How To Manage Client Relationships As An EntrepreneurDec 16, 2022
Managing client relationships take time and effort. The person-to-person relationship between entrepreneurs and their clients, investors, and community can be difficult to balance.
When working to grow our business, we have this huge desire and need to be liked and be received well because we need that for our business to succeed. Entrepreneurs and small business owners tend to have more personal and dependent relationships with clients than what larger businesses experience. This is usually because losing a customer, or a negative experience can significantly impact smaller businesses. So more time and care is put into managing these relationships, especially in the beginning, to give their business a chance at life.
Building Deeper Relationships
We put so much into our business that we need those deeper relationships with our clients. Luckily there are several ways to do that.
Clients are often direct and upfront with their needs and the issues that they are experiencing. Giving them the space and time to express their concerns will be important.
- Show you are more than a business
People want real, genuine relationships, and that means showing who you are. Not everything can be a sales pitch and shouldn't be treated as such. Show the human side behind the business.
- Communicate appropriately
You want to make sure you are communicating openly and honestly. You also want to be smart with how you're communicating. Some things are better said face-to-face, and some things can be said over email or messenger.
- Respect their time
Everyone's time is important. That is why it is crucial that you put effort into staying on time and not dragging meetings out. As an entrepreneur, you will get busy and tied up, which is why you have to put in the extra effort to make sure you are honoring your time commitments. When setting dates for deliverables, make sure you are accurate and not overrepresent your ability to produce.
Building that relationship takes time, but the steps themselves are relatively simple. What can be difficult for many entrepreneurs is maintaining and managing those relationships. As business grows, as do the clients, it is easy to drop the ball on managing client relationships.
Maintaining Those Relationships
You will still want to continue to use appropriate communication, be real, and do everything else listed above, but there are some other things you (and your team) will need to do too.
- Listen to your team
This may seem obvious, but listening to your team that works with your clients is important. Employees working directly with clients will often discover common themes or learn patterns that may be overlooked. Check-in with your team to learn how your client experience is going.
- Take your time
We all aim to grow our business, but sometimes we can grow faster than what we are prepared for. At some point, we can hit this momentum to grow or fail, but growing too fast can be hurtful to our business. Whether this is taking on more clients or extending your product line, take your time. If you grow so fast that you can't fulfill your current obligations in a timely manner, it will negatively impact your business, and you'll lose clients because you can no longer perform up to standard.
- Learn to handle critique
This is a hard one for many people to handle, especially if it is a direct critique of our business, our baby. So it is understandable that direct, negative critique can be hard. But, when we react strongly against critiques, regardless of whether or not we feel they are valid, we are showing others that we can't handle them. We are showing people in our company and potential customers that we can't handle being told we are doing something wrong. It's okay to respond to critiques or disagree with them, but everything needs to be handled appropriately.
- Set clear boundaries
Setting boundaries with clients can be difficult for many entrepreneurs. When we grow our business, we often make ourselves open to our clients and show we care by being available whenever they need us. But this can quickly backfire. You can find yourself being taken away from important tasks, losing time for last-minute meetings, and having your workday last hours longer. It is hard to set firm boundaries with clients because we rely on them to help our business grow. But in order to put our focus where it needs to be, it is important to be clear with our boundaries and stick to them.
- Make accountability a two-way street
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we fail. It can suck and be embarrassing, but it still happens. It is important to acknowledge where we went wrong and to own the mistakes that we made. It is also important to express a plan for this mistake to not happen again.
Sometimes we can even experience issues on our end because of a lack of action or miscommunication with the client, coworker, or production partner. However, it is important to not assert full blame on them or accept the full blame. Accept your part, no matter how small. Most of the time, issues happen because of small misunderstandings on one or both sides. Owning your part (big or small) that you could have improved on can help you appear more empathetic while not taking on problems that are not in your control.