How to Perfect Your Communication with Clients
One of the most common complaints of small business owners is how difficult they find working with particular clients. While it’s true some clients can be more demanding than others, problems usually arise due to poor communication rather than an inherent desire to make things more difficult.
It can be hard to understand this when you’re faced with yet another revision request but improving your communication skills can help to smooth over even the most troublesome client relationships.
Sometimes good communication requires taking a step back and viewing your business through the eyes of someone else. This article includes all the tips you need to just do that. The following list will help you to identify areas of communication that could be causing confusion, increasing shared understanding with your clients.
It’s understandable for clients to get upset when services end up costing more than they expected. While you might think that it’s clear that additional services and extensions will increase a client’s final bill, they might not feel the same. Always be transparent from the start and agree upon a scope of work and how much that will cost. If your client wants anything extra partway through the process, or needs you to carry on working for them for longer, revisit this scope of work and estimate a new total.
Another good idea to make sure billing is as easy to understand as possible is the use of an invoice template. Messy invoices that don’t detail exactly where different charges are coming from are a recipe for poor communication. You’ll likely have lots of follow-up questions as clients will want to understand why amounts are more than they might have expected. It’s easy to forget all the work you’ve been doing for them, especially if it’s a long contract, so get the right software to help you out.
If your website is difficult to understand and contains very little information, it’s no wonder that clients are confused when they finally get through to speak to you. Not only will clients have more questions if your website isn’t up to scratch, but you don’t know how many clients you could be losing because they give up trying to get in touch. But making your website user-friendly isn’t always as easy as it seems, which is why so many small businesses enlist the help of UX specialists to refine their pages.
As a starting point, you need to make sure your website has all of the following:
- Clear contact information and several ways to get in touch.
- Multiple conversion points for visitors in different stages of the buying cycle.
- A simple navigation bar that’s compatible with mobile devices and tablets.
- Thorough descriptions of your products and services.
- An accessible website design that accommodates all users.
While your website might seem to be perfect to you, if you’ve never had someone else try to use it, you might be missing some key errors. Before you reach out to a UX agency, have a few people in your network provide you with some constructive feedback.
Listen in your sales calls
Sales calls aren’t just about pitching your services to clients, they’re about listening to their expectations too. It’s only natural to focus on making your business sound as useful as possible, but are the things you’re focussing on really what your client needs? If you sound confident and impress your client, they’ll probably trust you with the whole process. Don’t forget, you’re the expert here, your client might not know what specific services to ask for – it’s up to you to figure out what they need. Small business owners often get frustrated when clients aren’t happy with the work they receive, so listening carefully during the initial sales call can save you a lot of time and effort further down the line.
Don’t be afraid to give your sales call a personal, human touch. You want to make a deeper connection with your clients so that they know you truly care about their interests. This could mean doing a little bit of research before the call so you can tailor your examples to their business or just a follow-up e-mail and call. It’s always a good idea to have a quick check-in to show that you’re attentive and willing to help.
Be honest when things aren’t going to plan
There’s nothing worse than covering up that you’re struggling to meet targets or deadlines until right before the due date. If you’re running a little behind or your work hasn’t produced the expected results, be open and honest with your client ahead of time. It’s likely they’ll appreciate the notice and, if you’ve always been on time before, will trust in your process.
Remember, if you haven’t hit a target that your client expected, always offer a way to fix things. This could be a free audit of your work to check where you’ve missed the mark, or you could offer to spend a bit of extra time fixing bugs or shortcomings at no extra charge. If you do manage to hit targets with these efforts, clients will know they can depend on you to deliver on your end of the bargain even when projects are more challenging than expected.
Understand your client’s communication style
This is something that comes with time and won’t be immediately apparent from your very first sales call. Some clients are happy to talk at length about processes and really want to get into the details while others will want you to stick to the job at hand. Understanding that everyone has a different style of communication will help to prevent frustrations from arising. Just because your client doesn’t get back to your instant messages doesn’t mean they’re a poor communicator, it might just mean they’d prefer a scheduled video call instead.
Communication is a skill that can be built over time, so don’t expect results to appear overnight. Maintain a constant awareness of how you’re conveying ideas and always think about how you could do better.
About the Author
Aislinn Carter is a freelance writer and small business owner living in Hallandale, Florida. She has extensive experience in writing across a number of different verticals, with a specialism for business management and professional development related content.