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Consulting new clients

Last week I referredto a post by Danielle Keister about admitting she is human and may make mistakes before she actually makes any. The other detail I got from her post was her insistence on having a consultation or meeting at the beginning of each client relationship.

I think a consultation is a valuble step in an ongoing business relationship but  it doesn’t matter as much when you are dong a small one-off task for the client. Given you are trying to make relationships with clients, here are some reasons to value consultations:

  • despite our increasing comfort in dealing with people electronically, there is something human and appealing in meeting a real person. Conversations with clients are often easier when you can picture each other and have an idea of who the other really is – think about how surprising it sometimes is to see a picture of someone you have heard or emailed with
  • you can set some ground rules and expectations
  • you can establish a better understanding of each other which can lead to easier communications as you work together. For instance, I have a client who knows me well enough that a brief outline of her requirments is usually enough for me to write what she wants, and that saves us both time
  • it can be a tool in screening out tyre kickers who would otherwise waste your time
  • sometimes you can determine that an effective working relationship is unlikely and move on before you both waste time and energy on it. This is hard for a new business, but having suitable clients and client relationships makes business much more fun and leaves you the resources to be a better job overall

However, it isn’t always practical to meet face to face with clients. Personally, I have had a small proportion of my clients in Melbourne with the rest being interstate or overseas. I have travelled interstate and to New Zealand to meet ith clients but it generally isn’t feasible.

So here are some other ways to build client relationships in the early stages:

  • use a phone and include some chatting as well as business talk – voip makes this an affordable option
  • invite the client to add you to our favourite chatting software (msn, yahoo, etc) so you can chat about projects
  • have an information sheet or webpage that outlines some expectations and procedures – use a friendly tone but make it clear
  • add friendly comments and questions to emails (e.g. how did your team go over the weekend? has the weather warmed up yet? how was your day/weekend?)
  • have a client questionnaire for all new clients to complete so you can learn about them quickly
  • take extra care to paraphrase their instructions and information to ensure you are understanding them and their communication style

How do you establish good relationships with clients from the begining? Do you insist on some sort of start up meeting?

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