Hi! I’m a digital account manager with 16 years of experience, five of them in a remote office setting. Even when I worked in an office environment, some of my largest clients were physically distant (or remote). It’s safe to say I’ve been working with people remotely for a long time.
So how does one learn to nurture and grow meaningful relationships? How do you cultivate that type of teamwork with someone you’ve maybe never met in person or only see rarely?
Because, let’s face it: clients come for what they were promised in the early courtship and discovery phases of the partnership–excellent service, unique insight, RESULTS! But, clients stay with a solid relationship in place.
Establish trust from the beginning, and as quickly as possible.
Without meeting in person, it’s a little more challenging to establish an instant connection with a client, but building trust remotely is very much doable and critical to the long-term success of the relationship.
So how do you build trust? Consistent communication and setting up expectations from the beginning of the relationship.
A client should never have to wonder what you’re doing for them and when. When they start to wonder what’s going on it’s because you haven’t communicated with them appropriately and you haven’t clarified expectations. Don’t do this. This is by far, the biggest mistake in client relationship building.
At Proofpoint, we’ve devised an easy way to eliminate this from happening. We follow a detailed process with each new client relationship, and we send every client a digital Client Onboarding Document that let’s them know the key information about working with us. It details the tools we use, the channels of communication we have available to them; the periodic meetings we have; when they can expect certain things throughout the course of their relationship with us; and even the days of the year that the agency will be closed.
Whatever your process is for onboarding new clients, make sure you’re building trust, eliminating concerns and setting expectations from the beginning. That’s step numero uno in our book when it comes to building remote client relationships!
Focus on the relationship, not the distance.
Chances are your company has all the right digital tools in place for you to successfully interact with your client on a daily basis. Now it’s time to make the best use of those tools and go further into building a relationship with your clients.
Getting a client (or anyone, for that matter) to genuinely like you requires a lot more listening than speaking.
When and how you listen depends on what works for the relationship. But remember, when it comes to remote partnerships, nothing replaces someone’s voice. Be on the phone or video chat regularly as it makes sense, OUTSIDE of a scheduled status meeting or big presentation.
Get to know your client as much as possible, both inside and outside of work.
Ask insightful questions about the inner workings of the client’s team and day-to-day life.
This type of knowledge helps you anticipate their needs better; fill in any blindspots they might have; and open the door for expanded partnership not just with your main point(s) of contact, but also others on their team and within their company.
Do the competitive research they don’t have the time for.
Stay up-to-date on the client’s industry and know about major news regarding the company. Setting up Google Alerts is not a bad idea! Subscribe to the company’s newsletter and follow their social channels, as well as those of their major competitors. Also sign up for the newsletters of key industry publications.
Send articles you think may be interesting or helpful as a way to stay top-of-mind with the client and let them know you’re constantly thinking about them and their business goals.
Don’t just present that Quarterly Business Review to them–be prepared with how you’ve already made a plan to help with next steps.
Everyone likes a little value-add. If you’ve got the internal bandwidth, why not add in a little extra creative work the client didn’t ask for but will appreciate? Or, maybe you’ve got that deliverable ready in advance–get them excited!
Be their biggest advocate.
When a presentation goes well, send out a recap note copying their teammates who may not have been a part of it. Talk about how excited both teams are. Build the client up. Make them look good.
If the client has an internal presentation you are aware of, see what additional support they might need. Anything you can do to make them look good in turn makes you and your company an invaluable resource to them.
Be a little extra
That’s what the kids these days are saying when someone is next level, right?
Know your client’s birthday and celebrate. Learn what their favorite “things” are, such as favorite snacks, favorite alcoholic beverages, favorite restaurants, favorite Starbucks drink order….you get the idea. When it makes sense, send them a little something that is their favorite (a gift card or physical mailing of something special!).
If they have kids, know their names. If they have hobbies, know what they are. Know the nuances of what makes a good or bad day for them personally or professionally.
Let’s not forget, there’s a chance some of your clients WFH, too
Remote work grew 44% over the last 5 years, before Covid turned the world upside down. Your client may be right there in the same boat with you, just looking to do great work together, and get to know you, from wherever life has landed them.
Let’s get to the Point 🟠:
1.) It’s a business relationship, not a transaction: the client selected a partner, not a bank.
2.) Use your voice: Don’t spend the majority of your time with written communication. Virtual face or voice time is precious.
3.) Loyalty is built in the extra-mile: It’s in the work or attention the client receives that wasn’t asked for.
4.) Advocacy is a two-way street: the more often you make your client look good, the more likely they will be to reflect the sentiment to others.