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13 Platinum Ideas on Working With Your Clients
By Ray Jutkins   Printer Friendly Version

Every day old relationships break up.

Every day new relationships begin.

How can you build your business relationships - so they grow and mature and evolve upwards - and not "out"? That is, how can you keep the clients you have - and not have them walk out the door?

It has taken me a couple of decades to develop this list of things "to do". Things that help me stick with a client. That, when I remember and use each of these concepts, keep our partnership of working together, working.

Here they are ... 13 Platinum Ideas on Working With Your Clients.

1. Listen to your client

Your client passes on information - and shares knowledge only they have. Listen and learn their message.

Listening is tough. As most of us have never learned how. Because we have not been taught. Schools teach us to read and write and fail to teach us to listen.

Yet listening - for understanding - could be the most important element in any business relationship. It is not about what you have to say, or what you think, or you want, or you hope. It IS about what your client needs! And the best way to learn their needs is to ask questions ... and listen.

There is a reason we have 2 ears and only 1 mouth; we are suppose to listen twice as much as we talk.

Listen to your client to build an ongoing relationship.

2. Be responsive to your clients requests

And be responsive quickly, too. With a positive outlook. With a bold approach.

When you "hear", respond. Listening is not enough. You must do something with that knowledge. "Do" is important. Action, vs. passive.

Certainly understand - and then be brave. "Dream" the unusual. Look for other ways to achieve. Search for a new path to walk. Stay out of the rut of ordinary - go for a gold medal, blue ribbon, 5 stars. Truly "think different".

3. Provide a continuity of ideas

Yes, a parade of recommendations and suggestions and thoughts. With a base of people your client can count upon to serve them.

Present good "ideas" ... and be ready to defend them. Being ready is important. Also be willing to back off and end debate. When the client says "no", understand what that means. And move on.

A relationship means your client is always right! They ARE the client - that makes them right - not you.

A good relationship is built upon the faith your client knows more than you about their business and their customers. And sometimes even your most wonderful concept will not be accepted. When that happens, go back to the drawing board and do it again. Develop a new parade of ideas.

4. Be sensitive. Talk with your client

The client is the most important element in the mix. Not the product or service - not their customers. Certainly not you!

Work with the troops. Focusing on the upper echelon is fine. Still, remember, the grass roots is where it's at.

Communication by voice, by paper, with electronics to your entire client team will help build relationships. Every so often a message to the boss. To the supervisors. To those in the trenches. Let them know you are thinking about them, their offerings, their customers.

Talking "at" or "to" is out ... talking with is in.

5. Personal interaction is important - the "chemistry"

Your team and the client team must work together, as a team. Find the right people in every position to work with the client in every position. Peer to peer.

And have those right people be trustworthy, earn respect, share a common goal and mission. The "chemistry" of people working together is mandatory. When it does not work everyone loses. So, when it does not work (and that time will come!), change people! Take ego out of it and make a change.

As every day you need to work on your relationship with your client. Oh, and be darn sure ALL have some fun along this business road to the goal, to the mission!

6. Understand the difference between Marketing and Sales

Advertising, marketing, merchandising, public relations and promotion is one thing. Sales is another. Know there is a difference.

You are frequently a factor in the marketing and advertising. Generating leads. Creating traffic. Getting the phone to ring, the fax received, the mail in the door, something off the web site, an E-mail reply.

Yet, if you play any real part in the sales process, it is a small part. The client does that. Oh sure, you are helping with good marketing and advertising ideas. And a service concept or two. With a thought to help in the call center. With fulfillment.

Yet know it is the client who makes the sales. And truly generates the money.

7. Know that some Marketing problems will not get solved with Marketing solutions

No matter how great the idea, or how successful the execution of that idea - sometimes a tough problem is going to remain a tough problem.

This is a "fact" because the marketplace is a moving animal. New products and services abound. Upgrades are frequent. Improvements happen. Fixes are necessary. Things happen. And sometimes more marketing is not the answer.

Realism must be a part of every idea, every discussion. The most wonderful idea isn't always the answer.

Promise only what you know you can deliver. And then deliver it!

8. Be a good Money steward

Charge fair fares. Give good value. Every day.

Money isn't fun to talk about. And no matter how fair your fare, your client would like to pay less. No matter how fair your fare, someone else out there will make an offer of less. Both thoughts mean you must charge for value. And make certain your client knows the value before they think about the money.

Charge for what you do - yet, know the client is always looking for "a good deal". Make certain your client gets what they are looking for ... a good deal.

9. Be a good Time steward

In the beginning set a timetable - and stick to it.

From day one agree on who is going to do what and when. Put it in writing and begin. With everyone knowing everyone elses responsibilities against the clock.

Once the time frame is set, if there is a need for a change, make certain it is because of something the client needs, did, said, learned. And not because of you.

There could be an outside circumstance that forced a change. A competitive situation. A manufacturing problem inside the client operation. All fine. Make a change when there is a need for change. And reset the timetable.

Controlling your time will help you control the money.

10. Concentrate on the account on hand

It is easy to wonder about - and think ahead. All fine and good. Yet, you must take care of what you have on your plate today.

It is always fun to do something new. Make it a habit to do "new" things for your client. Always reach out and up for more. "Think" for them and with them. Concentrate on their needs.

Let your client know you truly "love" them today, and more will come your way. When the time is ripe.

11. Use your clients product

This point should be understood. It is not an option. It is expected.

Eat the cereal your client sells. Drive the car your client builds. Use the hardware / software your client develops. Bank at your clients bank. Eat at your clients restaurant. Deal with your client. Whatever it is - get on board with your clients product and services.

Besides loyalty - which you client will "see" - you will learn things that help you help them. There is nothing like a true user to gain insight into what brings buyers and sellers together.

12. Be your client's teddy bear

In good times and bad your client needs someone to hold on to. Be that person.

Clients are like small children. They need constant attention. It is easy to be around when things are going good. It is much more difficult when times are tough. You need to be available all the time - through thick and thin.

Be your clients security blanket. Hold their hand. Reach out and touch. "Make love" with your client. Let them know you truly care.

13. Everything must come together - everything must work

The bottom line is the clients bottom line. The most important business measurement is if the marketing/advertising programs work. If they are effective.

Do they meet the company goals and objectives - or do they not. Is everyone "happy". Is the end result satisfactory.

Awards and kudos are wonderful, yet, most often you can't take them to the bank. Remember what the client asked as you began together - and work with them always to fulfill that direction.

Everything must come together - everything must work together.

That's it ... 13 Platinum Ideas on Working With Your Clients.

Put these ideas to work for your company and enjoy a long relationship with your clients.


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