Communication is one of the keys to building a successful business partnership with your clients. Effective communication leads to a longer and stronger relationship with your clients and more revenue for your business. Your clients choose to work with you because they believe you can help them solve a problem. But it’s important to remember that if your communication style causes new problems, you may lose that client's trust and that business relationship could come to an abrupt end. Strong client communication offers many benefits for your business:
- Provides project direction and purpose
- Builds client trust
- Increases understanding of the client's perspective
- Creates accountability
- Aligns expectations, budgets, and deliverables
- Avoids confusion
Communication is crucial at every stage of a client relationship:
- When you first pitch your services, you need to align your services with their goals and sell the client on how you can help them.
- As you prepare a project proposal or work contract, you need to be clear about the project's deliverables, budgets, and expectations.
- Once the engagement begins, you need to keep the client informed on progress to build trust and ensure that the client is comfortable with the process.
- As you finish your first project, your communication skills will be vital to extending that relationship and continuing to work together in the future.
- Communication during long-term client relationships helps to provide direction for future projects and encourages your clients to refer others to your business.
Because communication plays such a crucial role at every step of the client journey, it’s essential to improve your client communication skills. Below are ten ways to do this successfully.
1) Establish a human connection
Don't think of your client as a faceless company. Business is about people and relationships. The more you can connect with your client personally, the stronger your relationship will be. Creating a shared connection with your client will make your client feel understood and appreciated. Understanding who you're working with allows you to put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them.
You don't have to be best friends with your point of contact, but they should never dread an upcoming conversation with you. Regardless of your personality type, you can build a bond with your clients. This bond starts with being friendly, approachable, and having a positive attitude. Even on the busiest days, treat your client like their needs are a priority and give them your full attention during meetings. Creating this human connection plays a crucial role in ensuring that you are consistently aligned with the client's goals and needs.
2) Understand your client's communication channels
Learn how your client's point of contact likes to communicate. Do they prefer a phone call, email, or face-to-face meetings? If your client hates checking their email and prefers to conduct business face-to-face, sending email updates will not be sufficient. Communication is only successful when both parties receive and understand the message. Being flexible and matching your client's preferred communication method will make it easier for them to understand your intended message. If possible, select a specific point of contact, and communication should primarily flow through them rather than have many communication streams with a client.
3) Schedule consistent communication
Set a consistent schedule for correspondence and maintain it. The frequency should reflect your client's preference, whether daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or quarterly. Having this consistent and reliable planned communication will make the client feel more comfortable that your business is taking care of their needs and not being forgotten.
4) Respect the client's time
Time is precious, so don't make your client feel like you are wasting theirs. Show up to meetings on time. If a client calls, answer it if possible, rather than just calling them back later. If a client emails you a question, it is vital to respond to it quickly. If you cannot fully respond to an email at that moment, even a simple acknowledgment that you have seen it can be reassuring. Just make sure to follow up promptly with a full answer to their question.
5) Be transparent
Transparency is critical to successful client communication. Being clear and honest throughout your relationship makes it easier to build and keep your client's trust. Whether you are delivering good news, bad news, or no news, it is necessary to be straightforward with your clients. If your client feels like they are in the dark, they may assume the worst. If a project is delayed, or you don't know the answer to a client's question, be transparent and communicate it to the client.
6) Use a collaboration tool
The rise of online collaboration tools makes working with clients easier and faster. Giving your client access to your project management software will provide them a way to collaborate, provide feedback, and monitor project progress. Collaboration and productivity tools can also be paired with a CRM (customer relationship management) system to help you manage and organize internal and external communication all in one place.
7) Set expectations and boundaries
While you want to be there for your clients at all times, it isn't always realistic. Know your limitations and boundaries so that you can communicate them to your client in advance. For example, if you take a month's vacation every year and can't be reached during that time, your clients should know about it. This allows you the opportunity to set expectations in advance and to develop a game plan. Setting proper expectations will make your client feel more informed and prepared.
8) Set an agenda and send a recap
Be purposeful when it comes to meetings with clients. Set an agenda and outline what you intend to discuss. When you are meeting with a client, it’s essential to understand how they best absorb information. Does the client prefer back-and-forth discussions, visual presentations, reviewing data, or short updates? Tailor your meeting plan accordingly and use your client's natural communication style so that the client is more receptive to the information.
Then, once the meeting is over, send the client a recap of your discussion. A meeting recap creates a record that can be referenced later to see what was covered, what everyone is accountable for, and any upcoming to-dos.
9) Ask questions as needed
Questions play an important role in communication. They help you clarify understanding and make sure that you are on the same page as your client. Plus, asking questions shows the client that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.
If you’re unsure about any details for a project, don't make assumptions. Instead, ask the client. It’s better to ask a lot of questions rather than waste your time delivering something the client doesn't want.
10) Ask for feedback
The best way to improve is to ask your clients for feedback. Asking your client about specific ways to be a better partner will make you a better partner. If a client takes the time to provide you feedback, listen. Reflect on what they’re saying, and then try to incorporate it.
Bonus communication tip for agencies: Standardize internal communication
To improve your client communication, you need to improve your internal communication. Ensuring that your entire team is on the same page is vital to communicating with clients effectively. If you can create a standardized internal communication process, your team will be better equipped to help your clients. Plus, you can and should use these ten communication tips within your team.
To build long-term and profitable relationships with your clients, you should improve your client communication skills. Incorporating the ten tips listed above will enhance your communication, and your clients will be happier working with you.
If you are looking to grow your business with more new clients, sign up for an Upwork Freelancer or Agency account. Upwork provides a platform for freelancers to grow their business and connect with new clients. Freelancers with effective communication styles are rewarded with excellent project reviews, and can start conversations with potential clients by submitting project proposals to millions of freelance job listings.
Get This Article as a PDF
For easy printing, reading, and sharing.