Well wishes and expressions of thanks are plentiful throughout the holiday season. However, with January just around the corner, it is essential to remember to thank clients regularly throughout the year.
Whether it’s new business, repeat business, a recommendation, a testimonial, or going the extra distance to complete a project, sharing your appreciation demonstrates that you value your relationship. Knowing when and how to demonstrate this is essential.
The host of holiday parties that fill November and December offers unique opportunities to connect with others in a relaxed atmosphere, strengthening existing relationships and starting to build new ones. There are a few elements to consider in order to begin developing connections and trust:
- Preparation – Know who you want to meet, their accomplishments and their recent projects so that you can converse intelligently. Ask mutual contacts to make an introduction – and return the favour!
- Engagement – Ask questions to pique conversation and uncover common interests and business alignments. ‘What brings you to the event’, ‘Are you going away for the holidays’ and ‘How do you keep busy outside of work’ encourages people to share their passions and generates enthusiasm.
- Common Ground – Long-lasting relationships are formed by connecting through shared interests that excite both parties and provide fodder for follow-up in the new year.
- Attention to Detail – Listen attentively and make notes once the evening is done. Be a problem-solver! If someone will be skiing in Colorado over the holidays, send them a recommendation from your last visit. It provides a good reason to follow-up and shows you are a team player.
I have been approached by organizations who want to ‘increase employee engagement’ countless times over the years. From a corporate viewpoint, engaged employees are more productive and more likely to remain at the firm long-term. From a personal perspective, we spend a good portion of our waking life at work – so naturally we all want to have some of our human needs met here. Genuine and meaningful team connection, challenging projects, and continuous learning are important.
Once you’ve established a relationship with a client, it is essential to value them, make them feel valued, and give them reason to work with you time and time again.
- Special treatment – Make clients feel special by providing fast response times, personal delivery and ways to reach project principals in case of emergency
- Consistent communication – Set up regular meetings or phone calls that take place even when they are not necessary
- The ‘wow’ factor – Surprise clients with good news, more than they expected, or deliver ahead of schedule
- Testimonials – Make it your standard policy to ask for testimonials
It is essential to understand that business development is all about cultivating relationships, where human contact and interaction are at their core.
Whenever possible, pick up the phone and call, whether you are:
- Seeking clarity
- Needing a specific issue addressed
- Finding out about future projects
- Dealing with a sensitive subject
Actively listening to your clients is the best thing you will ever do to foster strong relationships and work together far into the future.
L - LOOK for cues. Always be aware of your surroundings. Look for the people in the meeting who are
disengaged and bring them back in. Be sensitive to the tenor and tone of your clients when they are speaking.
I - Be INTERESTED and inspire thoughtful conversation.
S - STOP to ask clarifying questions, especially when needing confirmation, direction or when you simply don’t understand.
Last week one of my parent’s closest friends passed away. It was a very sad week but it did allow me to reconnect with their three children whom I babysat 30 plus years ago. All of them are doing well, but one of them in particular completely blew me away with her accomplishments.
Victoria is the ‘semi-middle’ child, as her twin brother is only a few minutes younger, but she’s always had the attributes (diplomatic, quiet, etc.) of a typical middle child. After the funeral she had to fly back to New York for work, but her older sister brought me up to speed on Victoria’s career.
It seems like just a few years ago when I began in the industry and AutoCAD was in its infancy. I was just coming out of engineering school. I knew AutoCAD inside and out and I was able to play a key role in the Company’s implementation of the system. In retrospect that was over twenty years ago, but who’s counting?
It’s been an odd experience to realize I’m no longer on the cutting edge of technology – specifically when it comes to social media. I find myself asking people to explain certain buzzwords and social media platforms just to keep up with conversations. In fact just a few weeks ago in a brainstorming session with our communications team, I asked “do people actually look at LinkedIn company pages?” to which they stared back at me like deer in the headlights. Admittedly, I’ve fallen behind on the times.