This one goes out to the mompreneurs and real life gladiators. You have great ideas, you’re talented, and you work hard. Your clients should crave you, right? WRONG. Here are ten things consultants of all kinds forget to do that make clients smile.
10. Pay attention to the details. If your client tells you she’s going out of town, it will annoy her if you call to schedule an appointment for that particular week. Not sure you will remember these kinds of things? Yep, that happens and that is why we have pens, paper, word processors, iPads, etc. Write it down, please. Then use the details to strengthen your connections, Believe me, a “have fun in Paris” text does way more for your relationship than a “hey are you ready for your weekly” when you have already been given the scoop.
9. Make referrals when you are in over your head. I can not tell you how many times I have been in the academic advising chair and something has come up that is really for the counselor or the financial aid folks. If you are a career consultant, you should not be giving people advice on their marriages. Of course, it is ok to listen but do not fix your mouth to offer a solution on something you haven’t truly mastered. The graceful way to do this is to make the call while the person is with you. This establishes rapport. You don’t need to schedule an appointment for them but just get a little push in the right direction and then offer the name to your client. After you have made the referral say something like “phew, I’m so glad you have someone who can work on that with you, ok so where were we with our work here?”
8. Location, location, location! The settings in which you meet your clients make a big impact so they should always be either A-related to the work you will do together (hint: wedding planners can meet clients at a hotel bar, life coaches probably should not) or B- a space that uniquely defines you. Don’t have your own space yet? Check out the local library. They usually offer meeting rooms, you can even pull a few books to decorate the desk. Typically free of charge – all you need is a library card. There are some cases when you need to maintain distance but generally home offices and visits are also fine. Just make sure you tell someone where you will be and when to expect to hear from you. If you do that and you are still worried about meeting a person, he or she should probably not be your client.
7. Know what makes the client tick. Every person has certain things about which he or she is passionate. Here is where you get to make connections that are a little broader in scope. Find out what that person loves or where he spends a decent amount of time and show him you’re listening. My husband is an experiential learning guy. He is known for taking students on international trips and if you ask anyone who knows him where his favorite place to go is, they will probably say China. So, if he were my client, I would probably share news about China travel with him but I would also probably share closely related stuff too. This might include language learning software, Chinese recipes, and even pictures from other non-Western travel destinations. Be creative…which leads me to number 6!
6. Mix it up. Every now and then, my hair stylist will offer me something new and different. She will say hey how about some curls today, or wanna try some red color this time? She knows that a little adventure is good for most people and she always offers things she is great at delivering. If you are a career coach, lay off the resume building and networking lectures for a session and try a game of charades using a theme like brands. If you are in lawn care, offer a fun potted plant or flag just for the week. You can even tell your customers they can buy it next time if they like it. Make sure your mixing matches though, when the hair stylist offers you fake eyelashes to try – that’s cool and fun. If the baker did that, it would be weird and gross.
5. Find the sweet spot. Ok so you have mixed it up and they love it, great job! But you also need to know what their go-to service is. If you clean homes and you have a client who absolutely loves it when you do the carpets, make sure you squeeze that in on the regular. It is true that people are creatures of habit. Make sure you know which habits your clients like.
4. Judge not. We have all had those moments when someone makes a choice we just can. not. be. lieve. We have probably had times when we did something incomprehensible too. Be careful, you want your client to understand that sometimes we all have a mishap or are simply uninformed. I have a lawyer who has stood by me through some pretty sad situations that emerged from bad choices but notice I say “have” and not “had”. You can lose a client by being too high on your horse. Be sympathetic, offer your very best advice and then give them the ability to get back up and recover. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Of course, if you run into a case where your client repeats poor choices that make your job difficult, be sure to go back to number 9 and get a good therapist on the team.
3. Cash is king but barter is a beast. I do not recommend any budding entrepreneur go to a totally barter based system. But there are instances where it makes good sense. Let’s say you own a coffee shop and you have a customer who owns a graphic design and printing firm. I would venture to guess that designers like a good brew to keep the ideas flowing and meet deadlines when the process has them burning the midnight oil. I would also guess that any great coffee shop could use a beautiful logo and some nice menu work or posters for the walls. This is what you call a win-win. It can be a one-time arrangement or an ongoing thing. Be specific about the terms and make sure everyone understands, in writing. The designers are likely to visit your shop the next time they take their parents on a Sunday stroll and you are likely to recommend them to the friend who starts her own catering business.
2. Create a community. You know what most customers will love more than you? Each other! Let them get to know one another and talk about what they like. People thrive on community. If you have a business where it is difficult to have folks come together or what you do is confidential, consider an online forum or advice page on your web site. The internet offers a sense of anonymity while still allowing us to relate. But umm, just make sure comments come to you first for approval. No one wants to commune with a troll.
1. Value their time. Here is a place where we’d all like to have a crystal ball. It is ok if you aren’t sure exactly how long your service will take. If there is a hard deadline, meet it. If there isn’t, give an estimate of how long things will take and offer regular updates. You can also make them feel like it is worthwhile by maximizing the experience. When my good friend and I go for pedis, we know it will take a few hours at the place we like. But we also know they will offer us good music, a quiet corner to chat it up in, and a glass of wine. Once, they even took my coins and put more in my parking meter for me! Ok ok, so we can’t all create ambiance with our services. If that won’t work for you, at least make sure you acknowledge the inconvenience and let them know you will do the best you can to make it bearable. A little understanding goes a looong way.
Now go get ‘em!