Learn to Listen
The first step to productive and positive client relationships is listening. In your initial interaction with the potential customer, ask them questions about their goals and expectations of your service. Take note of how they present their ideas – are they being brief and direct, or are they talking about themselves and asking you questions about yourself?
Once you get a picture of how they communicate, adapt to their style. For example: if you are talking to an engineer, they might prefer a short and detail oriented conversation instead of a long chat about what you did on the weekend. The goal is to listen to the particular needs of your client and make them feel comfortable talking to you.
Email and Written Communication
Email is a fantastic way of delivering a lot of information to your client in a fast and efficient manner. While "texting" style writing is fine for emails to your friends, make sure to keep the writing of business emails formal. Use an appropriate salutation and closing (i.e. "Hello" and "Best Wishes").
Take a few moments at the end of your email to check spelling and grammar. While no one expects error-free writing, re-reading your email can save you from sending an embarrassing spelling error (such as getting their name wrong!) and ensure that you are communicating your ideas as clearly as possible.
If you don't already have one, consider adding an automatic "signature" to your email. With an email signature every message that you send out will have your full name, your business name, and contact information. This is also a good place to link to any support resources you may have online.
Writing on the Web
Have a blog or a newsletter? If you do, then you know that it is important to keep readers interested or they simply won't bother reading. There are lots of web writing tips available out there, but they all boil down to these three points:
- Keep information useful and relevant to your target audience.
- Write in simple, clear language (and spell check!)
- Present ideas in short, easily digestible bits (use lots of subheadings)
Check out our other posts on Marketing on the Web: What's Different and What Works and Why Your Organization Should be Blogging for some more examples and further ideas on successful web writing.
Honesty and Understanding
In our experience working with all types of clients, we have learned that our best business relationships have developed out of honest conversations. If someone asks you for a quote, be clear about the cost, value and project time.
For an excellent example of transparency in web design, check out Andrew's post: How Much Should a Web Site Design Cost? For applying the same techniques to making sales, we recommend our client Viktor Tchernikov's post Solar Installers! How to Treat Your Customer Right.
Listen carefully. Speak and write in clear language. Be polite. The more effective you become as a communicator, the happier you make your clients and colleagues.