INTRODUCTION:

Specifically, ‘Client Development, and Interpersonal Relationships’. In a business, responsibilities for managing the day to day tasks required to maintain and grow relationships with existing and prospective clients cannot be overemphasized. It is a pivotal point to remain conscious of as this leads to a successful business. Client Development involves interpersonal relationships; Going an extra mile to extend cordiality whilst still being professional, trodding where those before you haven’t. 

Statistics have shown that in business, over 60% of their Clients are those that you have either worked for before, or have been referred to you from a past or present Client. Therefore, please keep in mind:

  • Without down-playing its importance, yes it’s important to chase new jobs and meet new Clients, however, it is more necessary to understand how to keep your existing Clients as well.
  • Expertise and skill can give you a Client, but ‘Character’ (relationship) is how you’ll keep them.

Client Development and Interpersonal Relationships with Client representatives is an integral part of ones working life. This rings true for all businesses in spite of the product or service they provide. You can be the very best at what you do, but treat your clients badly and you are going to lose valuable projects.

 

WHY A ‘CLIENT DEVELOPMENT RELATIONSHIP’?

  1.  Your Clients are Your Business: thus, a key part of being successful is cultivating a healthy relationship with them. Maintaining a healthy relationship with them, will allow your business thrive. The key is building a relationship that goes beyond one-time projects.
  2.  A business is only as good as its Clients: As a consultant, any work you have is linked to your Client. Preserving those relationships is as good as a future business, or a future referral. No business gets far after losing the trust of its Clients. It must provide value to these Clients on a consistent, on-going basis. Even if misunderstandings were to occur, how you handle will equally reflect on the relationship.
  3.  Time Well Spent: A bonus is that a positively cultivated relationship with your Client will also make time spent on the project more enjoyable and deeply satisfying. If one has to spend a lot of time with a Client, who wouldn’t want a positive experience?

The vital pivot here is that this cultivated affiliation with your Client will determine whether or not they will remember you. Light the flame, Fan it, Feed it and nurture it as you would a plant or a lover.

As connoted above, Client Development falls into Two (2) Categories:

  1.   New Clients (Prospects)
  2.  Existing Clients

 

See Diagram:

 PROSPECT AND CLIENT DEVELOPMENT DIAGRAM

Familiarity Courting Conversion Satisfaction Loyalty Advocacy
Aided and Unaided Awareness Lead Generation Sales Close Promise Delivery and Service Fulfillment Client for Life Fanatics Word of Mouth Buzz
Client Process Genesis Client On-boarding Relationship Building 100% Retention Rate Client Referrals

 

HOW TO BUILD LONG-TERM CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS?

  1.  Clearly Plan Projects: As an Architect, when in receipt of a brief and asked to draw up a quote, it is crucial you prepare a clear project outline. Once a project direction has been established, work out a detailed timeline and   agree on dates.
          • This is also a preferred time to offer a quote and settle the fee/payment
          • Throughout the project planning and fee negotiation, be sure to be in sync with your Client: both parties should be clear and open to communication.
  2.  Communicate Openly and Effectively: There is no such thing as over-communication. Communication is the oil and seed of life- do not underestimate its power in every status quo not excluding Business relationships.   Clients depend on you to keep them informed.
          • Be Available: Enable Clients easily reach you and receive prompt responses to enquiries
          • Be Informative: Regular updates on project progress ensures smooth development and enables the quick reform of problems as soon as they arise.
          • Be Proactive: Eliminate Surprises. No one likes negative surprises when their livelihood is at stake. Make sure you are always aware and update your Client on anything affecting the project.
  3.  Share Knowledge: Be a useful resource. The more value you offer, the more your client comes to depend on you. In getting to know your Client better, you will discover other areas or a wider range of problems where your   skills or knowledge comes into play. In doing this for free, you boost your Client’s confidence and trust in you, potentially leading to a wider scope of projects, extra work or extra pay.
  4. Manage Time Well: You must meet deadlines. Getting work completed well and on time is an integral part of maintaining client relationship. Your word is your bond, to keep your Client from unnecessary worry, you should keep it. 
  5. Be Honest, Be Yourself: No long-term relationship survives if the two parties aren’t honest with each other- this is no exception. Without a reputation of integrity, you will never be able to cultivate the kind of long-term relationships your business depends on. Be honest about your capabilities, what you have, and how long it would take to get certain things done. Don’t hesitate to share information, Clients may find out.
  6. Think of a Client as More than a Client: A Client is more than just a revenue stream, be polite, ask questions to know their views and be sensitive to their needs. Each has his or her likes, dislikes, issues, concerns and preferences on how they conduct business. The more you acquaint yourself with this, identify with them as a person rather than simply a chance to make money, the stronger the bond between you would grow.
  7. Reward your Loyal Clients: Clients should be honoured for their loyalty and receive that distinct treatment they deserve. Be free with your expression of gratitude and find new ways of saying ‘Thank you for your valued business.’
  8. Have a Vision of Partnership with your Client: A Client who determines you are in it and worth it for the long term, and equally motivated to help him or her succeed soon begins to see you as more than a vendor or supplier. You become someone they grow to value today, tomorrow and in the years to come.