Getting to interact with clients can be one of the most rewarding—and the most important—parts of your job. Why? Because happy clients stay and keep your business running.
The ideal client relationship is based on trust, honesty, and the little extra spark that sets you apart from other service providers. That could be your genius way of adding humor to emails, your ability to sense what your client needs before they know they do, or your impeccable time management.
To help you improve your client management skills, we’ll cover the most important principles, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid. We’ll also show you how to use business tools and integrations to manage your client relationships so you don’t have to spend your time organizing their data in multiple tools and can instead focus on what’s really important—keeping them happy.Get Stride's client account management template
Client management is the process of managing the relationship between your organization and your clients. This process is typically done by a manager on the sales team, but it may vary depending on your team structure.
There are many benefits to managing good client relationships:
Happy clients will stay with you for longer, saving you the marketing resources to attract new ones.
Happy clients will refer others to you, again saving you resources you’d otherwise spend advertising your services.
Happy clients are grateful clients, making them easier to manage and more enjoyable for your team to work with.
How well your organization manages clients can directly impact the success of your business because you rely on them for your profits. If your clients aren’t satisfied, they have the power to walk away.
The difference between clients and customers is that clients usually stay with your organization for a longer period of time while a customer purchases a good or service and then ends their engagement with you (until the next time they buy from you). In other words, your clients ideally come to stay, which is why it’s crucial that you nourish your relationship with them.
If you want to retain your clients, you’ll need to manage your relationship with them effectively. Here are our five most important takeaways when it comes to client management best practices.
Clients typically come to you for your product or service, which ultimately buys them resources—like the time they’d otherwise have to invest in providing this service themselves. To retain clients, you have to respect and maximize their time.
Be responsive when your client reaches out to you. If you don’t have an answer to their question immediately, still send them a quick response letting them know that you’ve seen their message and will get back to them. Always include an estimated timeframe so your client knows when they can expect to hear from you again.
Under-promise and over-deliver. To do this, your under-promise still needs to be quite impressive or your client will seek out another service provider. Avoid making your client feel rushed and instead find ways to expedite processes on your end.
Offer face-to-face time. You can schedule regular video calls or meet with your client in person. These meetings are great opportunities to have conversations that could cause misunderstandings or take a while to communicate in written form. Respect your client’s time by offering them yours.
By sticking to these guidelines, you can create a working relationship that maximizes everyone’s time.Read: 6 tips to build rapport and develop meaningful relationships
A client management system is a central source of truth where you can organize tasks, goals, and data for your clients so your team can efficiently collaborate and avoid duplicate work.
Depending on the nature of your service or product, there are various software platforms to choose from. Some CRM platforms like Zendesk or Salesforce allow you to analyze client data and nurture client relationships. You can also integrate these systems with a more flexible work management software like Asana. Asana allows you to keep track of a project’s progress and keep all communication and data in one place.
Sometimes, it can be valuable to share your work management system with your client, so everyone is working out of the same tool. If you decide to invite your clients to share the work management software with you, spend some time introducing them to the software. This will ensure that everyone uses the tool correctly and no questions are left unanswered.Read: How to create a CRM strategy: 6 steps (with examples)
Understand that in order for your clients to be happy, your relationship needs to be based on positive experiences and encounters. That is especially important when things go wrong. We’re human and humans make mistakes—it’s how you communicate and approach them that will set you apart from your competitors and make your clients feel safe in your hands.
When you’ve made a mistake, own it. However, avoid apologizing in the classic way. Research shows that saying “thank you for your patience” rather than “sorry” when something doesn’t go as planned can increase their self-esteem, as well as their satisfaction post-apology.
A communication plan defines what channels will be used for various kinds of communication. It also outlines how things should be communicated and who holds which project roles.
Defining a communication plan early and sharing this plan with the client will help you avoid miscommunication, misunderstandings, and losing track of important information[Przeczytaj] Komunikacja asynchroniczna nie jest tym, co sobie wyobrażasz
Your client chose you because they trust that you’re going to make their lives easier. The best way to prove them right is to be proactive. Stay on top of your client’s needs and look for opportunities to over-deliver.
The best kind of partner knows what their clients want before they do. While this isn’t always possible, a proactive mindset will allow you to surprise your clients with opportunities they didn’t even know existed and leave a positive, lasting impression.
There are a few basic principles that organizations with excellent client management follow. Creating a clear focus on these principles will align your team with the client and their work.
Communication is key—from the first day of onboarding your client, they need to know that they can rely on you. Set up regular video or phone calls to discuss progress or upcoming projects, remember to send follow ups to keep your clients updated and on track, and reach out to communicate small wins. In short: be accessible and responsive to keep your clients happy.
Example: Your client sends you an email asking about the latest sales numbers. The team member who oversees this data has already left the office for a doctor’s appointment and won’t return until tomorrow. Rather than waiting it out, send your client a quick email letting them know that they can expect a response within the next 24 hours.
Besides communicating well, you should also focus on being honest and transparent as you progress toward client objectives. Share timelines and expectations up front and update your client as soon as you can if they change. While no one is perfect and mistakes will inevitably pop up, the best thing you can do is be honest about your mistakes instead of trying to cover them up.
Example: A supplier made a mistake with your order which now affects your client’s timeline. After doing your best to find a solution with your current supplier and checking with a few alternatives, you can minimize the delay but not fix it. Reach out to your client and notify them of the delay, the actions you’ve taken, and how you’re going to avoid this in the future. Offer to connect in person via a meeting or call to discuss any questions or concerns.
You’re only going to bring value to your client if you understand their needs. While you don’t have to become an expert on their industry, you should put some effort into understanding the basics, learning the most commonly used acronyms or terms, and adapting your style to match what your client is looking for.
Example: You work for a PR agency and just signed a client that builds car batteries. They hired you for your expertise in the PR industry but it’s still going to be beneficial to you and your work if you familiarize yourself with their product. Watch YouTube videos, read blog posts, or ask your client for resources to learn more about their industry. It can also help to sign up for newsletters or create Google alerts so you’re up to date on industry trends.
Building trust should be your number one focus with new clients. If they don’t trust in your service or product, they won’t stick around for long. Make sure you choose a tool with robust security and privacy policies so you can ensure your client’s data remains safe.
Part of building that trust is ensuring that you’re aligned with your client’s goals. Kanban boards are the perfect tool to visualize a project’s progress and get on the same page with your client. Use Kanban boards to share task progress in real-time and asynchronously ensure that everyone and everything is always up to date.
Example: You’ve recently started a new project for a small business. To increase clarity, you create a Kanban board to map out every task for the project and then share that board with the business owners. Now, they can oversee the project and ensure that everything goes according to their expectations.
Speaking of expectations, it’s important that you set realistic goals from the start. Whether it’s about the actual objective you’re trying to achieve or the timeline in which you’re promising to deliver, it’s always better to create a timeline that allows you to deliver quick tasks.
While Kanban boards are great to track the progress of individual tasks, a Gantt chart can help you create a roadmap of your project that includes estimated timelines, allows you to organize more complex workflows, and visually maps out your project plan.
Example: You’re in the onboarding phase with a new client. Once all the goals are defined, create a proposed Gantt chart and send it to your client for feedback. Your client now has the opportunity to understand your work process, add buffers for feedback rounds, and prepare for project milestones and delivery dates.
Knowing how well a project is doing is crucial for client management because you’ll need to give your clients frequent feedback as your project moves forward. Establish key performance indicators to give your team and your client quantitative metrics. These metrics will also help you in your post mortem meeting when identifying your learning goals for future projects.
Example: You’re a business consultant who specializes in optimizing IT strategies. Your new client doesn’t have a specific goal, they just want to improve their IT department. Rather than taking a shot in the dark, define clear KPIs and get them approved by your client so you can show them how their business is benefitting from your service.
While great client management can produce organic leads, you can’t solely rely on prospects to come to you—you’ll have to find ways to actively attract new clients. Here are a few things you can do to find potential clients, get them interested in your service or product, and convert.
Define your target audience. Find out where they are so you can connect with them.
Use social media. Online advertising and targeted marketing campaigns can be highly effective, especially if you’ve defined your target audience well. Rather than spending your advertising budget on large campaigns, use it to specifically target your audience and gain new clients.
Ask existing clients for case studies. The sheer volume of sales pitches people receive has made many less susceptible to them. Instead of telling potential clients what you do, you show them how your work translates into success for your existing clients by conducting and publishing a case study.
We’ve covered all the things you should be doing to attract and retain clients but let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons clients churn. Avoid these pitfalls to keep your clients satisfied with your services.
Lack of organization. If you fail to respond to your client’s emails or calls, miss communicating important milestones or information, or misplace documentation, you’re jeopardizing your client relationship. Use workflow tools to streamline your communication processes and keep track of relevant data, deadlines, and documentation. A well-defined communication plan will also ensure that everything is communicated where it’s supposed to so nothing falls through the cracks.
Miscommunication of goals, objectives, and services. Clearly define and document your objectives and responsibilities so your clients know what they can count on. Planning and allocating the resources you’ll need to satisfy your client’s goals will allow you to deliver what you promised—or more.
Lack of attention for existing clients. It’s easy to let communication and goals with existing clients slack a little when you’re focused on new, more exciting clients. But at the end of the day, your existing clients are the ones who’ve established a relationship with you and trust your expertise. Client retention is crucial to build a sustainable business. Always do your best to treat all your clients with the same level of enthusiasm and respect—whether they’ve been with you for a few weeks or for several years.
Frequently check in with your teammates to ensure that everyone holds themselves accountable to the values and principles of client management.
At the end of the day, your goal is to keep your clients happy and around for as long as possible. Clients who feel appreciated and special will bring in new ones, saving you resources and ultimately keep your business running.
With Asana, you can keep track of every single task associated with the work you’re doing for your clients. Use Workflows to connect the right people to the right data at the right time and ensure that your team can focus on accomplishing your client’s goals.Get Stride's client account management template