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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

11 ways to develop a stronger client relationship

Try these techniques to foster open, productive, and positive conversations that benefit every stakeholder.

11 ways to develop a stronger client relationship
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Your ability and willingness to understand your client’s wants and needs are essential if you want to remain in business and continue to build a solid foundation for your brand. But, remember that maintaining a reliable reputation in the industry has everything to do with human relationships and how you treat the people you interact with on a daily basis.

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So, the more your company is able to make the lives of its customers easier and meet their needs, you are more likely to win their trust and business for the long term, whether there is a challenge to help them overcome or a victory to be celebrated.

Below, Fast Company Executive Board members share their most useful strategies to promote customer satisfaction and create a win for all.

1. ALWAYS SHOW EMPATHY.

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Empathy is key. The notion of “business-to-business” neglects the fact that the foundation of any business is people. Understanding where customers are in their journey is key to productivity and positivity. Successful relationships are built on understanding, transparency, and a willingness to be vulnerable about influencing factors and motivators. – David Schwartz, DeVito/Verdi

2. BE WILLING TO BUILD YOUR CLIENTS’ TRUST.

People do business with people, so building trust with customers is critical to ongoing success. When our clients trust our brand and our team, they’re more likely to extend their relationship with our company. If we dare to be open and vulnerable then our customers reciprocate that approach. This enables us to truly understand our customers’ wants and needs. – Andreas Pettersson, Arcules

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3. CHECK IN BY ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

A magic tool to keep conversations productive in tough times is to open by asking everyone to first answer the question: “What is working with the relationship or situation today?” Starting from this perspective reminds everyone what is good, what is positive, and what is valuable. It switches the mind from complaining to problem-solving, making positive outcomes far more likely. – Christina Robbins, Digitech Systems

4. OFFER CLIENTS A POSITIVE WAY OF THINKING.

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Whenever I engage with my clients, I try to get them to step away from the challenges they are up against and look back a year or two to see what has changed for them and their business. How much have they changed during that time? What have they learned? When I get them into this frame of mind, they realize that they have overcome a lot and they have what they need to move forward. – Tony Martignetti, Inspired Purpose Coaching

5. ACCEPT CUSTOMERS, PHYSICALLY AND INTERPERSONALLY.

Make their lives easier. One of the best ways to support and communicate with customers as a brand is to meet them where they are—physically and interpersonally. Incorporating empathy for the challenges of daily life into your marketing goes a long way, like offering an opt-out option for sensitive moments like Mother’s Day. – Sara Varni, Attentive

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6. REMAIN AUTHENTIC AND GENUINE.

Be authentic at all times and take a genuine interest in their business, successes, and challenges.  Ask the question of what you can do to help them achieve or exceed their goals. Take the answer to heart, and then do those things if you can. – Matt Domo, FifthVantage

7. SOLVE PROBLEMS TOGETHER.

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As the “Difficult Conversations book explains, use a simple sequence to handle a tough conversation. First, identify a root problem (not the person) and talk through how it affects everyone. Next, get on the same side of the fence with your client and agree to attack this problem together. Finally, as you begin working to solve the problem together, enjoy the winning moment together to strengthen the relationship. – Andrei Kasyanau, Glorium Technologies

8. CREATE SAFE SPACES TO CONNECT AND SHARE IDEAS.

Meet your clients and customers where they are in their journey. You need to establish authentic relationships that are not about sales and business. Creating safe spaces for connecting and just sharing new ideas or connections is a way to engage customers even when sales or engagement may come months later. They will remember how you treated them and seek out your expertise later. – Leigh Burgess, Bold Industries Group, Inc.

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9. BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER.

Listen more than you speak. When you do talk, be sincere. To move forward in the conversation, learn how to recognize and steer away from unconstructive discussion paths. Instead, drive those discussion paths toward areas where positive change can occur. – Jarrod Morgan, Meazure Learning

10. MAKE YOUR INTENTIONS CLEAR.

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I start out hard conversations with customers by telling them about my North Star: We want to do the right thing, first and foremost. Once it’s clear that both sides are not negotiating to “win” but looking for the right result, defenses fade away and great conversations naturally happen. – Ryan Anderson, Filevine

11. SCHEDULE AN IN-PERSON MEET-UP.

Go out of your way to meet them where they work (so, in person, if feasible) and just listen. Ask them how things are going, what’s on their mind, and where they need help. You’re not meeting to sell or to deal with a current servicing issue, but to show your client some empathy and an interest in their perspective on their business. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

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