Embarking on a new relationship and taking on a new client are similar in that both can either be groomed into a beautiful partnership or quickly driven into the dirt depending on how the courting process was handled. If the relationship isn't set up on a reliable foundation, it will likely never be stable and, therefore, will lead to constant headaches for everyone involved.
There are three things to avoid at all costs when courting a potential client to ensure that when the signing occurs, the relationship has a legitimate chance of being mutually beneficial and easily maintained on a long-term scale.
MISTAKE #1: Failing to recognize, accept or relate to the customer personas that are most willing and able to purchase your product or service.
Seriously dating an Atheist in spite of your inevitably relationship-ending, life-long dream to raise your children under strong Catholic principles probably isn't a good idea because it goes against your long-term goals. Similarly, seeking out the "shot in hell" clients while you ignorantly brush aside the ones that are clamoring for your product or service is also worthy of avoidance. Be realistic and honest with yourself about your target market, and focus on its center where you’ll strike the strongest connection and enhance your ability to build a stable relationship.
While businesses have in the past trended towards doing business with just about any customer, they’re now becoming more selective and recognizing patterns and customer personas that don’t support their way of working and/or doing business. Maximizing customers’ time is critical in establishing a successful relationship, but so is avoiding the waste of your own time and resources spent chasing the wrong customers.
MISTAKE #2: Setting false expectations, or in other words, lying.
False pretenses make for awkward conversations, loss of trust and, eventually, a lost client or customer. Whether the falsity was delivered intentionally or was something as innocent as the ignorance of outdated information, it will leave you with a mess that will be difficult to clean up. Businesses and company representatives that give their clients bad information earn a tainted reputation, and in today's social world where information is constantly being shared and peer opinions are heavily relied upon, bad word of mouth - or beak - is difficult to rectify.
So, spend time reviewing your numbers, prices and talking points, even if it seems like a waste of time because you’re sure you’ve got it right. Check your facts, update your information and have honest, transparent conversations with your potential clients so they know and understand what can be expected if they decide to do business with you. Setting the parameters of the relationship prior to the beginning of it will set in place a solid cornerstone on which to build for the future.
MISTAKE #3: Expecting results that outweigh the applied effort.
While you may be able to get from a personal relationship what you’re willing to put into it, you will get the same from your customers far less often. Unreturned phone calls, mediocre conversations and persistent irritations shouldn’t be expected to yield a positive outcome in any relationship, and as a business, it’s important to remember that you’re at the small end of the funnel. Putting in a mediocre effort will rarely yield a stellar customer. Pricing, the level of customer service, the quality of the products and the time-sensitivity of the project have to add up to a win for the customer. Most customers are picky, precise, wary of potentially rocky vendor relationships, increasingly frugal given today’s economic climate, and are looking for those deals that make them feel like they came out on top.
With that in mind, there is a balance to be struck between going above and beyond the call of duty and simply wasting time and resources on a dead end. The reality is that you're likely going to have to sacrifice a temporary loss to build loyalty and rapport, but be wary of a road that shows no signs of a lane heading your way in the future.
Avoiding these three monumental mistakes - or immediately correcting them if you've already slipped up - can work wonders in your relationships with clients and customers. Peaceful, mutually-beneficial partnerships lead to peace of mind and long-term loyalty. Who couldn't use a little more of that?!