The success of any business hinges on how well you collaborate with your clients. Establishing, and then maintaining a strong business relationship with your clients is essential to the growth and prosperity of your business.
A poor relationship between the two parties, on the other hand, is a recipe for chaos and an early sign that the “partnership” may be short-lived.
It is for this reason that IT providers must find a means to build and cultivate a strong connection with their customers. As other experts put it, you need to start working WITH clients, not working for them (or them working for you).
The Difference Between “With” and “For”
The main difference between working “with” and working “for” a client is hierarchy or lack of one. When you work “with” a client, no one is bigger than the other. Instead, each partner has an equal say in the situation. That’s what qualifies as collaboration.
Working “for” a client, meanwhile, involves a hierarchy. It implies that one party is superior to the other. The superior “boss” has the final say. In the increasingly competitive market, IT firms must steer clear of such arrangements. Not only does it stifle the less powerful party, but it also blocks any learning channels between the two players. If you have clients working for you rather than with you, you won’t learn anything meaningful from them.
Working “with” your clients comes with numerous perks, such as opportunities to learn from each other. Furthermore, these collaborations often result in referrals through word of mouth. Successful partnerships also help build brand loyalty, which in turn increases customer lifetime value.
How to Collaborate with Clients: Expert Tips
There are two main steps here. First, you need to establish a relationship. Then, once the relationship exists, you must maintain and grow it. The following points should help you to build and maintain strong business partnerships.
Identify Your Core Clients
Robert H. Bloom defines the core customer as one who is most likely to buy your core product or service in quantity required for optimal profit. He goes ahead to encourage businesses to concentrate on satisfying the core customer entirely and fully, warning that it’s more profitable than trying to please everyone.
Below are three steps to identifying and satisfying your core customers;
- Identify your primary customer: Your primary customer is one who wants to purchase and get the most value from your product or service. Visualize and seek to know him or her deeply. Learn what is valuable to them. What are their aspirations and desires in life? What are their risk factors? How can you help them achieve these goals?
- Identify your supporting customers: A supporting customer is one who decides whether other people purchase your product. Often, they won’t come to your store to buy the product. But, they give directions and make the decision for the people who eventually end up in your store. An accounting expert may, for instance, recommend that their clients buy accounting software from your company. This accounting expert is your supporting customer.
- Develop offers to meet your customers’ needs: You need to meet the needs of both primary and supporting customers fully. We encourage you to leverage your key competencies here. As Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead once said, key competencies aren’t something you’re very good at, but something only you can offer. That differentiator is what will help retain customers and command their loyalty.
Make Sure each Party Understands Their Role
Once you’re fully cognizant of your client(s) needs, it’s time to discuss the project in detail. What role will you play, and how will both parties ensure successful outcomes?
Always begin by making sure that each party understands how the collaboration benefits them. The client, especially, must know how they stand to benefit from your product; why they’re better off choosing you.
To this end, make sure you both know the overall scope of the project. Blanket descriptions and generalizations are, for instance, not recommended. Instead, explain each point in layman’s language, stressing how the client will benefit both in the short-term and long-term.
After that, discuss the steps of the implementation (milestones), the goals of each phase, how long the project is likely to take, and costs. Remember to clarify the expectations of both sides. Only proceed when there’s full buy-in from both sides.
Thrash Out the Rest of the Project Details
The most important thing in this stage is creating the “rules of engagement” to bind each party to their word. If you already have guidelines for similar collaborations, then great. Just make sure to update it as necessary to cover any new items in the new agreement. Otherwise, draw up a new agreement.
The other thing is how to work with other vendors. Sometimes, you’ll be partnered with one or more vendors on the same project. For example, you could be supplying the software while they provide hardware for an IT upgrade project. You must learn how to work alongside the other vendor(s) productively.
Compliance is critical, for instance. Make sure to respect the other vendors at all times. Also, you must never overstep your mandate. Instead, stick to your specific areas of the project. In case of a misunderstanding, refer to the overarching project goals.
Presentation and Follow Up
Presentation and follow up are the final steps in any collaboration effort. Strive to make the presentation stand out. Blow your client’s socks off, not just by your skills and experience, but also by your competence. Delivering the project on time and as initially agreed will go a long way in earning you the accolades.
One great way to present your final work is by revisiting the goals and stating how each of the earlier identified pain points were addressed. If you went over and beyond the expectations, let the client know about the extra steps you took. In the end, you want them to be satisfied that their problem is fully solved.
When it comes to follow up, expect, and encourage feedback from the client. Let them tell you what they like and which areas they feel you could have done better.
NIX is a tech services provider, specializing in mobile and web development solutions. We value client collaboration very highly, treat our clients as partners, work with them as one team and are grateful to them because they made our success possible. Contact us today to learn more about our services.