Adding Value to Client Relationships

We’ve all been there. We’ve built what we thought was a strong, client relationship only to watch it dissipate as time goes on. This happens for many reasons, but often it is a result of the consultant failing to enrich the relationship as time passes. To create meaningful and lasting relationships, value must be actively added through the duration of said relationship. As consultants we should always be considering, “How can I help my client? or “How can I add true value to this relationship?” Thinking this way is a start, however adding true value to client relationships requires specific attention and the desire to support their needs. Ways to effectively add value to client relationships are detailed in the following paragraphs, but a good, professional friendship must be ever-present.

There are several ways in which we can add value to client relationships. You might engage in actions that positively influence their career path, solve a specific problem they face, or provide content that interests them and/or promotes their development. Regardless of what you choose, these acts of value should vary and be personal in nature, highlighting your attention to their specific needs.

As you build a client relationship, you might start with small gestures like providing articles of interest or consistently reaching out to see how things are going. With that said, as time passes something more valuable should be shared to maintain and continue to strengthen the relationship. For example, if you typically reach out to your client following a meeting to provide supplemental materials or to check in, you may consider adding perspective as an advisor. This could manifest itself as an observation from the meeting that validates their efforts and provides honest feedback with a willingness to help. This feedback adds value by establishing an opportunity to start a conversation and showing your interest in their success. It also presents an opportunity to be a listener, which is one of the most important elements of any relationship dynamic.

Listening is one of the best ways to add value to a client relationship. Simon Sinek says this about listening: “Listening is not hearing the words that are spoken, listening is about the meaning behind those words. It’s about making the other person feel heard.” Listening is not a common gift; it takes practice but is something that is very achievable for any consultant. It is important to train this muscle because listening is, arguably, the most valuable skill we can provide as consultants, because it inherently builds the trust needed to develop a professional friendship with your client.

This trust is foundational to becoming more than a client, it provides the opportunity to establish a professional friendship. It should be noted that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re your friend on a personal level, but you become someone that they can rely on, confide in, and feel comfortable with beyond the normal cadence of work calls and meetings. Building a strong client relationship is understanding the need to become your client’s friend, not the other way around.

Being a friend to your client is the willingness to take the time to meet with them beyond the four walls of the office. We all know that relaxing is much easier outside of an office setting, so spending time with your client outside of the office is a great way to build trust. This change in environment is key to helping them view you as friend, so that they are more comfortable opening up to you. In this setting, it is not your opportunity to open up to the client, rather it is for them to choose to let you in.  Remember, your job is to be their friend, not the other way around. This is the time to listen and to understand your client’s needs and challenges, as well as to determine the most personal and impactful way to add value to the relationship.

We’ve all experienced a failed client relationship, but there are ways to mitigate this risk. Focus on building client relationships that are based on adding value and fostering a professional friendship. This is the recipe to developing and maintaining long-term client relationships.

Written by: Dean McMann

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About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

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