When I receive a multitude of hugs and handshake and a client walks out crying after a meeting, a "happy cry" that is, I remember why I started this business. I absolutely love helping businesses that are passionate about what they are doing. I want them to succeed and grow, no matter what obstacles there are. As my mom says, it's all about the journey, not necessarily the destination. Here are five steps I've learned in business to help you create that ultimate experience for your clients. Think about how you can use this advice in your own business, and I will guarantee you will have clients for life.
The very first tip is getting to know your clients. Know their business, learn why they started it, find out their passions and dreams. The only way that you can help them is to truly know who they are. You need to know what challenges they have as well. This means meeting with them in person more than once. It also means taking the time to visit them, at their place of business is so you can visualize what it is that they do, and you can meet their staff. As a salesperson, not knowing who your client is, and even worse your staff not knowing your client, is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a business. It's kind of like a "first date", we aren't asking them to marry us right away, we need to get to know first. That way everyone is starting from the same page in the book.
Second, be upfront and honest. Speaking from experience, laying out your expectations at the beginning is so important. It is the key to a great experience on both sides of the table. Let me give you an example. My husband and I had to take our boys to a pediatric dentist. We had an initial appointment where we met with everyone in the office. From the finance department to the receptionist, to the assistants, even so far as meeting the dentist. No stone unturned. We were given a guided tour, and walked through the building and learned exactly how an appointment would happen. The finance area gave us the run-down on the services, costs and their expectations on how to pay. It was an amazing "first date." In your business, think about how you can be up front and honest with your clients. Don't assume they know how everything works. Make sure you implement policies and procedures (I'm still working on this) so everyone does things in the same manner, every time. Don't hide anything, lay it out, explain it. Honesty and integrity can go a long way in terms of client trust.
Third: communicate with your client every step of the way and verify how they wish to be contacted. It seems easy right? Just send an email and your client will know what is happening. WRONG. I've seen this way too often, the lines of communication get messed up, or the wrong lines of communication are used. Let me give you a simple example; in the past we have sent our clients "homework" via email when we are working on a website. It is up to our clients to do the homework by a designated date. If they don't get back to us, their website is put "on hold." Emails were sent, we might have called and left a message in between, but a client didn't get back to us, and 45 days later, nothing has been done. Time and money lost. This is a process we still continue to work on. It is up to us to keep the lines of communication open, especially when everyone is so busy.
We have learned that our clients are busy. They are more worried about client projects than getting their own projects completed. Isn't this the case? It is with us. We know that it is up to us, to help our clients move along at a steady pace. The quicker we can complete a project, the quicker we get paid. Being better communicators and being persistent, believe it or not, helps with cash flow.
When we are working on a project, we try to touch our clients at least three times, every two days to make sure we are communicating effectively. Make sure you have procedures in place to make your business run better. Once you have a procedure, test it out, see how it works. If you need to modify your procedure then you modify and test it again. Ultimately, you find what works, and then you enforce your procedure and make sure everyone is communicating effectively.
Fourth: follow up. When the job is done and the payment is received, it's easy to believe your work is done. However, it is not. You need to check to see if your client was satisfied and happy with the outcome of the project or service performed. Whether you do this through a simple phone call, a quick survey, or even an email, find out what the customer thought of the experience. You might find out that there are still some questions. The client may not be happy, or the client may be ecstatic. You may even find out the client needs something else, and you might have another project or sale on the horizon. Make the follow-up part of your strategy!
After follow up, stay connected to your client. We have an "in touch" program for our web clients. After we create and launch a website, our clients are contacted three times within a year through email, a phone card, and a hand written note. We like to stay visible to our clients. They need to know we are here for them, and available. If we disappear from their sight, our competitors will become visible.
What I've given you are steps for success in creating the ultimate sales experience for your clients. Let's review:
1) Know your clients
2) Be up front and honest
4) Follow Up
5) Stay Connected
If you can follow this simple set of instructions you can start to build clients for life. You can start to build a tribe of loyal clients. Remember, it's a lot easier and less expensive to maintain clients that are loyal and true to you and your company, than to gain new ones. So get on board and devise a plan of action on how you can create those loyal clients - those "lifers."