It’s easy to disassociate business relationships from personal relationships, but actually the two are quite similar. The person that you are in business and while at work is normally the same person that you are outside of the office.
Unfortunately most consultants don’t recognize this fact. We treat business relationships and personal relationships as two completely seperate entities with totally opposing rules, when on the contrary the same rules that make your personal relationships successful can do wonders to improve how you and your clients interract.
Because providing internet marketing services is such an involved process, our project timelines are at a minimum of six months to a year with recommended options for ongoing consulting. The relationships that we as consultants build with our clients over this period of time and beyond must be treated with the same high regard that we treat our personal friendships with. This can be tough, especially since you can be much more selective with your friends or tell them to stop calling if things ever get bad. With a client, once a project has started there is little that can be done to simply “walk away” if the client is being unreasonable. There are certain performance expectations set forth in every contract, and dealing with irrational clients is sometimes just part of the job.
If the right attitude for working with clients is adopted from the very beginning, frustrating conversations and other negative situations down the road can often be completely avoided. The considerations taken into account when being a good friend are not unlike those that should be used when dealing with clients, such as:
- Be Honest – Friends, nor clients, like being lied to. And friends may be more forgiving when it comes to such matters. Being honest and straight-forward with clients is the staple of any positive client relationship. If clients feel comfortable that you’re telling them the truth, they’re much less likely second guess every decision and ask unnecessary questions about every step taken. Be upfront and realistic about the results/timeframes involved in your work. Never role-play a client and simply tell them what they want to hear to get a contract signed or deal completed.
- Be Interesting – Nobody likes to hang around with boring friends, and clients definitely prefer to work with individuals that have something interesting to say as well. Read up on a topic concerning the client’s industry and discuss, not to feign interest, but to show you took the time to find out about more than just the marketing aspects of their business.
- Be Loyal – Your friends don’t like it when you share their personal information with someone they don’t know, so don’t do it to your clients. If you happen to work with two clients in the same industry, never discuss any inside information about the other company you’re working with. Actually, don’t discuss other companies you’ve worked with at another client’s site at all, unless the discussion is relevant to the topic at hand and no sensitive company details are being revealed.
- Be Creative – It’s important to feel confident in order to be truly creative and come up with fresh ideas when working with clients, akin to the comfort often felt when spending time with friends and family. Try to put yourself in the same frame of mind to really let your inhibitions go and brainstorm collaboratively, with the mutual understanding that any concepts shared are only that; concepts.
- Be Intelligent – Nothing can ruin a business or personal relationship faster than ignorance. Being intelligent is much more than simply having intelligent things to say, it’s also about the way that you conduct yourself and the way that you treat others. Be open-minded and try not to judge anyone before taking the time to get to know them. Even if you do have strong opinions about someone (and they may even be justified), keep it to yourself as sharing it with others accomplishes nothing.
- Be Reliable – Ever had a friend that’s constantly late for everything you plan or sometimes doesn’t even show up at all? It probably didn’t take long before you stopped being able to rely on that friend, right? Clients won’t keep you around if they can’t depend on you to do exactly what you say will be done. If you say you’ll meet at a certain time, make that meeting your number one priority. Don’t call the day of the meeting to reschedule or worse yet fail to show up at all.
- Be Humble – Sometimes it’s pretty hard to be humble, especially when you’re good at what you do and you know it. But it’s in very bad taste to be a braggart and boast about your accomplishments. There’s a certain tact involved in sharing what you’ve acheived, so knowing how to speak about your strengths without sounding arrogant will go over much better with friends AND clients.
- Be Sensitive – OK, so you have a client that’s selling ‘widget covers”, but you know that there’s no market for widget covers and they will never be successful. Don’t you just tell the client? Of course not. Be sensitive to the fact that the client feels this business will work for whatever reason, even if you don’t see it. And maybe if the client is passionate enough about what they’re doing and put in the inordinate amount of time it requires to make it, they might even prove you wrong.
- Be Funny – Make your clients laugh. The best salesperson that I have ever met does this all day, and he makes A LOT of money selling for one of my companies. Of course he’s great at putting deals together and ensuring that our clients are happy after the sale, but I honestly feel that his ability to crack a good joke (you have to actually be witty, no bad jokes allowed) and bring a smile to their face is a big part of what keeps his current book of clients coming back to him month after month.
- Be Yourself – THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY! Many people seem to have two personalities, their work self and their personal self. Why divide the two? Surely there are great qualities that your work self has that your personal self doesn’t have and vice versa, so why not just be a combination of the best of both worlds, all of the time? Showing your true personality and getting to know your clients on a personal level is at the very core of building rapport. Clients, like friends, can tell when you’re being fake, and don’t appreciate not dealing with the “real” you.
It’s important to mention that unlike personal relationships, there’s a clear need to keep a certain distance between you and your clients. Therapists say you can’t help the family if you are part of the family. This is true for us as internet marketing consultants as well. We do become more valuable the more we work with an organization, but we need to keep our role clearly defined.