October 15, 2004
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Last week I started a discussion of “getting
serious” in your relationships with clients. Today, I will talk
about maintaining these relationships for the benefit of both you and
your clients. If there is any secret to high-tech career success, this
might be it.
If you really want to get serious about your clients and your business,
take some time to think about the lifetime value of your oldest and best
clients. Have they bought you that new car, braces for the kids, whiz-bang
computers and other technology? What have your clients made possible for
you? Only then will you start to recognize the potential in every single
client you visit. Recognizing this potential can go a long way towards
maintaining your relationship over the years.
Each and every client contact is a win-win. Your client gains the knowledge
and support they need and you gain the money necessary to obtain your
wants and needs. Who could ask for a better symbiotic relationship? In
fact, you gain even more than money. Each and every client provides challenges
that push you to expand your knowledge. This allows you to take on new
clients with new challenges and continue the process in an endless cycle
While maintaining contact with your best clients is important, it doesn’t
mean you should ignore those people who call once or twice a year. In
fact, these people could be some of the most important clients to your
career. Even if they need help infrequently, clients like this often refer
you to friends, family and co-workers on a regular basis. I have several
clients who I worked with only once, but who have referred me to countless
Remember this fact and live by it…every single contact with a client
can, and should, generate action items for the future. Every client in
your address book should have some form of “Next Action” associated
with them. Sure, problems will arise on their own…new hardware will
be purchased, software upgraded, bugs squashed, but these action items
are what will develop an on-going relationship with the client.
As I mentioned last week, take good notes when you are with the client.
Some of these notes may be about the current issue you are working on,
but others should be notes for the future. When does their anti-virus
expire? Are they using an ancient version of MS Word? Could they use a
little more training or a good book on Quicken? Once you return to the
office, these action items get entered into your calendar or a project
list for future follow-up.
There are several reasons for developing action items. First, the client
will benefit from a climate of continual improvement. Preventing problems
is always preferable to solving them when they arise. Working proactively
for your clients clearly demonstrates that you have their best interests
in mind. Being constantly engaged in the development of your client’s
computer skills develops a level of trust that can be missing from the
typical “hit and run” consulting call. You are not just there
to solve one problem. You are there to help them make the best use of
the computer, now and in the future.
On the business side, a proactive focus can help to smooth out the “feast
or famine” common in freelance work. Your goal is not to sell clients
services they don’t need, only to act as a coach and gently push
them to better and better uses of their computer. In the absence of crises,
they have the time to actually learn about their computer and maybe even
have some fun. Take these opportunities to help your clients stretch their
vision and find new ways to a better life through technology.
Next week I will explore some of the ways that I put these concepts to
work in my day-to-day business life. Maintaining relationships with your
clients requires constant attention. Thank goodness that technology can
offer us some fine ways of “keeping in touch”. I am constantly
adding new services, new information, and new ideas in order to serve
my clients better. You need to be doing the same thing, in your own way,
to insure the growth of your high-tech career.