Landing a new client is an awesome feeling. It means a direct contribution to your business’ bottom and it’s generally the culmination of the expenditure of significant time and resources. But it’s only once the dotted line has been signed that the real work begins, because client retention can be a challenging balance.
Fear not. There are some simple tactics you can implement to ensure you’re keeping your clients happy. And while not every client relationship is the same, your chances of success skyrocket when you implement The 10 Commandments of Client Retention.
The First Commandment: Don’t Be a Yes-Man/Woman
It’s easy to be agreeable. But it’s not in the best interest of your client. A great client relationship sits on a delicate balance of appeasing their wishes and providing the expertise that will ultimately benefit them – even if it means disagreeing. Remember, at the end of the day, they hired you for your expertise, so give it to them. But also remember to pick your battles so that when you do push back, it’s impactful.
When it comes time to do so, be accommodating but firm – and always provide clear rationale for your argument while highlighting why your recommendation will benefit them. It’s a matter of letting them know you appreciate their point of view but respectfully disagree – and here’s why.
The Second Commandment: Set Clear Expectations from the Get-Go
One of the biggest killers of client relationships is the lack of clear, concise and accurate expectations from the outset. Outline exactly what’s expected – and exactly what will be delivered – from the very beginning of the relationship to ensure nobody feels as though they were misled or let down. While it might feel uncomfortable to get granular from the get-go, remember that ultimately, it’s a business relationship.
Set aside time to sit down with your client and collaboratively outline – and manage – expectations. If a goal seems unrealistic, refer to the First Commandment and push back so you don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable predicament later.
The Third Commandment: Become Invested in Their Business
If you really want to maintain a great client relationship, you have to become invested in their business to bring them real value. Get ingrained in their industry, their company, understand their challenges and their goals, and treat the success of their business as though it’s your own.
Read up on relevant news. Research their industry. Understand changes taking place in their market and equip yourself to identify opportunities. Because the sale doesn’t end when you sign off on the deal. A great business understands that and continues to bring proactive value to their clients by continually finding ways to go above and beyond.
The Fourth Commandment: Share Knowledge Proactively
Once you’ve adhered to the Third Commandment, put it to work. Proactively sharing knowledge is one of the best ways to bring value to a business relationship. And at the end of the day, value is what’s going to retain clients.
Whether it’s knowledge pertaining to your field of expertise, or something you learned or identified about theirs, share knowledge and information with clients. Show you’re invested and that you care. Because while they might be well aware of whatever you’re sharing, it’s the thought that counts. And if you identify an opportunity that they weren’t aware of, then your value to the client will skyrocket.
The Fifth Commandment: Practice Efficient and Effective Communication
Efficient and effective communication go a long way in business relationships – meaning it’s direct, open and honest. It’s important to maintain a continuous loop of honest feedback and open dialogue to decrease timeframes, increase efficiencies and maximize the overall quality of deliverables.
You also need to respect your client’s time. Don’t barrage them with five emails if you can include everything in one. Be concise and eliminate extra wording. And be mindful of reaching the point when something could be more easily resolved with a phone call or in-person meeting.
The Sixth Commandment: Find the Transparency Balance
This is an important – and delicate – extension of the Fifth Commandment. The Transparency Balance is one of the most challenging parts of a client relationship. It’s important to keep them in the loop, but it’s equally important not to inundate them with unnecessary information – whether it’s positive, neutral or negative.
Evaluate when – and how much – you divulge to your client. A small challenge that’s been resolved may fall within the normal scope of business and not necessitate them being made aware. An ongoing issue with a solution in play may warrant making them aware but limiting unnecessary details to spare them becoming worried. Giving the right information in the right quantities is a key skill to hone.
The Seventh Commandment: Implement Honest Business Practices
This seems like something that goes without saying, but it’s important to act with ethics and honesty. Never lie or mislead your clients. Never gouge them on costing. Don’t promise them the world to get the deal done and then underdeliver when it counts. It takes years to build trust and can take only moments to destroy. Make sure you’re crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s.
The Eighth Commandment: Build Strong Professional Relationships, But Don’t Shy Away from Personal Ones
People often carry the mentality that professional relationships have to be entirely professional, but that’s not necessarily true. It’s OK to be human and true to yourself. At the end of the day, all of your clients – whether an intern or a CEO – go home and have a personal life when the day ends, so they’ll appreciate knowing you do the same.
The Ninth Commandment: Get Facetime from Time to Time
Technology is making it easy to work with clients from all over the place, meaning it’s easier than ever to have clients you only speak to via email or phone and only see over digital video. And while it’s not always easy to get facetime, it’s important to do so from time to time. If you’re in their area, stop by and say hi. If they’re a big client, go the extra mile and make the effort to go visit. That in-person time will pay off in the long run.
The Tenth Commandment: Reward Loyalty and Say Thank You
It’s no secret that clients aren’t always easy to come by. So, make the extra effort to say thank you and to reward their loyalty. Whether it’s a card on your business anniversary, a team dinner from time to time or a thoughtful gift at the holidays, even small gestures can let your clients know you appreciate them.
Client relationships are the cornerstone of your business, so it’s important to ensure you’re taking the steps to effectively retain them. The good news is that doing so can be easy and effective.