At the end of the day, you need to be networking with clients! As a business function, networking is all about building relationships that are going to help your bottom line. They’re all about getting more green into your bank account. And networking with clients is one of the best ways to do that.
Many people see networking and marketing as two separate and distinctive disciplines. However, when it comes to networking with clients they overlap substantially. Whether you are dealing with people that you do not have an existing relationship with (your prospects) or maintaining contact with those who have already bought from you, you are building relationships and therefore networking.
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Clients vs Customers
Before we get into this topic too deeply, let’s look at the distinction between a client and a customer. So, what is the difference?
A customer is a person who makes casual purchases of goods and non-professional services. Customers usually deal with vendors, not service providers, who sell “stock” – standard, non-specific, and non-personalized wares. What is more, the vendor typically does not know the customer’s name. for example, when you walk into a department store no one there knows your name. They don’t care who you are. They will provide the same service to you like anyone else in the store. You pick something standard off the rack and pay for it. And when do you leave that’s where the relationship ends. You are a customer.
A client, on the other hand, buys professional services from a person or organization. A client has a more formal relationship with the service provider, a relationship that is based on repeated interactions and is more personal. in this case, the service provider knows the client’s name. What is more, the amounts paid in a client-service provider relationship are usually higher than those in the relationship between the customer and the vendor.
Now that we know what a customer and a client are, you need to determine which of those you serve.
If you know the names of the people who buy from you, they buy personalized or bespoke services, do so repeatedly, and the amounts they pay you are quite large, then you have clients. Networking is the perfect vehicle for building your relationship with your clients since you already have a rapport with them.
Make Your Clients Your Connections
Wouldn’t it be cool if your clients could be part of your network, though?
Your clients are potentially your perfect network connections. Instead of treating each client as just someone who buys from you, see them as someone with whom you can (and should) build a relationship. After all, you are networking to achieve success, and a large part of that success involves you making more money. Your clients are the source of that money.
One caveat is that not every client will be receptive to your networking efforts. However, many will. It’s important to get to know your clients as people rather than simply business owners or employees of the company that pays you.
New vs Existing Clients
“It’s 5-25X more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. And when you do retain a customer, they’re more likely to spend more and purchase more frequently.
Existing customers are easier to sell to — by a long shot: You’re 60-70% likely to sell to an existing customer, compared to the 5-20% likelihood of selling to a new prospect. So if your company isn’t cross-selling and upselling, you’re just leaving money on the table.”Sophia Bernazzani
Something similar can be said about networking.
Finding new connections takes far more time and effort than reinforcing your relationships with existing network connections. It makes sense, therefore, to spend the bulk of your time building relationships with the clients you already have.
You have a rapport with them. You know them. They know you.
What is more, your existing clients also have their own networks. If you build your relationship with them you will find that many of them will be more than happy to refer you to the people they know.
While I am not advocating that you ignore finding new clients and network connections, be sure to get the balance right. Spend more of your time reinforcing the relationships you have rather than scouring LinkedIn and Facebook for new ones. The grass may seem greener on the other side, and all that, but it rarely is. Great opportunities most probably lie untapped right under your nose.
Better Networking With Clients
Okay, so we all agree that including your clients in your networking efforts is good. How do we do that, exactly?
Trust is the foundation upon which the relationship between you and your client is built. Using networking best practices you can ensure that a high level of trust is maintained by being generous, supportive, and engaged with them.
Trust is built by coming through for your clients when they are in a tight spot. It’s going the extra mile and saving their bacon when they are under pressure. It’s also about seeking out other members of your network who might be able to buy from, sell to or work with them, and then brokering an introduction.
And if anything goes wrong, be sure to apologize sincerely and refund them quickly (or give them a freebie), as this will confirm in their mind that you are committed to building a strong relationship with them.
In short, the more you demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the well-being of your client and their business, the more they will trust you.
And the great thing about trust is that once you have theirs, they will buy more from you and be more understanding if (and when) you fumble.
Understand Their Business
To build your relationship with each of your clients, you have to take the time to get to know their business intimately. Doing so will not only help you, however, but it will also demonstrate to your client that you are intent on offering better service.
How do you go about understanding their business?
First of all, do your research. Look at that website and blog, read their social media posts, and try to keep up with news about what they are doing and planning.
Secondly, you could just ask them. Think of several insightful questions that pertain to their business and when interacting with them, ask some of those questions. Your client will most probably be impressed that you have taken the time to want to know more about what they do. The best kinds of questions to ask would be those that would help you offer a better service to them.
Find out About Them
Try to find out as much as you can about the person (or people) you deal with at the client company – without being weird about it. Ask them about themselves and be sure to make notes if they mention anything pertinent. You can also search social media for details about where they live, which school(s) they went to, their family, their hobbies, the sports they like, and any other details you can find.
Be sure to find out when their birthday is, as well as any important holidays in their religion (if they are religious). Then it’s a case of making sure to send the appropriate best wishes for each occasion.
Then build a profile about them. The information you collect will come in handy when keeping in touch with them.
Even when they are not buying from you, be sure to keep in touch every two months or so. And when you do contact them, don’t make it a sales call. Make it social. That is why it’s essential to know about whoever you are dealing with as a person.
Clients are a great source of feedback. Feedback helps you improve your service and while you benefit in the short term, your clients benefit in the long run.
When asking for feedback, be sure to put it in terms that are attractive to the client and don’t ask too much of them. If it is not too onerous, most clients with whom you have a robust relationship will only be too happy to give you some feedback.
Your clients are arguably the most important members of your network. This is especially true of those with whom you have built robust relationships over time. Use networking best practices to optimize your relationships with each one of them. If you are able to do this, your success will be virtually assured.