Building Customer Relationships When We Can’t Meet

Building connection and relationships with our clients is the coin of the realm in business. There are lots of important inputs that lead to business success. But our clients and the relationships we build with them are the most important input of all, by far. It’s not even close.

And as we all now know, building and maintaining those relationships got harder a few months back. So how do we do it? How do we build, maintain and (hopefully) enhance those relationships when face-to-face meetings and interactions are verboten?

There is no specific formula, because so much of it depends on the nature of your business, the competition and differentiation in your industry, and the personalities of the people involved.

But as I was thinking about this last night while watching some baseball with my son (that felt amazingly normal!), I made a list of things that seem pretty important and that have worked for me and my team.

1. Make sure your clients or customers know that you are surviving this health crisis. Don’t let them forget about you.

2. If some adjustment or reinvention is going to be necessary for you and your company, do it quickly. Desperate times call for ludicrous speed. Move fast, because if you don’t, you will get left behind. In times like these, don’t let the pursuit of perfection slow you down. Speed is often just as important as greatness. You can always tweak things along the way. “Very good and fast” is almost always better than “perfect and not-very-fast”.

3. If your reinvention is going to be significant, remember that you now have to “reintroduce yourself” to your clients in some important ways. We always try to think about how our clients view us. And if we need that view to change a little, then we need to be intentional about how that shift will happen.

4. Find a balance between pessimism and Pollyanna-ism. Everyone has had a tough last few months, so don’t act like you are the only ones bearing a burden right now. But it is also OK to be honest about the challenges. My team and I speak openly about how tough Q2 was for our team. There is no need to sugarcoat it. But we are equally open about how good Q3 and Q4 are shaping up to be. Be honest about the past, and confident in the future. People are drawn towards those who are honest and confident.

5. Stay in touch, but don’t be annoying. I can’t tell you what the right cadence is, because there are so many variables. But keep asking yourself, “am I in touch enough?” And then also ask yourself “am I in touch too much?” Don’t be the annoying one. No one calls the annoying one back.

6. Protect the marketing and communication line item in your budget. We are all doing significant budget cuts right now. Have to. But there are some line items that should be sacrosanct during a tough period like this one. And at the top of the list is communicating with and focusing on your clients and their needs.

What did I miss? Please send along your comments, as always.

Stay strong, safe, and healthy.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.