When your client asks you to do something, there’s what they say they want — and there’s what they really want.
Often, clients aren’t able to put these needs into words. That’s where you come in.
What your client needs in this situation isn’t upselling. You need to build a genuine connection together to understand where you stand, where you need to go, and the steps you need to take — together — to get there.
It might sound obvious, but listening is the most important part of any business owner/client relationship.
Alex Brown, an attorney in Maryland, said the importance he placed on listening resulted in an extremely loyal client base.
“When they need me, I take the time to hear everything they are saying and I ask probing questions to truly understand not only their problems, but also their proposed solutions and the goals they are trying to achieve,” he told Ideamensch.
When you’re talking with your client, it’s a good idea to:
Ask follow-up questions. You might assume you know what your client is thinking, but their answer could be much different than you were expecting.
Focus on the “why.” Get your client to explain their thinking to you, so you can understand why they want the things they do.
Take notes that you can review later.
Brown stressed that forming an emotional connection with his clients made sure they knew that he cared. If you treat your clients’ setbacks as your own, they’ll feel like you’re in it together.
2. Open as Many Channels of Communication as You Can
The old-school telephone is one of the best methods you can use to understand someone’s needs. Try as we might, there’s just no substitute for the subtleties of the human voice.
But it’s 2022 — we can’t limit ourselves to one option.
Entrepreneur Neil Patel notes that tools like Drift and Messenger can start the onboarding process ASAP. They can show you client concerns from the moment they land on your site, and throughout their experience.
Once you’ve established a relationship, many people express themselves well via email. Others need a phone call. Some will need both.
It’s up to you to figure out the right balance.
3. Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes
Your ability to communicate with your client comes down to how well you understand them. Part of that is being open to what they have to say.
Another part is thinking, “What would I want if I were in their shoes?”
Imagine your online shoe store client tells you they want a customer-facing checkout service that’s fast and simple, but doesn’t provide any other details. Now imagine you’re running their business.
Would you want Apple Pay and Google Pay integration? Would you want a promo code box? What about a newsletter signup?
Taking these ideas back to your client can help you flesh out a better idea of their needs. And it can help you build a more collaborative relationship, where you both benefit.
4. Diversify Your Customer-Facing Teams
Diversity isn’t just important from a social justice angle. If you want your business to be able to serve the widest range of people possible, you have to hire like it.
Oftentimes, no matter how empathetic a business owner might be, they just can’t connect with a client’s lived experiences.
But if you’ve hired someone who’s gone through similar things, they’ll be able to connect with the client and “get it” instantly.
The same is true if a client speaks a specific language, or has trouble with English. Think about how many ways there are to express an idea like “I want a logo that looks professional, but not stuffy” in your first language.
If your client can only find the words to say it one way, that’s going to limit them in how they can communicate with you. It doesn’t matter how hard you listen.
Having someone who can converse with them naturally, then translate the client’s needs back to you is immensely valuable.
Finding out what your client really wants can be challenging. This is especially true in creative fields where every new customer presents a unique challenge.
With some active listening, diversification, and empathy, you can build a client onboarding process that leaves you both satisfied and confident in the road ahead.
And the next time an associate asks them for a recommendation, you’ll be at the top of the list.