Do you ever feel like you’re disconnected from your clients? Like you’re having phone calls and sending emails but you’re not really “communicating” – then one day your client cancels your services unexpectedly?
This is a very common feeling that tons of service business owners face all the time. Luckily, communicating professionally with clients is a learnable skill. Once you get the hang of it, you can build strong and profitable relationships with clients that garner trust and maximizes retention.
Over the years of working as a marketing account manager, I have learned a ton about communicating effectively with clients. In this blog article, I will share my juiciest and most impactful tips for effective client communication. The best part is that they are easy to follow and you can start implementing them right away!
Read on to take your client communication to the next level!
How to Communicate with Clients Clearly And Effectively
Follow these tips to implement my tried a true method of impeccable client communication:
1. Setup expectations for communicating with clients
Setting expectations from the beginning is one of the most effective ways to improve client communication. When the client is expecting one thing and another thing happens, it creates friction in the relationship.
Make sure that everyone is on the same page with everything including:
- frequency and format of communication
- tools used
- client responsibilities
- reasonable expectations for success
When you set up expectations from the beginning, the client will not be disappointed or overwhelmed in your future interactions. By setting concrete expectations upfront, you will save yourself a lot of headaches down the road.
Make sure to set guidelines that work both for you and your client, such as frequency and format of communication, timeframes to respond and tools being used, that way each person involved in the project is familiar with what they need to do.
2. Use a professional tone of voice
An effective communication strategy with clients begins the moment you open your mouth. Although there is always room for some joking around, always err on the side of professional conduct. There is no quicker way to ruin a client relationship than to tell an unnecessary off-color joke.
3. Ask questions and listen to their answers
Communication is a two-way street. Its always important to ask questions and listen to your client’s concerns. In fact, a very powerful form of communication is active listening. This involes asking a question, listening to the person’s response, and then reiterating their response back to them in a different way.
Active listening creates trust, makes the person feel heard, and makes the client feel like their concerns are being addressed. At the end of the day, the if the client feels like they have someone listening and helping them, they are much more likely to stay a client over the long term.
4. Explain your processes and working style
Remember that communication requires two to dance. This is why its important to get your say as well. Some clients will expect you to work and communicate in a way that is at complete odds with how you work. This could include sending emails at weird hours to changing project plans last minute.
Make sure that you explain your working style to the client from the beginning so it doesn’t create tension later on.
5. Empower your client by giving them choices
A great way to foster a collaborative relationship is by giving your client choices. Instead of deciding on one course of action, come up with multiple options and present them to your client.
Having multiple options makes you look like you did your research and asking for your client’s input makes them feel like they’re in control – both of which create a pleasant working relationship.
6. Follow up regularly
In any client-provider relationship, communications can sometimes slip through the cracks. That’s why it’s important to follow up regularly. When you’re waiting on something from your client, don’t waste time pontificating on why they might be late. Oftentimes, clients just get busy and they just forgot.
Following up with friendly reminders to your client creates trust and can be a huge value add for keeping the project on track.
7. Make recommendations
There is always a delicate balance to strike between allowing the client to make strategic decisions and making decisions for them.
One way to strike a balance between making decisions and asking the client to make decisions is to make recommendations. Recommendations put you into the driver’s seat while still giving the client ultimate veto power. This achieves the best of both worlds and provides value to the client in the form of strategic guidance and structure.
8. Show Empathy
Empathy is one of the big connectors for human beings. When you’re communicating with a client, learning more about them, acknowledging their struggles, and try to see things from their perspective can go a long way.
One way to show empathy is to let the client know that you understand. Little qualifiers in your emails such as “I know your busy…”, “I realize this is not a good time but…”, “I understand your frustration…” can go a long way.
Once your client feels like you care, they will get a good feeling from interacting with you and want to keep going with your services for the long run.
9. Speak the client’s “Language”
Everyone has a different communication style. This is why it’s important to learn what your client’s style is and work within those bounds.
This could mean using industry jargon, writing short or long emails, having lax or structured meetings, or breaking things down into easy-to-understand language.
Mimicking your client’s language is a way to build rapport and smooth out the differences between you and your client.
10. Respond Promptly
Responding promptly to emails and missed phone calls creates trust and makes it look like you’re on top of things. Set a timeframe in which you aim to respond to clients’ inquiries and stick to it. I use a 24-hour or shorter rule and have received compliments on my prompt response times.
11. Send follow-up emails after meetings
One way to build trust with a client is to hold everyone accountable. Sending a follow-up email with action items that were discussed over the course of the meeting creates a document that can be referenced later. A paper trail of what you discussed during the meeting makes sure that all parties involved are aware of their responsibilities.
It should go without saying that you have to follow through on your responsibilities for this to build trust. However, keeping your client accountable for actionables they promised to complete will increase their investment level, and help keep your projects on track.
12. Make a meeting agenda
Before jumping into meeting with your clients, make sure you make a well-laid-out meeting agenda. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but laying out all the agenda items will give the client certainty that you are organized and taking the lead.
When I go over meeting agendas at the start of meetings, I like to ask the client if there is anything they would like to add to the agenda. This gives them an opportunity to have their concerns met and makes sure that expectations are met.
13. Make notes about client interactions
Making notes about client interactions ensures that nothing slips through the cracks. Clients can change their minds, misremember what they said, or make a big deal out of something they thought was benign. Keeping a record of interactions gives you something to fall back on in case the client changes the story on their side.
14. Be transparent
One of the best ways to win trust in a client-provider relationship is to be as transparent as possible. If you aren’t getting the results that you had hoped for or promised, just admit it. Don’t try to hide problems under the rug because they always tend to come out eventually.
Instead, be transparent about where the project is at, the results that you are achieving, and what your strategy is for moving forward. I find that clients are actually quite forgiving for less than optimal results if you are honest with them and go the extra mile to implement a winning strategy moving forward.
15. Don’t get “too friendly”
It’s good to build rapport with clients, but don’t get too chummy. Always keep in mind that your client has hired you to provide your services and guidance in exchange for fair compensation. When you treat your client like a friend, you start to lose the “advisor” role in their mind, and start to take on more of a “peer” role.
Keeping your client at arm’s length will allow you to maintain an objective viewpoint, provide a source of discernment, and maintain an ability to negotiate on your own behalf. Don’t compromise this arrangement!
16. Stay positive
A lot of service-based business revolves around perception – higher perceived value allows you to charge more money. In order to maintain the perception that your services are high value, you have to stay positive in the face of adversity.
Some clients can get very negative when things don’t go exactly as they planned. In these cases, it’s important for you not to get dragged down into this negativity. Instead, continually express optimism for the future and shift the perception from the negative to the positive. Not only will the client feel better about working with you and pay top dollar for your services, but your projects will be far more likely to stay on course.
17. Stay organized
Nothing looks worse to a client than constantly missing and forgetting things. Make sure that your communications are always on time and that nothing slips through the cracks.
If you have tons of clients are you’re starting to lose track of all the moving pieces, maybe its time to invest in email marketing software to help you organize your emails.
Another way to stay organized is to hire a personal assistant. Personal assistants can help you send emails, do research, perform time-consuming tasks, and generally boost your organization level all around. You can find personal assistants for hire on one of the many outsourcing websites out there.
18. Bait the client to invest
A solid client-provider relationship depends on the investment level of both parties. Clearly, you are invested in the client relationship (if not, then you probably don’t deserve their business in the first place), but sometimes the client’s investment isn’t very high. Maybe they hired you without high expectations just to “try it out”, or maybe they a highly skeptical of the value that you bring to the table.
When the client isn’t invested in the relationship, they’re much more likely not to respond to emails, miss meetings, not follow through on their responsibilities, and ultimately not renew services at the end of the contract.
A great way to increase a client’s investment level is by asking them to do something for you. Asking for a favor has actually been shown to increase investment level in a relationship – it’s called the Benjamin Franklin Effect.
If you ask a client to do something small at the beginning of the engagement, they are much more likely to invest in the services, be easier to deal with, get better results, and ultimately decide to renew.
19. Communicate proactively
Clients want to feel like everything is taken care of. When you reach out to your clients before they need to reach out to you, it makes it seem like you’re on top of it. This takes stress and worry off the client’s shoulders and makes the engagement much more pleasant.
20. Remember personal details about the client
Remembering personal details about your client is a great way to build rapport and familiarity. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but one of the most effective.
In the classic book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie talks about becoming “genuinely interested in other people”. He postulates that other people will become far more interested in you if you show interest in them.
When you remember your clients’ kids’ names and ask how their baseball tryouts went, they’ll be far more likely to invest in your relationship and your services.
21. Undersell and Overdeliver
As an extension of the above point about “setting up expectations”, underselling and overdelivering is a very effective technique.
People tend to see things relatively. This is why a millionaire can often still feel poor when he moves into a neighborhood with billionaires.
If you promise the moon for a client, it will be almost impossible to meet their expectations. Instead of fanfare and celebration at the end of a project, you’ll almost certainly have disappointment.
Instead, set conservative and reasonable targets. Then, work your ass off to exceed those targets. When you announce the results to your client, they will be overjoyed to hear what you’ve accomplished.
22. Ask for things clearly and concisely
When asking for something from your client, be sure to ask clearly and concisely. This means don’t mince words and don’t ask in a roundabout way.
You need to be direct and precise about what you’re asking for. Your clients are busy, so if they have to read between the lines to figure out what you’re asking, it will be more headache for everyone in the long run.
23. Talk long term
Always frame your client conversations by talking about the future. This frames the engagement with a presumption that you will work together for a long time. Should the client accept that frame and talk to you on these terms, they will start to subconsciously accept your timeframe. They will then feel a need to act consistently with the frame that they accepted and stay on as a
Building relationships with clients can be a tricky part of business, but following the tips shared here can help you communicate like a pro and keep your clients happy. Even if you just implement a few of the strategies in this article, I guarantee that you’ll instill more trust and confidence in your clients.
This trust inevitably turns into less turnover and longer-term relationships. Long-term relationships means more money in and less money out because you don’t have to spend on new acquisitions. In business, that’s what we call a “Cash Cow” which, if you like money, is what we’re all after.