We deal with relationship management every day when we interact with friends and family, whether we realize it or not. Even when we smile at the friendly face we see each morning at our local coffee shop or text a former colleague to ask how the new job is going; we’re shaping the way we interact with others and the relationships we have with them. Even if it’s subconscious, we complete actions to ensure that our personal relationships succeed.
In consulting, building successful relationships is not just important; it’s vital. In fact, the stakes are even higher than they are in your personal life. The outcome of an entire project can hinge on the strength of your relationship with a client.
Fortunately, experts from top consulting firms have suggested some beneficial tactics to help us foster our client relationships. As examined in the on-demand webinar Get The Most out of Your Consulting Relationships, this expert advice includes the following:
- Be in constant communication with clients, providing them with frequent updates on project status (including any hurdles that stand in your way).
- Ensure that you fully identify and understand the problem that a client needs to solve.
- Go above and beyond what is asked of you and establish personal relationships with clients.
- Alleviate small problems before they turn into big problems.
Employing these tactics will help you to successfully execute projects and provide you with a wealth of other benefits along the way. The development of strong consulting relationships might seem like an obvious goal, but have you considered the following three reasons why client relationship management is imperative?
1. Expectations will be met (on both sides)
Constant communication and updates will ensure that expectations are the same on both sides throughout the duration of each project. This state of operation will also allow you to be more agile. A project’s scope will often change (in many cases because the client asks for more). If you’ve already established an open flow of communication between your company and the client, you can adjust resources and pricing accordingly to avoid further conflict.
2. When challenges arise, you can fall back on your relationships
Clients hire you when they encounter a challenge that they can’t solve on their own. At this point, they turn to you, the expert. You will inevitably encounter challenges throughout the project and have to find a way to address them head-on. These problems can’t be avoided – that leads to repeated work and wasted time. One example? You may have to deliver difficult feedback to your client. Of course, it would be easier to work through a problem like this if you had a strong rapport with that client. What’s better than having an open and honest relationship with your client that also saves you time and improves your efficiency?
Charles McNichols, Associate Partner, Talent & Change Center of Competence at IBM, emphasized the importance of creating these connections: “Build relationships early on – not superficial ones, but ones that are genuine – because you’ll need those if things start to go south so that you can take advantage of them to solve problems.”
3. Building relationships will benefit you weeks, months, and even years down the line
By using the aforementioned strategies, you are setting yourself up for future success. Going above and beyond for a client early in your career can pay off in the long run. Dion Dunn, Partner at Centric Consulting, said that doing that extra task for a client as an intern or entry-level consultant may help you sign the client as one of your accounts years down the line.
Just as relationship management can help you sustain lifelong friendships in your personal life, you can easily create lifelong clients for your consulting business by considering these tactics.