A consultant’s professional life revolves around attracting new clients and retaining existing ones. It’s a tricky balancing act that involves finding ways to bolster your own business, while at the same time, putting your clients first.
Good client relationships boil down to the same principles of any great relationship: open communication, respect, honesty, and often putting the other person’s needs before your own.
With that being said, here are six best consulting practices to help you build and maintain great relationships with your clients.
1. Put Your Clients First
Your clients will appreciate having their needs put before your efforts to build your business. Show them you’re acting in good faith by meeting deadlines, providing all required deliverables, and offering opportunities and suggestions to improve their business.
2. Take Time to Understand Your Client
No matter how many times you’ve handled clients before, it is still imperative you take as much time as possible to do the following:
- Build rapport with your client
- Understand their organization
- Understand the industry they’re in
- Understand the organization’s customers
Doing all these allows you to provide solutions customized to your client’s specific needs.
3. Set Expectations and Meet Them
Clients love consultants who can set expectations and meet them to the letter. This means submitting all deliverables on time and within budget, finding solutions to their problems and offering ideas for the organization’s improvement.
When you show a genuine concern for your client’s organization, their satisfaction will grow and they’ll be more likely to recommend you to other potential clients.
4. Communicate and Communicate Often
Beginning your client-consultant relationship with clear and open communication helps ensure all future interactions follow the same pattern. This way, when you encounter challenges or setbacks, your client will have the peace of mind knowing that you’ll keep them posted on whatever it is you’re doing to solve the problem.
And even if your project is humming along smoothly, it still pays to keep your client in the loop in regular intervals. They will appreciate the regular updates, which reinforce their decision of hiring you in the first place.
5. Nurture Mutual Understanding and Respect
If you want to earn a client’s respect, give them yours first.
When you question the quality of a client’s previous work or criticize how their organization does things, you’re being condescending instead of helpful. While it certainly helps to point out the limitations of their circumstances, you should always be respectful and offer ideas on what might be the best solutions to fix their problems.
6. Set Them Up for Success and Independence
You’re a consultant, not an employee.
Many clients will tell you they just need a bit of help here and there, but what they might not be telling you is they want you to do everything. Your job is to help your client by developing their long-term skills instead of just providing quick-fix solutions.
This not only sets your client up for success, it also fights the misconception of consultants intentionally ‘dumbing’ themselves down to jack up their fees and have longer contracts.
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