Relationship Building From the Client’s Side of the Desk

Thoughtful client feedback is always illuminating. Of course, you have to be careful about taking what just one client executive says works or doesn’t work when it comes to building long-term relationships, and generalize it to all clients. But, having interviewed over 1000 senior executives on this topic, it’s remarkable to me how consistent the messages are.

Last week I interviewed a senior IT executive at a workshop I was running for a client of mine. Here are some of the highlights of what he said about “building relationships from the client’s side of the desk.”

A Client’s Perspective: Eight Things to Remember 

  1.  Never come to me and simply tell me about a problem you’re seeing in our organization. Tell me how you think we can fix it.
  2.  Push back. If you think there’s a different or better approach, tell us! We really do want to hear it.
  3. Don’t give us printed materials that aren’t completely professional (it happens often!)
  4. In a first meeting with a prospective client, don’t be overly familiar. Be warm and friendly, but don’t act like we’re already friends.
  5. Even in an RFP, you can distinguish yourself. In your response, give us your best thinking about some tough issues we or our industry face–even if we didn’t ask you for it.
  6. Understand your client’s business issues but also learn about their personal challenges, goals, likes, and dislikes. You have to get to know the whole person.
  7. If you want to go over my head to my boss or my bosses’ boss, sit down with me and explain why. Be transparent. There may very well be an issue that deserves their attention–I understand that it happens sometimes–but collaborate with me, don’t just go around me.
  8. If a client doesn’t seem to want to have a relationship with you, it may simply be because you haven’t found out what’s really important to him or her. Everyone has issues they need help with–everyone has hot buttons. You need to dig deeper because then you’ll know how to be relevant and help them. And that’s what builds the relationship.

Much of this is common sense. But sometimes it seems to be uncommonly found in practice!

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