Gone are the days where the red tie and the hard sales tactics secured customer loyalty. In fact, a study by Harvard Business School revealed that your customer isn’t buying into your business if they can’t connect with your brand.
It turns out that customer relationships matter and, more importantly, that customers find it easier to connect to a brand that they can connect with emotionally.
If you want to be successful in business, whether you’re running your own show or working corporate, you need to be building client relationships.
Why should you build relationships with clients?
The short of it: it’s cheaper.
The cost of onboarding a new customer is up to five times the cost to retain an existing one. This means that each customer you have on your books is potentially five times more valuable than the one you don’t have yet.
That’s a pretty big price tag if you’re going to measure it by dollars and cents.
But it goes deeper than that. A well-honed business relationship with a client also exposes you to the power of networking.
So how does it work?
Meeting a client for coffee or taking them for an expensive meal is not enough. You need to make them feel that the encounter added value to your life (and especially theirs!).
Ramit refers to this process as Closing the Loop.
Close the Loop Steps
- Step 1: Meet your client. The idea is to get them in a comfortable, neutral environment. Networking events are great because the anticipation of doing business is already there. Ensure that your meeting spot offers the opportunity to let the conversation flow freely.
- Step 2: Start the conversation. This is where you build that ever-important rapport, where you click with your client. Get to know your client: What makes them happy? What do they do for fun? Find out what are the things that matter to them and how your relationship with them can be to their benefit. This could even be over personal interests such as sports or art. Be sure to ask questions (not just any questions, great questions!), and ask for recommendations, and even advice. Yep. You’re going to ask your client for advice on something, whether it’s something that helps you in business or how to improve your fly fishing game. You’ll need this later during your follow-ups.
- Step 3: Thank your client. Be sure to thank your client for their time within a few days of your meeting. Your secret sauce here is remembering something personal about your client. If you know about an event that happened since you last saw them, whether business or personal, ask them how it went. This helps keep the channels of communication open and also keeps you in your client’s mind well beyond the initial meeting.
- Step 4: The oh-so-subtle follow-up. While the follow-up may seem subtle, it’s your Trojan Horse into their psyche. It’s what’s going to keep you at the forefront of your customer’s thoughts whenever a topic that involves you pops up, and not Joe Somebody (your competitor). A few days or weeks after that thank you note, be sure to drop your client a line about the advice they’d given you or a recommendation they provided. Give them feedback on how that panned out and thank them for the tip. You simply have to follow up. This is your golden ticket.
- Step 5: The personal note. Pass on information about a topic you know interests your client. This can happen immediately after your meeting or even a few weeks after. It gives you the opportunity to make a connection with the client that doesn’t involve a sale, which will make your client feel a little more important than just a number on the books. It boosts the emotional aspect of relationship building. It is also another way to stay in your client’s head without you bombarding them with countless sales follow-ups. This could be an up-and-coming golf tournament, convention in their industry, or something that would be valuable to their spouse.
This works for digital businesses too
While there are a few key differences to a digital client relationship and perhaps a little more reliance on artificial intelligence through algorithms… Okay, wait that’s boring right? We’ll stop.
You will still close the proverbial loop with an online customer.
- Step 1: Meet your client. Your welcome letter to your client should be an easy-flowing, welcome to the family letter. Remember to personalize it! You’ll send this immediately after the site visitor signs up to your newsletter or purchases a product.
- Step 2: Engage with the community. Building rapport with an online community can be a simple invite to the community groups or getting them signed up for training material. It’s also important to engage with the community so they know you’re part of the process, which is important for building trust and fostering relationships. Also, if you provide valuable free information, you’ll have a better chance at cross-selling.
- Step 3: Thank your client. This is still your secret sauce. Thank your client for their loyalty by giving them a sneak peek at a future project, or allowing them to input into product creation.
- Step 4: The oh-so-subtle follow-up. Follow this up by telling them how their feedback impacted the company for the better.
- Step 5: The personal note. If there is the capacity to do this, write a personal note. If this isn’t possible, create a personalized experience for your customer whenever they visit your site or through your scheduled emails.
The results of a successful relationship with your client
The main aim of networking is to be valuable to your client. You want to be the first person that comes to mind when an opportunity arises. The power of a client in your corner is the possibility of a referral. It also means future business, allowing your client to become entrenched in your company.
Every bit of contact with your client is a chance to build a relationship
Even when it’s a relationshit. Yes, you read that right. There are going to be times when someone isn’t happy with what you’re doing, or they’re not feeling whatever you’re offering. That’s okay! Not everyone has to like you or your business.
While it’s also totally okay to fire a client, a complaint can be a valuable tool to help close any service delivery gaps. Here’s how:
- Take accountability
- Apologize, even if it’s not your fault
- Offer a possible solution
- Refer the matter to the relevant department and agree on a follow-up time
- Keep your client in the loop
Not only will you learn of potential service delivery issues in your business, but you’ll also retain a client.
Maintain your relationship
It’s not enough to only have contact with your client during the initial sale. Whether you own a business or you’re a professional hoping to climb the corporate ladder, it’s important to remember the sales process extends beyond the sale of the product.
While you might be familiar with the sales funnel, an updated, more client-centric approach to this sales cycle is the sales flywheel.
With this technique, you are able to keep your client at the center of the sales process. This means after the initial sale, you don’t just move on from your client like they’re last week’s burger.
This allows more opportunities to make contact with your client, which may lead to more cross-selling. Win, right?
But it’s more than that. It allows you to stand out from your competitors and remain top of mind with your client.
By working through the flywheel, you engage your customer on both sales and service levels, which allows you to better anticipate their needs. The result? You create an environment of over-delivery and providing exceptional service.