Firm Friends – Top Tips for Positive Client Relationships
Everyone understands the importance of positive client relationships, but the right way to go about establishing them in the first place can sometimes prove elusive. There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach, but by being mindful of certain factors, and ensuring you take steps to address them from the very beginning, is the best way to be successful.
When new friendships are being established it’s sensible to really get to know one another, and show the ‘real’ you. This applies equally to client / supplier relationships. Taking the time up front to build a genuine and deep understanding of their business, their challenges, where they have been, where they are now and where they’re going, will, in most circumstances, prove to be rewarding. Only then will you be able to truly understand, meet and exceed their needs.
This level of understanding requires more than the usual web research. When initially engaging with a new client we apply specific insight gathering programmes that run from the very earliest stages of a tender process right through the transition phase and beyond.
Commercial and value focused elements are of course key factors for clients when looking to choose new supply partners, but cost is by no means the only factor that is taken into consideration at the decision making stage. We know from experience that demonstrating that you really understand the client and their brand, and have the right people to manage the relationship, counts for a lot more than just being the cheapest. Be competitive, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.
A genuine alignment of corporate cultures won’t always be possible, but it’s an invaluable competitive advantage when it does. Natural alignment between your organisation and theirs will always lead to the best relationships and the deepest levels of customer intimacy. For us innovation, agility and entrepreneurship are key factors.
There are of course other forms of affiliation that are important. System integration is an ever more prevalent issue for our clients, getting this right requires flexibility and above all a collaborative approach. You need to lead them on a journey, future proofing your systems and theirs by embracing the technology that’s driving change and developing systems and solutions alongside each other. System integration will never work as a bolt on, in order to be successful it must be seamless, and in order to be seamless it needs to develop organically.
Positive client / supplier relationships are always built on trust, we find this develops quickly with the companies we work with and we are fortunate to have been working with many of our clients for a number of years. In today’s world, we engage with a number of different stake-holders within a client’s business, including procurement, marketing, finance, property and IT. Understanding each of these stakeholders’ challenges and needs is essential. If you can do this successfully, your overall relationship with the client is much more intimate and harder to break.
Cross-departmental buy-in is easier to secure than you might think, as long as you take the right approach. This means working closely with everyone, and proactively gathering insight from all of them. In order for the overarching relationship between your two organisations to be successful and secure you must build individual relationships across different levels and different teams.
New relationships of all types are always tricky. In business that’s particularly true when you’re replacing a previous long term supplier relationship, or one that proved unsuccessful for whatever reason. What matters more than anything is demonstrating you passion, enthusiasm and, above all, credibility. Firm friendships will follow.