You did the thing. You’ve done the work. You did the research, you laid the foundations, you networked with all the people in all the places, you hustled appropriately, and you did it! You landed a client! Huzzah! You have succeeded! Right as you settle in to enjoy the celebratory glass of champagne, the realization suddenly hits – you now need to make sure you retain that client.
A: Drink more champagne and panic? B: Obsess over all the details of all the things and frantically work non-stop and attempt to accomplish the mathematically impossible of giving 110%? C: Calmly work out the next steps?
So the champagne is tasty, but getting drunk and panicking is rarely a recommended course of action. Obsessing and working non-stop is not healthy. So you’re choosing option C, right? Option C?
Put down the champagne, tell the voice that sounds like a high school football coach that giving 110% is not a viable option, and choose Option C.
Yay, you’ve chosen to calmly work out next steps! I’m so proud of you!
Next steps can essentially be summed up with the phrase ‘relationship building’. Building a relationship with your client – to clarify, building a SUCCESSFUL relationship with your client – is key to retaining that client.
As with any relationship, communication is key. The groundwork for this has hopefully already been laid during the early discussions with your client in the period before they became your client. So now is the time to really listen to what they say they need and make certain you both have a full understanding of what can be done and what is expected.
Hiccups may happen early on as you both get a feel for how the other works – determining communication styles, feeling out each other’s work styles, adjusting expectations up or down or sideways as needed. It will take time to understand what you each need and expect – even if you’re both experts, everyone has their own style and way of doing things. Try to avoid being so set in your own way of doing things or your own vision that it causes complications – if your client truly desperately wants something done a certain way try to accommodate them.
If the client is being utterly unreasonable in their expectations or methods, you need to tactfully explain and demonstrate why their way will not work. If this situation comes up, aim for a compromise. Insisting that it be your way only will likely not win them over, so try to find a way to incorporate some of what is being requested in with your method. If it’s something like a change in technology or updates to regulations – things that your client is maybe unfamiliar with – schedule a time to review it with them so they understand what the difference is and why changes need to happen.
Ultimately you both want the same thing – for the project to be completed successfully. Keep that as the focus for your relationship building. Keep the client informed of your progress, encourage communication, and if changes need to happen inform them as soon as possible so accommodations can be made and expectations adjusted. Oh, and deliver what was promised. That’s important. Doing these things, along with exercising common sense and avoiding insults, will help build a successful client relationship – which goes a long way towards retaining said client.