Onboarding a new client is always a tricky proposition. Clients are naturally wary of new relationships, so the key to earning their trust and creating a rapport with them is engagement.
As a service provider, getting to know your client is critical. Understanding what they expect and managing those expectations effectively is the ultimate goal, but how do you get there?
It starts with finding out more about your new client, and the only way to do that is dig in and ask questions. Make a site visit. Take the boss out to lunch. Be creative. The less you discuss the objectives of your newly struck agreement, the more you’ll learn. Not only will this endear you to your new client, it’ll help you determine whether the relationship is a good fit. This kind of engagement can also provide you valuable insight into how your new client defines success.
Here are four areas to focus on during the onboarding process:
1. Understand the company culture
Talk to your client about their goals for their company, and be open about yours, too. If the goals don’t match, things may not work well between you. Think of it as a first date. As any good couples’ counselor will tell you, honest rapport at the outset is critical to the health of the relationship over the long term.
If the match isn’t meant to be, you’ll know. There may be personal and ethical differences. The client may have unreasonable expectations. It is better to shake hands and walk away at the beginning than to stick around waiting for things to fall apart at the end.
2. Visit memory lane
Invite your client to discuss how he or she and their company got where they are currently. Survey past successes and give them honest feedback about past failures. Identify with them on a personal level, and let them know you’re not there to judge, but to learn.
Often, your prospective client has come to you because they are ending a business relationship that didn’t meet their expectations. What went wrong and what worked well with that previous relationship? Discuss how you can avoid those problems this time around. Ask them to reflect on how the break went down with their former partner and how that experience informed the way they plan to work with you.
3. Get personal
If your client is willing, take the conversation in a personal direction (but not too personal). Understanding their views on the balance between work and life will help you understand what they expect from a connection with you. Who are they outside of work? As long as you are respectful and not overly intrusive, it’s OK to ask about family when it fits naturally into the conversation. Are they local? If not, where are they from? What is important to them? Be willing to answer these same questions if prompted.
4. Identify goals
Be open about what you expect from your clients and be just as forthright about what they can expect from you. Having a similar vision about what to expect, and sharing the same goals about how to get there is a critical component to any good working relationship. When you are being asked to provide a certain level of service, make sure your client has a clear idea of how you plan to fulfill your commitment and in what way.
Beginning a relationship with a new client is exciting, but without getting to know what makes them tick, your time with them might end prematurely. If you engage new clients in the right ways, not only will you keep them longer, you may find them to be more trusting, as well.
The most effective business strategies should always consider people first. Read Top Mobile Strategy Should Focus On People, Not Technology.