You Are Your Client’s Bouyancy

You are not allowed to drag them down, EVER, no matter how close you may become. You are not allowed to tell them about your troubles at home, your struggles with employees, or ANYTHING that may dampen their spirit. They should leave every phone call or meeting with you feeling more inspired and hopeful than they did when it started. Period.

Is this fair? Who knows. Is it the way things are? YES. No matter what they tell you , your clients want to know that you are solidly going upwards… you are never faltering or doubting your direction. You may change course but you may not discuss WHY until you’re certain that you are.

I have a friend who owns a Title Insurance company and has been making a fortune these past few years; if you know anything about the Real Estate business you’ll know that profitability has NOT been easy of late. If you know anything about Title Insurance you’ll know that it’s not an industry many get rich in. Why is my friend Bob doing so well? Sure he’s smart and does a thorough job, but the REAL key to his success is that you are guaranteed a smile when you interact with him. He is ALWAYS upbeat, quick witted and he listens when you speak. He makes everyone he interacts with feel special, and he makes you smile. That’s it. People WANT to be around him. People choose to do business with him when there are hundreds of others in his area they could choose.

So think about that long and hard before your next customer interaction. Suck in whatever stress you have and save it for your best friend – make your customer feel like they mean something to you, and give them a smile. The ROI on THAT is immeasurable.

Apologizing Immediately

If you’ve ever worked in sales at any point in your career I KNOW that there were times you’ve had to apologize. Sometimes for promises you made but couldn’t keep; sometimes because of circumstances beyond your control. It is one of the worst parts of anyone’s job to have to first acknowledge that you’ve dropped the ball to yourself, and then admit it to your clients. As a Sales Manager in the Manufacturing Industry I sometimes faced situations where we were letting our customers down because of vendor, equipment or trucking issues that were beyond our control. My position made it necessary for me to take the reins and apologize.

I learned this:

1. The sooner you admit to yourself that you won’t make the deadline the quicker you’ll be able to develop an alternative plan.
2. As soon as that admission is made, PICK UP THE PHONE or set up a face to face and inform your customer.
3. Accept all responsibility, apologize, and offer an alternative plan.

Of course your client may still be very upset, and you need to allow them to be. But the way you handle difficult situations where you disappoint a client will make or break your long term relationship with them. I have often found these situations make the relationship stronger because the client learns that you won’t leave them in the lurch and they get to see how you perform under pressure. Think of it as an opportunity to really prove your integrity & dedication to your customers.

And then give yourself a break and move past it. None of us are perfect and things do go wrong. As long as you face the situation head on with dignity & honesty you can close the door on a bad day/week and move on.

Why You Need a Contract

If you are operating on any sort of consultant basis, meaning you’re providing your client with information or training based on your knowledge & experience, you should have a contract for ALL of the services you provide. This may seem obvious, but more often than not companies launch into projects, especially smaller ones, with no signed contract and the best of intentions. Sometimes it all works out, but too often working without a contract can lead to misunderstandings and bad blood when the work is complete. A solid contract should include the following information:

1. Exactly what you are being contracted to do, and if necessary, what you ARE NOT being contracted to do for the client.
2. Who the actors in the work will be: what employees from the client’s office and who is the point man from your company.
3. Timeline: How long (sometimes these dates are approximate) will the contract take?
4. What you need from the client: We’ve all been there – waiting on the client for information in order to proceed.
5. Cost: What you get paid. If there’s a flat rate it is essential that you provide precise detail as to what is included, and an hourly or additional rate for any work above and beyond the flat rate prices.

At the end of the day you owe it to yourself AND to your client to provide a detailed, comprehensive contract that helps to manage expectations and communicate what will take place as you embark upon new project. Your client will have a clear understanding as to what is expected of THEM, what you will do, and when it will happen. You won’t work for free or have to do additional work if your client isn’t keeping to the timeline laid out in the contract. Projects will run, and most importantly END more smoothly with more satisfaction for both parties if a solid, detailed contract is developed before it begins.