Wednesday, 1 September 2010

All’s fair in love and work

I was recently asked to contribute a post to the Social Collective blog, which features a series of forward-thinking opinion pieces by those working with social media. I was very honoured to be in such good company, and I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on the post I submitted, which focuses on client relationships…

A colleague recently described me as her “relationship guru”. By this she meant that I approach my relationship with love, patience and just a tiny bit of manipulation, resulting in a happy home where I get what I want 90% of the time. Just call me the man whisperer.

This got me thinking… can you apply the same principles to client relationships as you can to those of a more romantic nature? While I may be a competent communicator at home, I’ve always found client relationships to be more challenging, so by utilising years of pop psychology gleaned from glossy magazines, I’ve come up with four approaches that work just as well on clients as they do on men:

Make them feel important: When you have a partner, it can be easy to spend all of your time with them and ignore your friends. It’s a real skill to make everyone feel that they are equally important to you, but it’s crucial to happy, healthy friendships – and client relationships. No, you can’t just drop everything every time someone asks you for a favour, but you can respond to them quickly and tell them when you will be able to help them. You can check in regularly to show that they are on your mind, and you can spread your activities out so you are often in touch. By treating your clients with respect, you can ensure that they always feel loved.

It’s good to talk: We all have friends that we only talk to on Facebook, but my guess would be that they’re not your closest confidantes. I’m also fairly certain that you wouldn’t communicate with your partner exclusively through the internet, so why do it with your clients? Email is a great tool but it’s very difficult to build up a meaningful relationship without talking. Pick up the phone, talk around subjects, ask questions. If you can build up a dialogue with your clients, they will enjoy working with you more, and be more likely to listen to your advice.

Be helpful:
You probably don’t have anything to do with your partner’s place of work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t offer them advice on work-related dilemmas. Likewise, you may not be involved with your clients’ personal lives, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take an interest. Just as you would help them out in the workplace, keep their personal interests at heart as well. Are they moving house? Mention you’ve seen a sale at Cargo. Getting married? Tell them about an upcoming wedding exhibition. You don’t need to be obtrusive, just interested.

Make them think it’s their idea:
Decades of advice from women’s magazines tells us that if you really want something, the trick is to make your man think he’s thought of it himself. Clients are no different. Offer suggestions, present plans, drop hints – but treat feedback as if it’s the smartest thing you’ve heard all week. Of course, clients (like men) can be wrong – but if you’re usually supportive, they’ll be more likely to listen to your advice when you have a better idea.

Finally, the best advice I have ever been given is to treat your partner like a friend. When you’ve invested so much in one person (or one client), it’s easy to be hard on them when they fail to live up to your impossible expectations. Always remember that boyfriends and clients are just people – treating everyone with respect and kindness is the best way to build lasting relationships in and out of the office.

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