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Better Customer Relationships for Consultants

One of the most important characteristics a consultant can have is to keep the relationship with customers professional and warm at the same time. I know lots of consultants who are the best at what they do (some are even pretty mediocre), but has far more customers than the best in their field.

The reason is that they are fantastic at customer relations. That's why you will get some tips that I hope will remind you what you probably already know about improving customer relations – these tips are hugely important, so I'm going to nag a bit.

10 tips for better customer relations:

1. Have a clear contract with your customer
Without a good contract, roles becomes blurred when it comes to responsibilities, deadlines, delivery methods and how you measure the job. The customer becomes unsafe and you don't really know what to do. Both of you lose.

2. Getting to know your customer better
Learn more about the client's interests. You are likely to spend a lot of time with the customer and to know that he/she likes sailing, pottery and rock climbing (what a complex, contradictory and interesting person!) makes your relationship deeper and better. This is more important for some customers than others, but it's always good to have things to talk about outside the job.

3. Ask more questions
When we ask questions, we understand the situation better. You want to know what your customer is thinking and feeling and you want to understand the customer's observations during the process you are involved in.

4. Don't be afraid to say no
In many cases, customers are asking us about the things that have not been agreed on from the beginning or that we simply can't handle. Saying no means that you take responsibility for keeping the project on track and do what you agreed on from the beginning instead of losing control. What's important is that you understand the customer reason for his/her question. You shouldn't say yes just because ”the customer is always right.”Saying no will mean that you take responsibility for what you agreed on from the beginning. Saying no means that you set the limits for the job and if the customer wants to expand your commitment, then that's a whole new discussion.

5. Don't be afraid to say yes
Sometimes “yes” is right answer - and only you know when the time is right. Saying “yes” when you can learn something new is almost always right. The “Bed Test ”works too - when you wake up in the morning and think about what the customer asks from you, do you think ”This will be exciting?”If so, then it's right to say yes.

6. Solve problems and look for solutions
Clients hire us to solve their problems. The more problems we can help them with the better. This advice is in line with paragraph 5 and even if it contradicts paragraph 4, it's worth its own paragraph. Sometimes you will discover things that even the customer haven't noticed and then it's your duty to highlight that discovery and inform the customer so that he/she may consider the options. You know more than the customer and I think it's the consultant's responsibility to take the job a step further than just dealing with the order itself. The customers feel that you care for them.

7. Keep some distance
By that I mean that your role must be as a consultant and as a friend. You become more valuable to the customer if you keep a certain distance and is free to come up with valuable advice and solutions. Please tell the client that you want to keep a little distance, so that you won't slowly become a part of the ”family”. Customers will appreciate it. It's a well known fact among therapists that you can't help a family if you belong to it.

8. Maintain your focus
Keeping a firm grip on your contract and what you will deliver, is the best thing you can do to maintain your relationship with the customer. Talk about deadlines, what to do and when during your meetings – this will let the customer know that you are focused, valuable and not muddled.

9. Learn things
Being open to learning new techniques and receiving new ideas gives you the ability to approach each new project with fresh eyes. There are few things that are as off-putting to customers as a consultant who will immediately present a solution and assume that the problem is ”exactly like every other you have seen in this line of business.”There are always nuances that separates them. Take the time to learn more about the nuances and include them in your solution.

10. Working at relationships
Customer relationships are actually part of your job even if you don't think so. The consultant that the customer uses must ”feel” right. It doesn't matter how many diplomas and certifications you can present. You won't be hired unless the customer feels that you are the right person for the job.

Now go to work!

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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