feedback, you need to be willing to listen. Always put your ego aside and try to turn what might seem like criticism into an opportunity to improve the relationship and ultimately improve your business.
Grow From Negative Feedback
My biggest fear isn’t losing a client. It’s losing a client and not knowing why. Fortunately, over the years I’ve had more positive feedback than negative feedback, but I can tell you that, in the long run, the negative feedback has always been more helpful. Being able to accept the truth even if it’s not what you want to hear is the greatest stepping stone to growing and maintaining relationships.
We all have good friends. I like to call them “mirror friends.” These are the friends that, when they are with you, you don’t need a mirror. They will tell you when you have a piece of lettuce stuck in your teeth or some crud in your eye. A good client won’t always take the place of a mirror, but they very well might offer you a window to an honest look at your business.
May 28, 2019 at 08:01AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs