Why client relationships matter

The importance of prioritizing client relationships

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​In the recruitment world we spend a lot of time talking about people. Whether it’s candidates, colleagues or clients, not a day goes by when we aren’t talking to, with or about people.

Yet, as busy people, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of failing to prioritize relationships. Instead we can become transactional, equating people simply to lines on a spreadsheet.

Have you ever stopped to think about the power of relationships? The impact of positive client experiences? That maybe those strong relationships could be the key to business success?

Maybe it’s time we all made time for relationships.

Relationships are a key differentiator

What makes you different? It’s a question we ask ourselves as business leaders all the time. We’re always looking for a new angle, a USP, a differentiator that marks us out from the crowd. After all, in recruitment or professional services there’s so much competition but when you get down to the details - the services on offer aren’t that different.

 That’s why we need to look beyond our services to find a point of difference.

Your key differentiator could (and I’d argue should) be your relationships.

Sometimes in B2B we get hung up on the business side of things. At the end of the day decisions are made by a person, and that person is going to want to work with someone they know, like and trust.

That means the detail that’s going to swing the decision in your favour is whether they think you’re a good person that they want to work with. It’s all about relationships.

Taking time to improve your client experience and putting in place a good framework to establish those relationships is good business sense, not a nice-to-have.

The link between client relationships and profitability

There are times when relationship management is brushed off as schmoozing. There’s a growing body of evidence that shows strong client relationships has a positive impact on the bottom line, not only that but it creates a more streamlined and productive way of working in the long term.

Retaining clients is far more rewarding than acquiring new ones from a personal, professional and commercial angle. In fact, it’s around6 to 7 times more expensive to attract new clients than it is to keep your existing ones.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy to retain clients or to sell to them, but when you start to prioritize relationships the quality of your service will improve and you’ll find it less of a challenge.

Prioritizing relationships is about moving away from a transactional point of view and moving towards a human approach. Once you understand their needs, their business, their challenges, how they operate, you begin to get under the skin of their business which means you can anticipate their needs and how you can help them, providing a better level of service and building a genuine connection with your clients.

Thinking about relationships first and selling second doesn’t come naturally to businesses. The reality is if you get the relationships right then the selling will happen, almost intuitively.

People buy from people, it’s true. If you want to retain clients, if you want to upsell, if you want to improve your bottom line then prioritise every aspect of your person to person relationship first and make sure that you’re delivering a high touch, value added and quality driven service.

In such competitive marketplaces often relationships are neglected. Clients become one of many and the focus shifts to winning new business. When your client relationships are based on trust and mutual respect you’ll begin to pull away from the competition.

In a recent survey only 56% of clients are satisfied with the relationship they have with their agency. Note - not happy, not thrilled, satisfied. It checks a box, it’s ok.

When you then add in that 55% of clients are willing to pay more for a better experience, you can see how critical strong relationships are.

For firms who truly prioritize their relationships they can use that as a point of differentiation, and that key difference will show in their bottom line.

Ways to prioritize client relationships

Whether the issues you’re having in your business are focused on your recruitment, retention, engagement or profitability, there’s a strong chance that prioritizing client relationships will help.

It’s not a quick win, it’s about making a long-term commitment to getting to know your clients and serving them better.

How to do this also isn’t revolutionary, but they’re fundamentals that sometimes get overlooked in the fast-paced world we live in.

Active listening

Building a strong relationship starts with taking a genuine interest in your clients. Listening to what they say, and remembering the details. They might be related to the project you’re working on or it might be something in their personal lives.

Prioritizing relationships also allows you to utilize your networks and connect others that might further their thinking, be of assistance or would be a great fit.

Participate in conversations, show empathy, ask questions, chip in with personal anecdotes to show that you understand what they’re going through.

Client relationships have the same basis as personal relationships, and that all starts with showing a genuine interest in the other person and being authentic.

Consistent communication

We’re all guilty of only talking to a client when they email us. From time to time make the first move, check in with them without an agenda. Ask them how they’re doing, go for a coffee, give them a call.

When working on a project, stay in regular contact, and let them know when they’ll hear from you. Embed yourself in their working life and make sure you’re regularly checking in.

Proactivity

Don’t wait until a client offers feedback before you make changes. Ask how things are going, be inquisitive and react accordingly.

Your client might not be aware that you offer a certain service that will help them or that there’s a different way of doing something.

Address their issues before they come up, and proactively try to make a small improvement and over time that will add up.

Transparency

Sometimes things just don’t work out. You might not be getting the results you wanted, or something has shifted which means the goals need to change. Don’t hide it. Don’t avoid the issue.

Trust is based on shared vulnerability, take the opportunity to be open and honest with your clients. They’ll appreciate it and will connect with you on a human to human level.

That’s not to say you need to share every tiny detail but being transparent about the points that matter will provide a solid foundation to build on.

The personal touch

Every touchpoint and interaction should be personalized to your client’s preferences.

It might be that they prefer a phone call to an email or maybe that they drink green tea instead of coffee. These tiny moments might seem inconsequential but when you’ve stocked up on green tea for your next meeting, that client will notice and remember, and they’ll feel appreciated.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing what’s easiest for you, instead focus on the individual needs of each client.

​B2B has been replaced with human to human. That means the relationships you have with your clients have never been more important.

With the onset and development of AI, relationships will become critical and a key part of your firm’s USP. Building strong relationships will increase your client retention and profitability as well as making your working life a more engaged and enjoyable experience.

Instead of racing through clients looking for the next one, you can build long term, productive relationships with genuinely lovely people.

In doing so you’ll also begin to build your point of differentiation - the way you treat your clients.

Once word gets around about the positive experience your clients receive with your firm, they’ll be lining up to work with you.