You've run your successful business for many years and built profitable relationships within established networks. As far as you can tell, you are communicating properly to ensure your product offering is in sync with your clients' needs. You have a rock solid client base... right?
Maybe not. When was the last time you checked in with your clients and made sure that you are still meeting their needs?
Things Have Changed -- Have You Kept Pace?
Just as your needs have changed over time, so have your clients'. As competition reaches hyper-proportions, you can no longer count on clients to make adjustments to their business practices to accommodate your offering, no matter how amazing it might be.
If you aren't aware of your clients' changing needs, how can you make sure you're still meeting them? You need to make sure you are helping to solve your clients' business problems rather than just selling them your products. And how does your product offering stack up against a saturated market? Do you stand out?
You have come to rely on tried and true product promotion, placement and pricing dynamics you learned years ago. But are you asking your clients the right questions, carefully listening to their answers, letting them know they've been heard and then making necessary changes to your product offering?
Clear, consistent and precise communication is essential when building your client relationships. Here are some tips to help you better suit the needs of your clients.
Find the Gaps
You need to help your clients identify the gaps in their business -- where they can work on improving in some way. If your clients don't even know they have a gap, how can you close it for them? Research their business and industry to identify those gaps for them and clearly show how you can help them close those gaps.
Kill the Pain, Build the Trust
Once you have identified the gaps, it's your job to help alleviate any pain or strain this is causing on their business. Can your current product offering address these issues to help make your clients' lives easier, better, faster stronger?
You have to take the time to educate your clients on how they can get rid of the strain on their business using your product offering. The time you invest in this important process will result in deepening trust and your demonstrated commitment to your clients' businesses.
However, it can take years to build trust and mere moments to lose it. Make sure your clients still trust you to be their best solution. Ask them to be sure you understand what it will take to be that solution for them.
Focus on what your clients need, not what you have to sell
If all you have to sell is a hammer, and your client needs a screwdriver, do you tell them to build a different bookcase, or do you find a way to get them that screwdriver? If it comes to the point where you realize, after open dialogue, that you may not be the best solution for their business, you either need to adapt your product offering, or part ways.
Communicate to Culture
Take into account the current culture at your client's business when presenting your products. Understand not just their business, but their people, how they interact with each other, and how decisions are really made; tailor your approach and communications accordingly.
For example, perhaps you are a communications consultant called in to help revitalize a failing company with an established, even reactionary culture, as I often am. The management may consist of mature boomers with young millennials hungry to take over. You will need to shift your communications approach to reach both younger and older cohorts to be successful.
Make Sure Your Staff Walks the Talk
For any client outreach to be successful, your sales team has to operate on the same level of communication as you. Each employee needs to clearly communicate the value proposition you bring to your clients in the way they speak, dress, and conduct themselves in front of a client. This may involve developing a communications guide and working with a communications consultant to get an employee training program in place to help your team members build deeper client relationships.
The Medium is the Message
With thanks to Marshall McLuhan, who coined the term, "The medium is the message," how do you best communicate in real time and cyberspace? Do your clients prefer face to face meetings or are you better off with Skype, video conferencing, or email?
It's important to be flexible in accommodating your clients' communications preferences, as this is the glue that binds the relationship together.
Consistent, constant communication is the bedrock of solid business relationships. Know your clients and make sure they know you.
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