Having a prospective client sitting in your office discussing the finer details of a potential agreement between the two of you can bring about a wide selection of emotions. Of course, there is a bit of excitement and anticipation as the time draws closer to getting a name on the dotted line.
Though, there is also the fear of this reality never coming to fruition. But above all this, is the feeling of wanting to do and say everything in your power to begin speaking on a level much deeper than the cost of doing business.
This feeling is thanks in part to inherent human qualities. Each one of us has the desire to connect with one another. But there is more at play here. In a business setting, you might be aware of how a genuine-leaning relationship can become fruitful.
To be blunt, it can mean increased profits which is always desirable in business. But do not get too far ahead of yourself here. Instead, remember the words of Colleen Barret, the president emerita of Southwest Airlines, “To earn the respect (and eventually love) of your customers, you first have to respect those customers. That is why Golden Rule behavior is embraced by most of the winning companies.”
Staying true to the effort of building a true rapport with prospective clients is easier said than done. To make it slightly easier, we gathered five practical ways to accomplish this.
1. Make a splash
Be it on social media, in a television show, or even right in front of your very eyes, you can recall more than a couple instances where another party’s actions resulted in surprise bubbling up from within you. Furthermore, this surprise was of a pleasant nature, leaving even more positively associated emotions. You can coax the same feelings out of clients if you treat them right.
“The phrase ‘Go above and beyond’ is thrown around far more than I would prefer,” said Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. “But when it comes to your client relations, I can’t stress it enough – do something noteworthy every time you meet with them.
Practically speaking, this can be literally anything you think best exemplifies your company. Maybe it is an extravagant lunch spread. Or, it could be a presentation to blow all others away. But remember, whatever you choose to do also has to be memorable for the client. So consider building your idea around this fact. All in all, you are in the driver’s seat here and you would be wise to make the most of this newfound power.
“The lasting impression is what I aim for whenever I meet with prospective clients,” said Fred Gerantabee, Chief Experience Officer at Readers.com. “Even if it was just a kind word at the end of time, I want to find something they’ll look back at and be impressed by.”
2. Always choose empathy
The customer is never wrong, or something like that seems to be the guiding light for many companies as they go about their relationships with clients. Rightfully so. At the end of day, the client is, in some small way, in control of said company’s destiny. This is because they choose where their money winds up. If your clients are not feeling like you see things from their perspective, they will be more than happy to give their money to a company that does give them this feeling.
“In a professional setting, it can be so easy to get caught up in what you’re trying to accomplish that you forget about the human being sitting on the other side of the table,” said Justin Olson, Chief Marketing Officer at Fast Pace Health. “If your clients see you understand their point of view on whatever you’re discussing, they’ll probably respond accordingly.
The idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is applicable here. Just as you and your company are trying to accomplish something of your own, so too is your client. You just might not see their full picture from where they are sitting. If you can ask the right questions to gain insight into this, your company stands to build more beneficial relationships.
“There is a reason why the word partnership is so glorified in the business community – because not every company is interested in helping others,” said Bryan Jones, CEO of Truckbase. “But, you’ll soon see the companies who practice this are the ones who stand the test of time.”
3. The modern age calls for modern solutions
Reading one more paragraph about the widespread impact of the pandemic may be enough for you to close this article. It is hard to blame you – it seems the pandemic has affected everything in the world and the world just cannot seem to stop talking about it. But, if you are to make real progress with your clients, you have to meet the present reality head-on. This starts with understanding how your clients prefer to communicate.
“There was a time where the in-person meeting was assumed for any kind of business deal,” said Dr. Michael Green, Chief Medical Officer at Winona. “But COVID changed that for good. Or so it seems. That means some clients may want to meet via video and nothing more. Others want that in-person meeting no matter what.”
But wait, that is not all we have to cover regarding the modern age. Society is an entity that is constantly shifting. With it, shift the ways human beings interact with one another. A prime example of this is the recent influx of preferred pronouns. The last thing you want to do when meeting with a potential client is to insult them. Even if by mistake. Pronouns can be the culprit here so taking the time to understand the ins and outs here will serve you well.
“People have lost jobs and potential large-scale deals all because they offended the wrong person at the wrong time,” said Max Schwartzapfel, CMO at Fighting For You. “Usually, these things are unintended but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt the recipient. To avoid this, make sure you maintain a level-head approach with everyone.”
4. Lay your plan out in detail, adjust accordingly
Generally speaking, clients are amazed by, and in turn engage with, companies who demonstrate incredibly high levels of planning and organization. This makes sense as a business that cannot keep itself in order is in no way appealing. As you begin the early preparation stages prior to meeting with your new client, this is something to keep in mind. That is, assuming you want this relationship to go somewhere.
“It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in or who your prospective clients are,” said Ryan Delk, CEO of Primer. “People want to know how you’re going to serve them in detail before they sign on the dotted line. This becomes more and more true as the dollar amounts being discussed go up.”
This approach applies to both short and long-term plans. What will the next couple of weeks look like for you and your client? How about next year? Both questions are immensely important though have differing answers. Attempting to answer both simultaneously will prove difficult. But, you forgot something – what does the client have to say about your ideas for a plan?
“Forcing feeding clients your ideas and expecting them to not only take them at face value, but act on them, is not a way to handle business of any kind,” said Mina Elias, CEO and Founder of Trivium Group. “If clients are part of your business model, their suggestions should be part of this too.”
5. Your word is everything
All the fancy branding, appropriate buzzwords, and grand sweeping gestures will fall on deaf ears if you burn the relational bridges with clients before you really have an opportunity to get your business off the ground. Unfortunately, many startups find themselves in this boat. Be it over-ambition or straight-up deceit, there are more than a few cases of business that promised too much and failed to deliver.
“If you go into business with someone in any capacity, your utmost priority should be holding fast to your word,” said Phillip Akhzar, CEO of Arka. “Even if it’s not on paper. Clients want reliability above everything.”
This reliability needs to go much deeper than holding up your end of a deal you may have struck with a client. If clients feel pushed to the side by rescheduling or even zero communication in some cases, their level of trust and interest in you will dwindle away. To keep this from happening, your word must be nearly unimpeachable.
“Nobody is perfect, right? Well, your clients might expect this from you,” said Jae Pak, Founder of Jae Pak MD Medical. “Apologize when you screw up but do your best never to get to this point, even if it costs you.”
Building rapport with prospective clients may push you to your breaking point. But, working to establish a true relationship with them is worth every drop of sweat. Edgardo Osorio, the creative director of Aquazzura, summarized why, “I’ve had many ideas come from clients.”