Developing Trustworthy Client Relationships

Pinky PromiseTrust can be one of the hardest things to give and develop with a client.  Trust in your business relationships is integral if you wish to see your clientele numbers and your own company’s revenues grow.  The level of trust in your business relationships—especially client relationships—is a one of the greatest determinants of a business’ success.  Therefore,building your book of business is intrinsically tied to the trustworthy relationship you have with your clients and developing the long term relationships with them.

The Personal Touch – Consistent communication with clients, and building mutual trust and respect, often leads to repeat business for your company. Try to find ways to show clients how much they are valued, which contradicts the typical deli line “NEXT,” limited attention given to clientele by many business.  Equally as important to the attention you give them is setting reasonable and attainable goals centered on ways to solve their problems with your product or service.  Most client’s want you to set specific goals to be attained, reflecting that you are as equally invested in their success as you are in the ROI.  These  personal touches create brand loyalty with your clients and will cause them to stay with your company even if a competitor offers what appears to be a “better” deal.

Get in Their Head – Knowing your clients is just as important as servicing them.  Small talk during a business meeting is a great way to asses a business’s operational structure and culture, and this intel is critical to reflect your knowledge of their needs.  Gain respect and trust by sincerely asking clients what’s important to them and listening intently makes clients feel heard.  Try to elicit the critical issues that are most meaningful to the to them.  If appropriate, take a little time and diligence to discover not just the clients’ needs for your product of service, but also their personal hobbies, family dynamics and even biggest pet peeves to develop a more personalized relationship.  If they trust you with personal information, they will undoubtedly trust you with their business.

Make it Happen – Trust me, if you  don’t return phone calls in a timely manner, are consistently late for appointments or miss deadlines, it will be disastrous for both the relationship and your bottom line.  For example, when you give a client an expected date of completion – its simple, MEET IT!  Nothing is worse for a budding business relationship or repeat business than failing to meet deadlines.  To keep the fire smoldering and the business coming your way, give reasonable timetables for projects and deliverables.  If something unexpected does come up, make sure to communicate that with the client before the actual deadline date.  When it comes to this issue, it’s always better that you call them than they call you!

Earners Keepers/Lackeys Weepers – To keep your client’s trust and respect,  it must be maintained over time by doing the things you did to earn it in the first place.  You do not have to be perfect – just trustworthy in both words and actions ,and ensuring that they are complementary of one another. Trust can be easily earned by someone with upstanding character and integrity, but hard to dispense if you lack those critical qualities.

Crystal Clear – Transparency is critical to the provider/client relationship.   In this day when contracts with fine print have replaced the nobleman’s handshake, there’s a tremendous need for honesty and not camouflaging crucial facts.  If there’s some aspect of your product or service that a client wants, but you know you can’t provide, tell the truth.  There’s nothing wrong with stating that you can’t do something or haven’t yet developed a particular service or product.  You can still win them over or keep a current client happy by letting them know that you are innovative enough to work on a solution thereby reflecting your commitment to them and their business.

In Summary – Begin or continue earning your clients trust by giving them your best, proving your competency and following through with all commitments to show them you value their business and the relationship. Remember, word of mouth can be your best advertising or your worst adversary.  

Falling behind on your projects

Office Space TPS reportsMaybe I should have titled this, falling behind on “my” projects, since that’s  where I’ m coming from anyways. Recently I’ve moved my family from Connecticut back to Florida. Orlando Florida is now the new home of Design Theory. Though that’s my main excuse for falling behind on my projects, it still remains just that; an excuse.

When times are good as a freelancer, your phone is ringing every other day with a new potential client. Some calls may be just for price quotes, while others may be for proposed work that needs to be done yesterday. (I’m not even getting into that).  We all like to sign new deals, and get that first deposit to get started on a fresh new project. It’s a new chance to be more creative, use new skill sets, photoshop brushes, whatever. It’s exciting talking to this new client and getting to know them and providing feedback on what they want. But how do you feel when it’s 3 months later and things haven’t really progressed as much?

You’ve got 35% of the project done or started and getting more information from your client is like pulling teeth. Or you have four or more projects that have all exceeded your projected time of delivery and they’re all needing to be done.  Or you’re chasing after clients for final payments and just making those phone calls to collect is daunting enough not to want to do it at all. All of these excuses have a negative effect on your job performance.

So what do you do about it? Well there are already a bunch of lists out there from many well-known authors like David Allen or Mark Forster, or Timothy Ferriss to name a few.  One thing that has worked for me is to start each day off with doing the least project or task that I truly want to do. You know that boring one or the one that really is outside of your comfort zone. Once that’s out of the way, I personally feel better about myself and more accomplished. It also makes my remaining tasks so much easier to complete.

There really aren’t too many good excuses for falling behind. Especially when you’re contractually obligated to a project for your clients. They have deadlines and expectations too. Thinking about the big picture outside of yourself is necessary to being a great freelancer and it also gains respect. If you have any tips on how to keep from falling behind please be sure to share in the comments below.