I’ve experienced the gamut of client relationship types — from all business to too personal — and it took me a little while to discover the right mix of business and personal that works for me. When I was just starting out, my instinct told me to be all business all the time. I wanted to be considered an equal, get respect from my clients and not be in a position to be taken advantage of. Once I had a little experience under my belt and some longer-term client relationships, I adopted a more personal approach, likely because I had more confidence in myself as a business person.
With the increasing popularity of social networking, I find myself crossing paths even more with clients on Facebook and Twitter, and many of the business/personal lines are becoming more blurred. For some, this may be too much client interaction, but this has created amazing opportunities for me. When you work virtually, like I do, it can be a challenge to create a personal element in your business relationships. And social networking sites create an outlet for personal interaction.
Why does it matter? Clients want to hire someone experienced and professional who can get the job done, but they also want someone they feel like they know and can trust. We’re all people first, and giving a little bit of yourself creates a foundation for a thriving relationship. It increases the likelihood that the client will want to work with you again.
Letting your business relationships get a little personal doesn’t mean you need to tell your client personal things about yourself or ask them personal questions. But if you give them a little more – mentioning your weekend plans, asking how their sick sister-in-law is doing, remembering birthdays – you can create a multi-dimensional relationship by which you can accomplish a number of things:
- Create loyalty and trust that overlaps into work situations
- Give clients more reason to refer you because they feel they really know who you are
- Get to know each other better which makes working together easier and more efficient
- Develop opportunities for additional work within the company
- Become more approachable and be able to avoid miscommunication
- Show that you’re human, just like they are
Just like any relationship, the driving factor behind this is communication, whether it’s online or off. And also, like other relationships, this philosophy doesn’t apply across the board. There are some clients who you wouldn’t want to have this type of relationship with, either because of their personal preference or personality issues. It’s important to stay within the comfort levels of both parties, and adjust your relationship to fit each individual client.
Do you have personal relationships with your clients? Has it ever backfired?
Image credit: Dragan Sasic