In "Clients are Family - Part One", we looked at several guidelines for improving your client relationships including: Know their beliefs; Know your needs and speak up; and Know how to respect and manage differences. As stated in Part One, all of these guidelines for client relationships could equally apply in your personal life.
I don't believe it can be said too many times that buyers of professional services make their choices based on the chemistry between themselves and the professional. And when it comes to chemistry, feeling always outrule logic.
Learn to negotiate. Relationships no longer rely on roles cast by culture. We are free to create our own roles, so that virtually every act requires negotiation. It works best when good will prevails. Because people's needs are fluid and change over time, and life's demands change too, good relationships are negotiated and renegotiated all the time.
Listen, truly listen, to your client's concerns and complaints without judgment. Much of the time, just having someone listen is all we need. It opens the door to confiding. And empathy is crucial. Look at things from your client's perspective as well as your own.
Work hard at maintaining closeness. Closeness doesn't happen by itself. In its absence, people drift apart and are susceptible to wanting greater change. A good relationship isn't an end goal; it's a lifelong process maintained through regular attention.
Take a long-range view. A business relationship should be an agreement to spend a future together. Check out your expectations with each other regularly to make sure you're both on the same path. Update your expectations regularly.
Never underestimate the power of good grooming. Enough said.
Fun is good. Closeness is better. Fun is easy, intimacy is difficult. It requires honesty, openness, self-disclosure, confiding concerns, fears, sadnesses as well as hopes and dreams.
Never go to sleep angry. No relationship is perfect and anger is a normal feeling. It is not normal when anger becomes a mood. IF you carry your anger to bed with you, then YOU have some work to do on the relationship. But don't swallow your anger, deal with it. If you swallow your anger it will taint the relationship from that moment on.
Apologize, apologize, apologize (when it is appropriate to apologize). Anyone can make a mistake. Repair attempts are crucial-highly predictive of relationship happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic-but willingness to make up after a disagreement is central to every happy business relationship.
Maintain self-respect and self-esteem. It's easier for someone to like you and to be around you when you like yourself.
Enrich your relationship by bringing into it new interests from outside. Teach, mentor, and learn together. The more you have and share, the richer your relationship will be.
Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate. Share responsibilities. Business relationships work ONLY when they are two-way streets, with much give and take.
Maintain your energy. Stay healthy.
Recognize that all relationships have their ups and downs and do not ride at a continuous high all the time. No relationship is perfect all the time. Working together through the hard times will make the relationship stronger.
Make good sense of a bad relationship by examining it as a reflection of your the choices you make. Don't just run away from a bad client relationship; you'll only repeat it. Use it as a mirror to look at yourself and the reasons you chose to pursue that client. Change yourself and your criteria before you chase new business.