Establishing Trust: Building relationships with your clients

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I had a conversation with a friend the other day who was having some issues making a connection with her client at a company she was consulting with. It wasn’t the typical connection of actually trying to communicate with her, but the emotional connection that you make with someone when you do business with them. She wasn’t sure whether the client liked her, didn’t value her opinion or was just having a bad day. Perhaps it was none of the above and maybe it was just a case of not knowing how to talk with someone you don’t know very well.

Having an emotional connection is vital to a business relationship. If it’s there, it means that trust has been established and it takes the business relationship to the next level of not only being able to connect with someone on a business level, but being able to be open and honest with each other, which results in better business all the way around. When you get to know someone, you begin to learn how they process information and what the best routes are to deliver that information.

For example: you are working with Bob at Company A. You don’t really know Bob because you never really met with him outside of the office, therefore you don’t always know the best way to approach him with information that isn’t always easy to hear. 

I think we’ve all been in that situation before. In my industry, it’s never easy to review a company marketing plan, logo design or website. It makes it really hard to deliver information that basically tells people what they are doing wrong and how they can improve what they are doing. Who really wants to hear that? No one likes negativity, so it’s even more important to have a connection with your client so it makes delivering business advice a tad bit easier.

My advice to my friend was to step out of her comfort zone and ask the client out to lunch. Get to know them outside of the business and learn about their hobbies, their family and things that you don’t get to generally talk about in a business meeting. Build a relationship with them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you do ask a client out for lunch (or coffee or drinks):

1. Pick up the tab. You asked them to lunch so you should definitely plan on paying.
2. Be mindful of business hours. Keep your coffee, lunch or drink outing within normal working hours of 8-5. It’s not polite to impose on after-hour plans.
3. Limit your drinks. It’s okay to have a cocktail or beer if it’s a casual thing, but don’t overdue it. Nothing screams unprofessional more than someone who can’t handle their alcohol. Also, play it safe. If you aren’t sure whether you should order that beer, don’t.

Now the next time you call Bob at Company A, you can ask him how his latest skydiving attempt went or how his dog Marbles is doing. Having that trust is going to make your business relationship much more comfortable in the long run, which will help achieve more desirable results.