Four Things Every Client Wants in a Relationship

What do clients really want? I’ve interviewed and surveyed thousands of executives over the last decade about what they look for in a relationship with an external provider or advisor. Each client is unique, of course, and looks for somewhat different things in each specific transaction or engagement. But if you boil it down, there are four fundamental characteristics or values that nearly all clients look for.

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Here they are:

1. Trust. Clients want to work with someone they trust. Specifically, they need to trust that you are competent at what you do; that you have integrity; and that you have positive intent—that you will focus on their needs and their agenda.

Tip: The first step is to create more face time. It leads to familiarity and likability, which increase trust. A primary way you show competence in the sales process is by actually adding value in your conversations, not reciting statistics about you or your firm.

2. Delivery. Clients want someone who will consistently deliver. You don’t become a trusted advisor and then show that you can deliver on your commitments—rather, you demonstrate, again and again—that you do high quality work and provide high levels of client service. As the chairman of a large London-based company once said to me—with a bit of wryness—“There really is something to be said for doing an outstanding job, isn’t there?”

Tip: You can’t fake delivery quality, but you can help enhance your client’s perception of this through transparency, communication, expectations setting and review, and so on.

3. Value for money. In the research I have done, this is one of the most important trends—clients want more value in their relationships. In an age where procurement methods are being used to buy everything from consulting projects to banking financing, you must be able to demonstrate that the value you add well exceeds the fees you charge.

Tip: think about contractual or core value, surprise value, and personal value. When you deliver all three, it’s a powerful punch.

4. Likability. Clients want to work with someone they like–and probably, so do you! I’ve heard this from many top executives: “I don’t work with jerks. I work with people who are likeable.” Of course, being likeable is a necessary but not sufficient quality—without trust, delivery, and value you’re not going to get very far.

Tip: Likability is one of the very first things we look for when we meet someone new. You can enhance yours through personal warmth, openness, and genuine empathy—by showing a palpable interest in the other person. That interest is manifested, in good measure, by the thoughtfulness and sincerity of your questions.


What's the hardest thing to satisfy your clients on? 



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