3 Keys to Establishing Great Relationships With Your Enterprise Clients
Over the past few years, Cloud Computing has enabled firms to accelerate innovation by reducing capital expenditure for startups. The number of SaaS companies has exploded over the past few years. There are around 7,000 SaaS companies just in the Marketing field and the SaaS industry is projected to generate $157B by 2022 (Leftronics, 2020).
The rapid increase in the number of SaaS businesses has led to fierce competition for market share between several firms offering pretty much similar functionality through their software. So, what exactly is the differentiating factor between a successful and an unsuccessful firm?
No points for guessing, it is how you maintain your post-sale relationships with your customers. It is no surprise, therefore, that you would notice an increased focus from these firms on Customer Success, Account Management, and Relationship Management roles. However, unfortunately, a lot of organizations focus too much on Sales through these roles rather than establishing long-term business relationships with their clients.
Having worked with enterprise clients through most of my career, I think that there are 3 keys to nurture long-lasting relationships with an enterprise client.
(1) Proactive Communication: I can’t stress enough how important “Proactive” communication is in establishing long-term business relationships with your client. Try to put yourself in the client’s shoes for a second — the client manager you are dealing with would have to report any roadblocks and issues to his managers and executive team, so as a client would you rather be appraised of a potential issue as soon as it happens or would you prefer to know about it right at that end when nothing can be done about it (even if you as a vendor did your best to fix the issue). The answer is always the former.
Same rules apply for a services organization, if you see that your team may potentially miss a feature update or a deadline, you would want to appraise the client manager about the risk and the steps you are taking to avoid the possibility of missing the deadlines. Even in case, your team misses the deadline, you would have given the client manager enough time to absorb the information and take action rather than panicking at the last moment. Communicating proactively would help you soften the blow when the risk is actually realized.
I have found that one of the biggest concerns that client managers have working with vendor companies is the additional headache of spending time to manage their teams and different processes these companies may have. Being proactive with your communication could help alleviate a lot of these concerns.
(2) Transparency/Accountability: Things go wrong all the time. Your server may be down, or your sales team may have promised more than your software may be capable of, or there may just be an oversight from your team that cost the client money. The most important thing here would be to own the mistake and refrain from blaming any person or another team. Hey! we made a mistake, we shouldn’t have made it but unfortunately, we did. These are our next steps to fix this and these are our actions to make sure we don’t repeat this mistake again. Client managers are humans too, they make mistakes too and the easiest way to show you care is to make sure you assure them that you are taking actions to handle similar situations better in the future.
No matter how hard you try, everyone once in a while you would come across a pissed-off client. However, what matters in such situations is your track record with the client in the past. If you took accountability for your mistakes in the past and took actions to not repeat them in the future, the client would be much more trusting and work together to find a workaround while your team looks for a long-term solution. This trust needs time to build.
(3) Be Available: No one cares where you are when things are going well but one of the keys to establishing long-lasting relationships with your clients is to be available when things go wrong. Now, you may not be the person fixing the actual issue but just being available to assure the customer that this is your priority and you care, in my experience, means a great deal to the clients. Never make your client feel they are not important or less important than another client. When the client wants some answers from you, don’t delegate to someone else, don’t make them wait for a couple of days — show them you are available to answer any questions they may have. The point is to not limit your relationship with the client to your monthly and quarterly meetings but to make sure that you are in constant touch with the client managers throughout their journey and when shit hits the fan, you are at the front-line leading the troops.
Sending Christmas gift baskets, or buying your clients lunches don’t cut it anymore. With a plethora of software and service companies available nowadays, the differentiating factor between a successful and unsuccessful firm comes down to client relationships and the care you show to your customers. Remember your client is not the brand but the employees of that brand. Your job is to make their life easier and the 3 fundamentals I talked about above would help lay the foundation to a long-lasting and prospering relationship.
While a small sales team may land you a client, it takes a whole village to nurture long-lasting working relationships with them. You want to make sure that your delivery team, customer service team, technology team, account management team, etc. everyone chimes in to establish relationships at different levels with the customer.