How to make clients your allies

January 23, 2007

Whether you are shifting to a new company within the same industry, turning entrepreneur or joining your client as an employee, your clients are as important to you as to your company. More so during this transition.  You may be faced with several issues, some of them ethical in nature. For instance, must you inform a client that you are leaving the company or must your senior do so? Can you poach your client when moving to the new company? What if your new job is with a client?

We try to answer all these questions and more. 

Communicating the news to your client

It is important to know that the client is aware of your movement to another organisation. However, let your boss do this for you. Ideally, your boss must write a e-mail to the client and make a formal announcement.

If you are friendly terms with your client, it is okay to share the same. But then make sure that you do it informally.

If you intend to inform the client yourself, also inform him about your notice period and that you will make a handover to your replacement.

This will ensure that the client does not feel jeopardised due to your resignation and stops doing business with your organisation.

Client resources

Don’t take anything that is owned by the client or your old company. Don’t overlook even simple things, like manuals or CD ROMS.

When compiling a portfolio of your work, make sure you are not taking proprietary information or any manuals either. That’s a biggie! Just because you created it doesn’t mean that you own it.

A company policy or your employment contract may tell you about who owns what. Most of the time it is to the company’s advantage. So, it’s a good idea to be extra careful about what you take.

It is NOT a good idea to take client-confidential materials and trade secrets. If you get caught, you might even be subject to criminal prosecution.

Poaching a client

It often happens that when you change companies, your client changes vendors too. In other words, because of their personal rapport/work history with you, they will follow you to your next company.

This is common in jobs which are relationship-oriented like financial services, personal services in law firms or sales.

Is it ethical to poach a client?  

Generally the answer is ‘no’, especially if you are going to work for a direct competitor. 

However, if you have not actively pulled your client but the client follows you anyway, then it is okay.

The above of course applies ONLY provided you have not signed any restrictive clauses or agreements at the time of joining your old organisation. This is sometimes is the case in high-profile jobs, where the stakes are higher.

Joining the client?

There are times when your client is extremely impressed with your work and offers you a job in their company.

Make sure that the client really wants you for your skills and talent and not to gain insider information about their competitors whom you may be serving as well.

For instance, if your prospective employer starts asking you too many questions about the competitors and their internal strategies, you probably know that there is vested interest in the offer being made. The moment the competitor goes, your job may also be in jeopardy.

Make absolutely sure that the client is not hiring you on a contractual basis. Insist that you be offered a permanent job on the company’s payroll.

Do not sabotage or take any information from the parent company that would handicap it or spoil the existing relationship with the client.

How to keep your clients happy

In your current job, if you did not invest time and effort in buidling relationships with your client, make sure you do so henceforth. We tell you how.

Make them your allies

It always pays to develop and maintain a good rapport with your clients. This is because clients can be good allies.

For instance, if you are looking for a new job, a reference or a referral from a delighted client will increase your credibility and help you market yourself better.

Clients can also offer you valuable advice about your business as they are at the receiving end of your services/products. Their suggestions and feedback could be your key to the top position in the company.

When to call clients

  • For feedback on your services/products.
  • When you are proposing/launching a new product/service, get their initial reaction.
  • Make ‘Thank you’ calls and send ‘Thank you’ notes. Even a courtesy call now and then works in your favour.

Go the extra mile

  • Remember their birthdays and other important events and make it a point to call or send a card.
  • Send them information that will help them in their business; give them business leads and referrals. They will truly appreciate this and give you more business in return.
  • Send unexpected gifts and samples. If you find an article, book or an interesting web site, send it across to your client with a note saying “I thought you might enjoy this”.

Source : Rediff

6 reasons to thank your clients

January 23, 2007

A simple (and most overlooked) way to keep your clients coming back to you for more business is to be courteous and say thank you.

Here are six instances when thanking your clients is a must.

Clients show interest in your product/services

The market for all products and services is competitive and your client has multiple sellers queuing up outside his door. If your client agrees to meet you to discuss the possibilities of an association — thank him. Send him a simple thank you e-mail or note, stating your appreciation of his time and your willingness to work with them.

Clients buy your product/services

This may sound obvious but many salespeople do not thank their clients after the order has been placed. When was the last time that the local retailer thanked you for visiting his store? It is your responsibility to make your customers feel good about choosing you over the competition. This will ensure that your clients keep coming back to you for more.

Clients give you a reference

A lot of businesses bank on references. Make it a point to go out of your way to thank somebody who gives you a reference. “I passed on a lot of references to my insurance agent but not once did he thank me for it. I stopped sending potential clients to him after a while,” says Vidhanshu Bansal, a director at Delhi-based IT company Pixel Webtech.

Clients give you feedback

Most of us don’t think of thanking our customers for complaining. Rather than trying to justify or playing the blame game, thank the customer for taking the time to provide feedback and point out the shortcoming. Work intensively towards improving that aspect of your product/service and go back to the customer with the new offering. “Shortly after launching our website, a client encountered a problem and received an incorrect product brochure for an order he had placed. I thanked him because he helped me correct a problem I didn’t know even existed,” says Vidhanshu.

Clients settle the payments

As I was writing this article, I received an online thank you card from a web site designer to whom we have outsourced our web maintenance work. She thanked me for the timeliness of our payments. This made me feel good inspite of the fact that I was the buyer in this case. If this web designer uses the same strategy with all her clients, I am certain she will rarely run into payment problems.

When clients demonstrate loyalty

Never take a long-term client for granted. These are the people who help you stay afloat in business and it’s important that you invest in building strong relationships with them. Send them regular updates, thank you notes and other useful information. Drop in on a surprise visit occasionally and don’t discuss business. Let your clients know that you value them beyond the money they invest in your products/services.

How to say thank you

There are multiple ways to do it. These include sending a handwritten note, an occasional gift, an e-card or a thank you card. Even an inexpensive card with some genuine handwritten comments can make you stand out from the crowd and make your client remember you. The time you will invest will pay you back manifold.

Source : Rediff