Client retention and referrals are the best ways to construct a fantastic client list. While working with clients long-term and new, the assignment of every consulting professional is to supply the best quality service, exceed client expectations and create the conditions for a very long relationship and the receipt of referrals. Recently, one of my clients did precisely that and referred to me his close friend and colleague.
Take your first step on the path toward client retention by fulfilling, if not exceeding, your client’s expectations, as mentioned. Nurture the relationship by considering how you may be useful to the customer’s business interests, whether or not you are currently working on a project together with him. By way of example, if you happen upon an article that you would expect to be relevant to your customer, send the link. Pass along the details of a seminar or workshop which may be of interest, to demonstrate that you think of his/her priorities whether or not you are on “active duty.” Of course, the very best relationship-building strategy is to refer a customer to your customer. You will be golden!
Should your client refer you to someone, be sure to call or even better, stop in the office, to express your gratitude in person. An especially major assignment could be worthy of a lunch or dinner, compliments of you.
But the path to client retention and referrals starts with the exceptional work that you send while on assignment. Here are a few things to Remember:
If you know that you’ll be asked to deal with an urgent problem that must be swiftly resolved, do your homework and come to the job brimming with practical ideas and a couple of well-chosen questions. Demonstrate that you are a problem-solver and provider of useful solutions.
Listen to the client
Listen up and find out how the client views matters from his/her standpoint, whether it’s the way to implement the solution for your job you are working on, the way to resolve a customer service glitch, or another work issue. Prove that you know and respect the client’s opinions and values.
Respect the client’s ideas and suggestions
You might not have all the answers. The customer’s lived experience matters. Be open to integrating the client’s ideas to your proposed solution. Always agree with the customer and validate his/her choices. Subtly adapt his/her suggested strategy into something that you know will be more successful, when necessary. If the customer mentions that another adviser has handled a similar project in another way, listen and learn. You may receive useful information about the best way to improve your own business practices.
Meetings may be rare, but emails are a way to report on your many successes toward achieving the objectives and goals of the project.
Moreover, the email trail will be helpful when it is time to send an invoice and record your billable hours. Everything you don’t want is a customer who questions why you are billing for some number of hours and implying that you’re padding the invoice. Moreover, if the customer feels that some aspect of the project scope should be enlarged or diminished, adjustments can be made in a timely manner.
Get it in writing
Take meeting notes and within 48 hours post-meeting, send an email to confirm what’s been discussed and agreed-upon. Include project specs, the fee arrangement, the payment schedule, project milestones, the deliverables and the due dates.
Client retention is the foundation of every business. It takes less time and effort to keep a client than to pursue and acquire a new one. Furthermore, long-term clients are much more inclined to bestow on you that supreme affirmation, a referral.