by Paul G. Krasnow, author of “The Success Code: A Guide For Achieving Your Personal Best In Business And Life“
These days trust is at an all-time low. People are suspicious of organizations, institutions, and leaders across the board. At the same time, competition is fierce. Your clients can leave you at any time (and for any reason) and replace your services with something faster, shinier, and sexier. But here’s the good news: When you’re able to engage with clients the right way and build deeply connected, trust-based, authentic relationships with them, you automatically set yourself apart.
Strong client relationships are hard to come by and clients know it. That’s why, when you know how to create them, you’ll win your clients’ loyalty, earn referrals, and enjoy repeat business for life.
Deep connections like this can’t be faked. They require your attention, your care, and your authentic desire to serve your clients to the best of your ability. In both bad times and good, your commitment to them should be your top priority. Not everyone is willing to create and nurture these kinds of relationships. If you are, your business will thrive.
If you’re ready to learn how to foster superior client satisfaction and loyalty, here are some relationship-building habits that keep them coming back again and again.
1. First, commit to a personal code of integrity and live it each day.
Integrity should be a core value that steers all of your client interactions. This means committing to being honest and working hard with their best interests in mind.
Develop a set of business integrity mantras you can strategically place around your office on Post-it notes or even posters. Use them to remind yourself to always align all of your decisions with your code of business conduct.
2. Give them peace of mind.
Your clients should always be in good hands with you. Develop a system that works for you to proactively give clients the highest level of service at all times. Whether it is having a perfectly tweaked project management system in place in your business or having a very clear communication system, make sure you respond to your clients in a timely manner and that you provide expert answers to all of their questions.
3. Build trust by keeping your promises.
If customer connections are the cornerstone of a successful business, trust is the cornerstone of a healthy client relationship. Remember to keep your word and to deliver without fail. Keeping your word can be as small but equally important as never canceling an appointment or going over the allotted time for a meeting. This guideline may seem simplistic, but this approach will not only impress and delight them, but it will allow them to trust you with more business in the future. Building client trust makes you a winner every time.
4. Be honest about what your services can deliver.
Don’t oversell or overpromise the results you offer. Manage your clients’ expectations so they won’t be disappointed. But whenever possible, do put them in touch with others who can help them.
Be sure to expose your clients to your networks just to be helpful. Maybe they come to see you for insurance policies, but your consultant pal from college could help them streamline their business initiatives — so you connect them! This will only widen your networks and strengthen your client relationships.
5. Don’t sell your customers products they don’t need.
Be upfront about products that would be a waste of their hard-earned money. Make your clients’ best interests your focus in approaching clients with your services. This tip is part of a larger philosophy of moving away from seeing a client as an immediate sale and moving toward building a long-term relationship. This approach ensures that you are successful in building a solid foundation for your client relationships.
6. Deliver consistent service.
I’ve observed that clients come to expect what they have experienced with your services in the past. Align yourself with a clearly defined mission, set of goals, and level of commitment and ensure that clients receive the same level of care by delivering consistently high-quality service, time and time again.
7. Be authentic with clients.
Authenticity, by definition, can’t be faked. Your customers will know if you are being friendly just to make a sale. But genuine interactions allow people into your life by sharing your personality and getting to know the real you. Friendliness goes a long way.
8. Find thoughtful ways to show you care.
Just showing up for your clients because you genuinely care about them is a sure way to solidify your connection with them. So send out birthday cards. Make a donation to a charity in your client’s name. Get to know each of your clients and show genuine interest in their lives. Remember details and ask about their families and lives. Create an emotional connection any chance you are able. Once relationships have been established, attend family weddings, funerals, bar and bat mitzvahs.
9. Check in even when you have nothing to sell them.
Clients love to know that you care about them beyond the sale of services. Do reach out to your clients from time to time and check in with them to see how they are doing. Take them to lunch, meet up for a game of golf, ask them about the outcome of an important family event. These ways of connecting are opportune times to find out if there is anything you could be doing even better to make this client happier than they already are.
10. Don’t forget about your existing clients, even when your business is booming with new ones.
Clients can tell when they’re on the back burner. I urge you to consciously devote time to touching base with your loyal long-term clients — especially when new customers are banging down your door.
Nobody wants to feel like a ‘third wheel,’ certainly not your trusted clients. Keep that connection strong and nurture it every step of the way by reaching out and staying in clear communication with your clients.
11. Resist going on autopilot.
Even if you have your sales technique down pat, find a way to actively engage with every client. Clients can sense if you’re phoning it in.
Try to step into the shoes of your client each time you’re having a meeting. Find ways to really connect with the human being sitting across from you and remember that you are striving to improve their lives.
12. Apologize if you make a mistake and fix the problem immediately.
In most cases, customers aren’t interested in holding grudges — they want to forgive and forget. The best way to smooth things over when you’ve messed up is to make a heartfelt apology and then make it right. Take a moment to address mistakes and put in place ways to continually improve on your process by addressing obstacles that may slow down your momentum.
If your business is anything less than thriving, you should first and foremost examine your relationship with your clients. The truth is, you are far more in control of your brand’s growth than you give yourself credit for. That’s why it’s so important to take true ownership of the connection you build with your clients. You’ll be amazed how much your deeper commitment to them will pay off in the long run.
Paul G. Krasnow is the author of”The Success Code: A Guide For Achieving Your Personal Best In Business And Life“. He is a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he has been a top producer for 40 years. Early in his career, Paul suffered a financially devastating bankruptcy with a line of clothing stores he owned, but went on to join Northwestern Mutual, where he has created an impressive financial portfolio and a strong network of clients, many of whom have become lifelong friends.