The most popular question by far that we’ve heard from our professional service clients over the past number of months, is how to build brilliant client relationships….virtually! How can you and your team really ‘wow’ in this space to consistently build stronger and deeper relationships and ultimately win a lot more business?
Step 1: Make it personal
Let’s start by thinking about how many zoom meetings you’ve held with your clients since March 2020? If you asked the client attendees to rate the quality of these meetings with you, what score would you and your team get out of 10?
Indeed, when is the last time you left a zoom meeting and said, “that was a great meeting…one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended?” We suspect that it doesn’t happen every day!
The good news is there’s lots of opportunity to improve and differentiate. We all know the famous Maya Angelou quote, that people will forget what you say and do but they, “will never forget how you made them feel”. Think about each of your key client relationships and how you can really personalise the experience you create for them, so that they feel like they are your most important client after every call or interaction with you.
Step 2: Invest time
Everyone’s working lives have changed due to Covid-19. The removal of face-to-face interactions means that establishing and maintaining deep relationships with our clients is more important than ever before*. But if every professional services advisor has this on their objective list, how can you stand out?
Let’s start by putting a regular communication cycle of ‘no agenda catch-ups’ in place for each of your key client contacts. Who are the key stakeholders in the organisation that you need to develop and maintain relationships with? Consider how often you plan to meet (virtually or socially distanced face-to-face) with each person during the year? Agree who on your team will take responsibility for developing each relationship? Make every interaction as close to ‘real life’ as possible by using zoom-type technology.
Step 3: Build trust
Trust is the foundation of strong relationships. David Maister, one of the world’s leading authorities on managing professional service firms first introduced the trust equation in 2000**. He describes it as an equation with 3 numerators:
‘Self-orientation’ is the denominator. Self-orientation means that your ‘intent’ is genuine and you have your client’s best interests at heart at all times.
So when it comes to virtual meetings, the focus needs to be on your client, not on you. Be curious. Ask great questions and even better follow-up questions based on really listening to their initial answers. These elements build solid trust-based relationships.
Step 4: Add value
Do all of your interactions with your clients add value? Are you engaging them to sell more of your services or to genuinely add value to them? Consider every touchpoint as an opportunity to add value.
Before the interaction, research and consider the challenges they might be facing in their role and in their business? What relevant insights can you share? Do you have any other clients with similar challenges that you can introduce them to? What articles and third party content can you share with them? Follow up after the interaction to do what you said you would do. Check back with them to see how things worked out. Doing this consistently over time with all of your clients will build more successful and more stronger relationships.
To explore how you and your team can develop more profitable client relationships and improve business development performance, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Customer is focused on coaching, training and advising ambitious professional services leaders to build value-focused client relationships, high-performing teams and more profitable revenues.
References: *https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/R2EWPNPX and **https://hbr.org/2008/05/how-trustworthy-are-you
Photo credit: Miguel A. Padrinan