27.08.2019 - READING TIME: 5 minutes
From a Client to a Business Partner: Here is How to Win at Client Relationships in an IT Landscape
Author: Ena Mehić
Retaining clients might be the only thing more challenging than obtaining them. Doing so in a fast-paced environment such as the IT industry doesn't make the mission any easier.
Most experienced business executives agree that powerful, strong client relationships are essential to business success, but they aren’t built overnight. Or over 2 nights. This endeavor is a long process that takes a lot of listening to others with a genuine desire to understand their needs.
Whose job is managing this process? In short: everyone's.
No matter the business type or the culture, whether you provide a service, a product, or even both, everyone on the team is involved in delivering the end result.
Fact: People function in society via relationships. Here are a few tips on how to build strong, meaningful relationships from the very beginning of the project lifecycle:
From previous experiences, we learned that it’s best to set common goals and expectations at the very beginning and work toward them together, making it a partnership from the start.
Once the deal is sealed between you and the client, take some time to analyze why you were the perfect match in the first place. You’ll want to develop a deep understanding of the ins and outs of why the client chose you to do the job; how your expertise in certain areas matches the client’s needs, why the nature of your engagement suits their organization, how well your business principles are aligned. Knowing these instances will help you continuously deliver valuable output to your client.
Taking an active interest in your client’s industry, history of their business and even the main competitors is the way for you to move from doing what’s expected of you, to get more involved in your client’s world.
Knowing the BIG big picture sets you apart from other common products as a service provider, and gets you closer to being business partners.
When it comes to the product itself, in our domain of expertise (developing custom end-to-end client applications), we make sure to develop a comprehensive understanding of the software product’s purpose, defining its main functionalities and empathizing with its end-users, before developing the timeline and bringing the tech experts to the table.
Working with such in-depth insights ensures clarity on the client’s vision and values, and enables data-driven decision-making.
This will put you well on your way to building trust with the client.
To instill a sense of trust in your clients, being effective at proactive communication is a must.
Here’s what we mean by proactive communication:
Changes are inevitable in any project, but the way we communicate those changes to the client, how we prioritize and implement them can be different. If we’re transparent from the start and with the smallest details that might cause disruption, leaving out the “curse of assuming”, we have already set ourselves on a winning path. So when the bigger-scale change comes our way, it won’t be a problem. We have a healthy communication routine in place.
You don’t need to wait to send a weekly or a monthly report to communicate and advise the client of the changes.
However, don’t rush to notify your client about every change just for the sake of informing. Always think of possible scenarios and suggestions for adapting tactics to respond to changes. This is how trust is born and how you get perceived as an honest partner.
Ultimately, it’s one person talking to another.
Pro-tip: reminding a client they’re dealing with a human being helps break down a barrier.
Excelling at the task you were selected for is a basic deciding factor in retaining clients or in starting a chain of positive “word of mouth” wave.
Never underestimate the power of referral.
No matter the technology advancements and vast opportunities to reach potential clients digitally, referrals still hold the ultimate power. Based on the quality of service delivered, the client will either refer you, or they won’t.
Focusing on providing high-quality services should start much earlier than the client engagement itself. It comes down to embedding strive for high standards within your company culture. Nurture an enabling environment with enough opportunities for the teams to learn, grow and hone their skills. This way, each new client will always be working with the best of what your talent has to offer.
Complaints and issues don’t always have to be frowned upon. No matter how hard we try, from time to time, we can mess up, even with the best intentions at heart.
Embrace the less positive feedback –it is an inevitable part of the process. They are an opportunity to turn a poor experience into a positive one.
By resolving issues well, you’re encouraging clients to return to your business. Being a problem solver is the highest professional trait. Having such an attitude leads to long term partnerships and a high level of respect in 99% of the cases.
Remember, complaints can be a valuable source of feedback for the business, so you may wish to keep a record of complaints/issues to help you identify improvement areas.
In this day and age, people can buy and get almost anything from almost anyone. Never lose sight of the fact that when people buy something they want and expect an experience, preferably from someone they like, trust and respect.