Developing Personal Relationships With Clients

talking on phoneI’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

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.lowter.com lotrgamemast

    Does anyone else think that a photo of a person driving while on the phone is a bad idea?

    ;-)

  • João Pedro Pereira

    Hi, I allways create personal relationships with my clients, and until now it has gone well.

  • Jarryd

    @lotrgamemast

    Haha so true.

  • AndreaGam

    @lotrgamemast: you’re correct, the picture is inappropriate.

    Driving license revoked, Alyssa ;-)

  • Anonymous

    If he is driving he’s doing it with his knees.

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    Yes, you’re all correct. Driving + cell phone = bad. However, I believe he is parked. :-)

  • Jeremy

    Alyssa, I think that this is a huge issue for many people. Especially, when you are on so many different social media. It is hard to draw the line between personal and business on many of the networks. I think that it is important to be professional yet authentic in your communications on the social networks. I believe that will allow you to be personal but also keep the professionalism in the relationship. It should be like a typical working relationship. You can discuss weekend plans with your boss or colleagues but you know (or should) where the line is in personal discussions.

    Good post. Thank you.

    Jeremy @ RefocusingTechnology.com

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    I think that it is important to be professional yet authentic in your communications on the social networks.

    I agree wholeheartedly, Jeremy. I think it’s unfortunate that authenticity in social media is not always present. Great point…and maybe another post idea. :-)