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Five tactics to help develop relationships with clients

  1. Developing relationships with clients
    iStock/JohnnyGreig
    Rich McEachran

    Rich McEachran UKBF Newcomer Full Member - Verified Business

    Posts: 1 Likes: 0
    4 |
    In association with Trainline for business

    When you’re at the coalface of business juggling what’s going on the in the office with meeting client demands and trying to excel expectations is a constant challenge.

    We spoke to a series of entrepreneurs about the practical steps they take to help develop relationships.

    This feature is brought to you in association with Trainline for business.

    Be reachable at all times

    Clients expect you to answer the phone should they have a query about a project or proposal.

    “In all honesty, it’s about being constantly available,” says Brian Lonsdale, co-owner of Glasgow-based Smarter Digital Marketing. “There really is no such thing as being ‘out of office’ in today’s interconnected world, unless you’re sitting on a beach somewhere with a drink in hand.

    “I answer emails and calls as long as I’m awake and schedule tasks through the weekend. While I don’t expect my staff to do the same, as the face of the agency I have to be constantly contactable. I don’t mind it as I enjoy putting the time and energy in and seeing the rewards, but this style of communication may not be for everyone.”

    While it’s important to be available, many entrepreneurs and business coaches stress the need to switch off during the evenings or to set time aside for recharging their batteries. If your customers really need you to be available out of office hours think about sharing the responsibilities for being on call with managers or co-founders.

    Embrace technology

    While making yourself reachable at all times can leave you open to a deluge of emails, technology can also be your friend and you should embrace it, regardless of whether it’s your business’ bread and butter, says James Baddiley, a digital media and SEO expert, and co-founder of Chillisauce, a stag celebrations company.

    A combination of Slack, Trello and Skype can allow you to collaborate and communicate with clients when a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible. It can also help you touch base with the clients and the office when you are travelling, says Baddiley. He works from home a couple of days a week and has a three-hour commute into London for meetings, which he uses to stay productive.

    Storing data and work in the cloud can make tasks more manageable, he continues, but working away from the office and collaborating remotely is only effective for short periods. The lack of actual contact with employees can be inhibiting at times.

    The human touch

    Clients appreciate the small touches, even if it’s a quick call before a meeting to let them know you’re on your way. Chris Sowerby, an SME consultant, uses a virtual PA “who has an intimate knowledge of my business” when he’s away from his office.

    “The client still gets to talk to someone who understands their needs and who can offer a solution that leaves them feeling satisfied,” he says.

    Alex Fenton, CEO and founder of fintech startup GapCap, which offers an alternative finance option for SMEs, adds that it’s important to remember “you’re always dealing with a human being”. A successful working relationship shouldn’t be built on and driven by a transaction between your two businesses.

    “Find some common ground and engage with customers outside of the office,” he says. “It’s essential to see your client as more than just the name at the top of an email. And, the only way to do that is by spending time getting to know them more in a mixed environment.”

    Delegate where possible

    Sometimes circumstances take you away from work. When this happens it’s essential you learn the art of delegating, says Jane Porter, founder of Studio 104, a disruptive consultancy business that designs bespoke uniforms for high end brands, including The Savoy.

    Porter will soon be going on maternity leave and she has prepared her team well in advance to cope in her absence.

    “I plan to hold weekly calls with key account holders for the first few months to ensure we’re all moving in the right direction, but of course I also want to give the [temporary director] space to make her own choices and decisions.”

    Senior managers are also already stepping in and handling more of the client workload. And everyone on the office is aware of what is happening with each client so they are able to advise them if senior members of staff are unable to. This all helps to make the clients feel comfortable with who they’re dealing with and ensure it’s a smooth handover.

    Meet clients face to face

    Meeting clients in person is the best way to build relationships. While calls and technology are helpful, there’s no replacement for speaking to contacts face-to-face. It means you can pick up on body language skills and speak about a wider range of topics free of distraction; this is where the most powerful relationships will be built.

    It can be tempting to restrict time out of the office to sales meetings that you can directly trace to revenue generation, but catch-ups and post project reviews can help too. While there may be no clear sales win on the day, finding out what challenges your client is facing and what they have planned can be crucial for winning future business.

    If your clients are based in different areas take advantage of industry events, book more than one meeting at the same location and use the travel time to stay productive.

    Trainline for Business has a free rail travel management tool for SMEs to book and manage business rail travel and save an average of 33% on advance bookings vs. booking at the station on the day of travel. It’s simple to compare journeys and prices, book tickets and manage changes for multiple employees. Billing is managed centrally and spend can be easily monitored and reported. In addition, travellers can create a business profile in the Trainline App to get real time information on the move.

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  2. Edwin Luther

    Edwin Luther UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 0 Likes: 0
    Some good solid business advice. I'd add that all clients are different and to ask them when are the best times to contact them and via which methods.
     
    Posted: Dec 10, 2016 By: Edwin Luther Member since: Dec 10, 2016
    #2
  3. Rich McEachran

    Rich McEachran UKBF Newcomer Full Member - Verified Business

    Posts: 1 Likes: 0
    Hi Edwin, the author of the piece here.

    Juggling clients and their demands is no doubt tricky, but what if a time that suits a client conflicts with your schedule (particularly if you travel a lot), and you can't fit a meeting/call in when they require? What would you do here and your advice to others be: would you bend over backwards and try and meet their demands regardless, or is the answer to compromise?

    To this end, is a client that won't compromise worth the hassle?
     
    Posted: Dec 13, 2016 By: Rich McEachran Member since: Jun 30, 2016
    #3
  4. Edd Dutton

    Edd Dutton UKBF Contributor Free Member

    Posts: 31 Likes: 10
    (Great article, and...) Good idea, thanks!
     
    Posted: Dec 16, 2016 By: Edd Dutton Member since: Dec 13, 2016
    #4
  5. Pradeepsinghsmo

    Pradeepsinghsmo UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 0 Likes: 0
    Very Useful information thank for this awesome tips,
     
    Posted: Dec 24, 2016 By: Pradeepsinghsmo Member since: Dec 20, 2016
    #5