Have you ever been frustrated by a project in which you and your client had different expectations? Have you ever poured blood, sweat and tears into your work only to have it rejected because it wasn’t quite what they wanted? Sometimes it seems like you need psychic powers to get it right.
But chances are the problem lies not in the work your produce but in your approach to business communication and relationships.
The fact is you’re not a mind reader, and neither are your clients. So in order to ensure you’re always on the same page, you need to take the time to develop your business communication skills. Why waste your time guessing?
Here are five basic steps you can take that will make you a more effective communicator:
1. Get to know what your client’s business is really about
In order to deliver what your client really wants and needs, you need to understand what is most important to them and their business. This will help keep you focused and ensure the work you do for them will complement their existing activities.
2. Build a real relationship
For many people, a major attraction of working with soloists is the personal attention they can provide, so make sure your clients are getting that from you. Take an interest in their personal lives and ask them about projects you know are important to them. You should also be willing to share some of your own personal life with them. You don’t have to become best friends, but you do have to understand where they’re coming from and the pressures they are facing – it’s the difference between supply and service.
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3. Establish from the outset that you want regular feedback and discussion
Emphasise from day one that you want your working relationship to be based on open and regular communication. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback throughout a project, rather than only at the end. Encourage your client to offer you new opinions and ideas as they arise.
4. Pick up the phone
While email is a great tool, it shouldn’t be your primary method of communication. Face-to-face or telephone contact is much more personal and much more effective in getting your views across. You’ll reduce ambiguity and unclog your client’s inbox at the same time.
5. Use language that supports, challenges, encourages and respects your client
Remember that you are here to help your client and improve their business as a whole. Be generous with your time and advice, and be flexible. It’s also important to respect that your client knows their business well – that means better than you do. While you may have a lot of expertise in a particular area, ultimately you need to deliver something that works for your client and which makes them comfortable.
We all know that it’s much less effort to keep existing clients than to search for new ones, and the best way to do that is simply to be a dream to work with. Your clients are people, and people thrive on strong, supportive relationships. Stand out from the crowd as an effective communicator – and throw away your crystal ball.