21 May 2013
When it comes to establishing effective communication with clients, the rules of conduct are based not only on business ethics, but also on basic human nature. Every detail is important — from keeping your promises to simple things like the tone of your voice when explaining your services to potential buyers. Below, I have compiled a list of 10 simples rules to help you build lasting relationships with existing and potential clients.
#1. You are educating the client, not the other way around
Give up the role of a person who is trying to get something, as in the case of trying to sign a contract. Instead, become a consultant that has something to offer. Be the expert capable of finding the right solution to client's problems.
#2. Dialogue instead of monologue
When answering client’s questions, don’t respond with standard, previously memorized phrases. Try to figure out what intentions lie behind each question and follow up by asking your own questions. Let the client speak.
#3. The customer is not always right, and it is your responsibility to explain why
The rule that says “customer is always right” doesn’t apply to all situations. Sometimes, the customer’s vision of the final solution isn’t the best way to go. In this case, don’t be afraid to explain where the client is mistaken. Think back to the role of the expert (see tip #1). Identify the problem clearly and justify your point of view to the client. Otherwise, when problems arise, you will be the one responsible for not pointing the client in the right direction.
#4. When deadlines shift, discuss with the client as soon as possible
Typically, customers expect a ready solution to be delivered by a certain date. However, various circumstances may arise during the course of development, which could impact the development time. The sooner you report a problem, the more understanding your client will be. Discuss the obstacles and what can be done in a given situation.
#5. Never make promises you cannot keep
Make sure that all potential problems have been discussed with the customer. If you realize that some potential issue was left unsaid, or that your previous promises cannot be kept, better speak out sooner than later.
#6. Respect yourself
Have respect for yourself and your time. Don’t allow disrespect from the client, since it will be difficult to change that attitude later. And if you think you can gain the client's respect by providing free services, you are probably wrong.
#7. Maintain a good reputation
Even if a potential customer chooses not to work with you (for whatever reason), always try to leave a positive impression. Maintain long-term relationships, find out how things are going, even if you are not currently working with a certain client. This increases the chances that the customer will eventually come back, and your good reputation will help you to attract new opportunities.
#8. Make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to
Don’t be shy to double-check and make sure that all participants of the project are on the same page and that they are in fact doing what is expected to meet the deadline. Try to think ahead and determine what the next step should be. It should always be clear what every participant is working on.
#9. Rely on facts, not assumptions
Never try to speculate what the client actually meant when explaining his/her requirements. Don’t read between the lines, don’t guess. Whenever you’re not sure about something, ask concrete questions and get clear answers to avoid misunderstandings later on.
#10. Don’t take the client for a fool
When working with people, you shouldn’t consider yourself smarter than others. And, of course, never cheat or blame others for your mistakes. If something went wrong, be prepared to be held accountable, don’t try to shift blame on the client or the development team. Ask yourself first, “What have I done to detect and prevent the problem?”.
And finally, the most important advice of all: admit your mistakes and learn from them. If you are able to learn from experience without blaming others, then each new call, contact, and completed project will be better than the last. This way, every failure will bring you closer to success.
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