It is imperative to strike the difficult balance between being diplomatic and being direct with a client. It is equally important to observe and listen for opportunities to make meaningful connections with clients, as well. Clues to striking this elusive balance are often right in front of us, if we know when and where to look.
Building a successful client relationship starts with a strong balance between industry knowledge, decisive leadership and in my opinion, an understanding of emotional intelligence, which is the ability to control, express and handle interpersonal relationships in an empathetic manner.
Laying a strong foundation with the client and your team is an essential first step. Long-lasting relationships are built on trust, respect, transparency and above all, accountability. Therefore, who says you can’t do the same with your client? One must lead the client relationship through a combination of vision, focus, counsel and action. Consistently delivering a high-quality product with a deep understanding of your client’s business is vital to achieving trust and respect for you and your team.
Most mid-level and senior managers know this; however, it is also critical to understand the role of emotional intelligence in developing deeper and more meaningful relationships. Understanding what inspires and motivates the client both at a professional and personal level starts with one’s ability to tactfully gather personal information through authentic conversation and observation. Although this is not easy to do, there are clues that can enable us to form a client “persona” and make connections beyond the professional level. Thus, it provides a valuable insight into key personality influences and motivators. Embracing emotional intelligence enables you and your team to tap into these insights to better understand how your clients learn and decode information to understand concepts.
People follow leaders they connect with, admire, trust and respect. Once you have a solid understanding of your client’s persona, you can seek to elevate the relationship by providing leadership, a vision and inspirational counsel – and sometimes that just means being the calming voice when all hell is breaking loose.
Whatever the client’s personality, as a leader you need to identify and define this persona and then use your skills as a relationship manager to help your team navigate issues and achieve success.