Like the relationships you build with lifelong friends, client relationships can go through natural ups and downs. Whether it is simply time that has slipped away from you, or shifting priorities has lost some projects in translation, it’s important to remember that just because something isn’t working now doesn’t mean it can’t. Sometimes we need to look at innovative ways to revive and maintain current relationships, or reevaluate and strategize prevention methods for potentially toxic relationships.
Sometimes there’s a lull in communications or a change of staffing that can cause rifts in relationships. It’s not always personal why a relationship goes stale. However, it doesn’t mean you need to cut the cord with the client. Sometimes, all you need is a refresh in communications and a reminder why you partnered with each other in the first place.
Personalizing your refresh button:
- Incorporate empathetic strategies. While the end goal is to close a sale, understanding and actively listening to clients is just as important. Your goal as a business owner should be centered around client needs, and as such, your services and perspective should be one that comes from an empathetic place. Sometimes a simple change of perspective can be enough to revive a relationship. Next time a client seeks your services, focus on how you can solve their problem rather than perfecting your pitch.
- Identify and address the problem. Perhaps you simply put a smaller client on the backburner and thus have a stale relationship. Or maybe your ego has unintentionally rubbed a client the wrong way. Take a moment to reflect on your actions, the relationship, and identify what actually went wrong. Once you have it figured out, reach out to the client and apologize. Communicate in a professional, neutral tone the importance of their relationship and work towards an amicable solution. Make the changes necessary to your attitude, business operations, and/or whatever has rocked the relationship.
- Have a plan. You may be eager to revive a relationship, but there’s always another side that you need to keep in mind. Before reaching out to repair a client relationship, think about what your purpose is in the revival of such relationship (i.e., why should they want to reconnect with you?), take a personal approach (i.e., take time to truly reconnect by asking about a hobby you know they enjoy, or how their family is doing, etc.), share information relating to their business and/or your partnership (i.e., take initiative to update them on a new industry trend, a recent change to legislation, etc.), and research (i.e., personal and professional topics, such as a recent loved one passing, the launch of a new product or service, or rebranding) as these can make for an awkward, unprofessional conversation if you mention something that has a negative connotation (i.e., asking about said deceased loved one in present tense).
Like most healthy relationships in life, client relationships require time, effort, and work to maintain. From being swept up in projects and drowning to meet deadlines to forgetting that lunch meeting with an important client, there are moments when life simply gets in the way. Sometimes we need a way to maintain our current clientele without burning out. In maintaining a relationship, it’s important to make each one unique to the client and continue adapting throughout the phases of the relationship and of the businesses.
- Create a tradition unique to client.
Everyone has a hobby or passion outside of work. You can take advantage of their hobbies or passions to create a unique tradition for the two of you. For example, if the client is passionate about their work with a nonprofit organization, you could gather your team to partake in the fundraising efforts. For example, if the nonprofit organization is geared towards helping cancer research, you could organize a team to participate in an annual fundraising event either through the nonprofit organization or creating a new one with the client. This shows your genuine interest in and support their passions outside of your professional relationship. It garners a personal touch and makes you memorable to the client.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
It might be a seemingly archaic, cliché saying, but it is one that holds true in maintaining client relationships. Identify internal issues before they arise or diligently so as not to effect client operations or communications. Consistently and frequently measure results to ensure that what you promised remains achievable. Be accountable for you and your team’s efforts. If someone is not delivering the results expected, address the issue without disturbance to the client or other internal teams. Communicate with the client to establish set goals and expectations for what you and your team are to provide, and to ensure the client’s feedback is received and implemented accordingly.
- Be adaptive and innovative.
Continuing education and training in your field of expertise and ensuring your staff participates is essential to your company’s growth and confidence in the services and/or products it provides. Staying up to date with marketing and technology advances can give you an edge over a competitor, making you unique and a leader within the industry. Forward-thinking strategies can assist in the client appreciating your acknowledgment and plan for the future. Incorporating personalized practices, such as making in-person appointments, especially if the client is located outside of your general service area, can show your investment in the relationship.
Preventing bad relationships
Sometimes relationships go awry and its outside of our control. However, you have the power to control who you do business with and to determine who doesn’t fit the mold. Defining potentially bad client relationships is just as essential to your company as reviving and maintaining your current clientele. Take a look at the issues you should address in looking for future clients, as well as evaluating current, potentially toxic client relationships.
- Asking the right questions. In a scenario where you’re scoping a potential new client, there is such a thing as asking the wrong questions. The pendulum swings both ways. New entrepreneurs are inevitably going to have questions and how you can help, but there’s a line to draw in identifying which questions they’re asking. The potential clients that need extensive training and education on how your services and industry work may not be worth the time and money. Being mindful that a learning curve is usually expected, but you probably don’t want a client whose hand you must hold every step of the way.
- Avoid the bait and switch. There’s nothing worse than a client who can’t back up their word. Red flags should fly when budgeting isn’t a concern or when a potential client starts dodging the questions. Another concern should be if a client doesn’t know what their budget is. Identifying and avoiding the bait and switch approach is crucial to your investment in a client. Seek help from your risk and compliance department for pointers on identifying and preventing bait and switch tactics.
- Sinking ships. When a client wants guaranteed coverage, expects you to pull them out of the wreckage, and/or displays envious or egotistical mindsets, it should be an indicator of a potential sinking ship you should neither board nor save.
Whether you’re looking to revive, maintain, or avoid a dwindling client relationship, the power is in your hands to change what you can. Insured Solutions is equipped with unique, customized programs that can assist in the development of client-facing solutions. For more information on our programs and tips on reviving, maintaining, and preventing toxic client relationships, contact Insured Solutions today.