Nicole Smartt couldn’t live her vision of building client relationships until she started her own company. Here are the strategies she uses today
If you look at my company’s internal structure, you’ll notice we are missing a key position: We have no sales representatives. We don’t have any team members who call themselves sales reps, account managers or telemarketers.
In 2009, I left a well-known staffing firm as their sales representative to start my own company. While I was exceeding my goals as a sales representative, it didn’t align with the vision I had for how I wanted to work with clients. I didn’t want to focus all my attention every week on new clients, only to take my attention away from those I had worked tirelessly to land. So I left to join the ownership team with Star Staffing, where I was able to make my vision come to life.
Now, this only works if you have a strong client base. If you are just starting out, yes, you’ll need sales representatives to pound the pavement as I did when I joined in 2009. But once you have what you think is enough, work even harder to build those existing relationships and brand yourself to dominate the marketplace. I guarantee your sales will skyrocket. Here are a few ideas to build better relationships with your clients and your network.
Be responsive to your clients
We respond within 30 minutes during normal business hours. Further, our recruiters (instead of account managers) have work cell phones so they can be just as responsive after hours. We know our clients work 24/7, and we align ourselves with their business needs.
Put your clients’ needs first
Our representatives know the ins and outs of our clients’ businesses. This is powerful because instead of them having to explain what they need from each candidate, they can send us a quick message or call with the position they’re looking to fill, and bam — we send them the best fit. We already know what our clients are looking for, so our service is fast and accurate.
To build lasting loyalty, stay involved and get in front of problems or confusions as quickly as possible. I stay heavily involved on the client side, and I ensure our clients remain ecstatic about every aspect of our service. Even in the smallest concerns, if I can help — and I usually can — I jump in and address the issue.
Stay true to your values
Be honest and transparent in your communication. If we aren’t the best agency for our client, for instance, we let them know. Building strong relationships starts with strong communication.
When you’re first starting out, get conversational with your clients. Consider your relationship with them a partnership — a conversation between peers. If you can convey early and honestly that you’re genuinely committed to helping them fill their needs, that memory sticks and the foundation of trust is there.
Constantly work to improve
Look at every encounter and ask yourself what you could have done better. When we first started out, we’d have new employees come in and complete our onboarding process. Once they finished the paperwork, our receptionist would say, “You’re all set!” and that would be it. We realised this wasn’t a “wow” experience because it felt impersonal and very standard. Now, our new candidates meet with recruiters on three separate occasions so we can really understand them. This also gives us more opportunity to answer their questions too, so they’re better prepared.
Use strong marketing
Don’t overextend your reach, and focus on quality over quantity. Make sure to foster new connections with positivity and “can do” attitude, but don’t fall prey to the mass market mindset that suggests everyone must be a client, even if the quality suffers. Lean on the things you do that your competitors do not. This is more of a framing exercise than an automatic shift in what you’re actually doing as a company. It also shows you know your strengths industry-wide, and that instills confidence.
You can’t grow if you don’t make connections, and nearly anyone can be a good connection. Let it be organic, but make sure you’re available. From 2009 to 2013, you could find me at a networking event every single night. I was hungry (and still am) to build Star, help others find great jobs and work with top local companies. My main tip is to always provide value for the other parties involved. How can you help them, and what’s in it for them?
If you’re well-established with your current customers, and you’re getting referrals here and there, incentivize with loyalty programmes or coupons, but let your existing network help. The referrals you do receive will be more genuine, and a network built genuinely and on a foundation of quality work will keep you on the right path — bringing in more clients and revenue.
Nicole Smartt is the owner of Star Staffing. She is the youngest recipient to be awarded the Forty Under 40 award, recognising business leaders under the age of 40. Her book, From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead at Work, can be pre-ordered on her website at www.nicolesmartt.com.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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