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Here’s how to become the preferred client

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How not to be a preferred client? Several years ago, I had a Virginia-based business consulting client who specifically wanted me to help him get his name in The Wall Street Journal.

We marketing/public relations types are never thrilled with this type of request. We prefer to develop the message and determine the placement for the story and the best ways to expand awareness. However, I contacted a reporter there (several actually) and got the client the call he wanted.

Despite my preparation with the client, the outcome was not pretty. My client responded to the first question the reporter asked with “I can’t tell you that.” The call ended abruptly, as did my relationship with the reporter (his choice) and the client (my choice.) Needless to say, the client’s name did not stay on the reporter’s digital Rolodex, and relationships were ruined.

Everyone in business has some clients, donors or vendors they prefer to work with — and some they don’t. Getting on that preferential list is itself a marketing tool — people who like you will rely on your advice and products more frequently. They will talk about you more often and more favorably to others.

In the case of publicity and news, reporters will take your calls or messages and may feature you or your clients ahead of others. Donors may contribute more to your causes. Businesses may think of your products first. Squeaky wheels may get the early but not sustained attention.

So, what helps get you on that mentally created “preferred” list and build lasting relationships?

Initially, personality fits are valuable. Being likeable to your client or prospect is important.  Learning how to create that personable relationship is often a key part of classic professional sales training.

MBO Partners online advise that the hallmarks of successful consultative or sales relationships are demonstrations of excellent communication skills, a positive attitude, sharing your knowledge base, openness or trustworthiness, and exceeding expectations by setting realistic goals. The stated positive attitude encompasses enthusiasm, confidence, flexibility and patience.

Authenticity

Those things are all important but can take you only so far in relationship building. Your ongoing comments and work need to be authentic. Products must be reliable, achieve the goal you claim for them, be delivered on time, in perfect shape, etc. Professional articles you promise or information you provide need to be complete and on time. Donor pledges need to be honored.

No one wants to nag you for what you promised. Rather, part of effective communication is the follow-through with your client even when there is bad news, such as an unavoidable deliverable delay.

You should painstakingly avoid relationship deterrents. Messages via email or social media are fine if not too frequent. Sharing selfies is annoying, not very professional, and so “last year.”

Like other professionals I speak with, I have stopped following individuals on LinkedIn and other social sites when there are either too many postings or those selfies. Effective posts for relationship purposes should be of interest to the client or prospective client, not just self-aggrandizing. The advantage of formats like LinkedIn is the ability to become a thought leader to your network, build your brand, and cement relationships.

Introspection

Rather than alienating, be introspective in a one-at-a-time review of your best clients and donors. How did you create that effective relationship? How long did it take, and what did you do for them beyond playing golf or lunching? Can you capitalize on that strength to enhance other relationships you are working on?

Periodic review of the status of your relationships with preferred clients and the conscious adaption of the effective elements to new prospects should be a key element of your personal marketing audit.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at [email protected]