Let’s be honest, marriage is hard work and so are maintaining strong client relationships!
The compromises, hard discussions, life-altering moments, ups and downs, in-laws/executives, kids/employees, etc. Both business and marriage can be all-consuming.
Marriage can be the most blissful thing to ever happen to you or one of the worst. It’s all about how you communicate your needs, prioritize your time and energy, all while smiling and truly meaning ” I love you” when you say it. And I feel the same way about our clients.
Early on in any relationship, you are feeling each other out. Both parties are cautiously optimistic, but still keeping options open. This “dating” phase is critical in business. Most lasting partnerships don’t spawn overnight. There is an inherent trepidation to even enter into a relationship at all.
“Can I see myself with this person long-term?”, “Do I really want this?”, “Are they the right one?”, are just a few questions people and businesses ask themselves before “going steady”.
During this phase is when you need to be at your best.
Clients in this “dating” phase are ensuring you won’t hurt them or be a waste of time. The early stages of a client relationship are very transnational to a certain degree. The focus starts off all about performance. They want you to produce and perform as you described. Like dating you need to be on time, do what you say you will do, and show small tokens of appreciation. By showing you understand their business needs and objectives, and achieving short-term goals, you’ve now earned your client’s trust. Now comes the hard part, keeping it.
After a certain point, you’re “engaged” to your client. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, bad habits, and idiosyncrasies. You’ve met their “family” i.e. executives and team, done dinner, and even had a disagreement or two. In this “engagement” phase is where you and your client start to grow together. Now you’re talking about optimizing workflows and processes, possible new services or line of business, you’re planning a future together.
At this point in the relationship, it’s about compromise and communication. No relationship is 50/50 all the time. This is even more true in business. Seeing that there is inherent leverage the client has in the form of payment, you need to pick your battles. Though you may feel differently about an approach or strategy, you have to always remind yourself to be selfless. You’re in this relationship not only for what it affords you but more importantly what it provides for your partner or client.
And if so lucky, you’ll get the chance to “marry” your client.
When this happens, you become your client’s trusted advisor and true partner. Both parties now operate with a certain level of trust in each other and the process you’ve built together. Meetings feel more like catching up with family, discussing weekend plans and birthdays, while still dedicated to driving success month-over-month. As long as you are honest with your clients, act with a sense of urgency and compassion, and communicate clearly, you’ll be just fine 😉
This is me saying “I DO”