You may believe that you a wonderful relationship with your client, and they may believe they feel the same about you and your company. But you really don’t know what kind of relationship you have until you face a problem or challenge together.
What You Learn When the Trouble Begins
You learn a lot about your clients when you face a major problem or challenge with them.
When there is a problem, when the train comes off the tracks, you find out whether or not your client is adversarial. You find out if there are factions within their company that make it personal, that make it about you and your company, not the problem or the challenge you are working on. You find out then, when your relationships is tested, what those relationships really look like.
You also learn whether or your client is willing to seek a third way, a win-win solution. Strong client relationships are built on the foundation of working together to find ways to improve things. This means that you work honestly and openly trying to create a bigger pie before claiming—and that your client does the same.
When there are problems and challenges, some clients will expect you to carry the entire burden of solution. The clients with whom you have strong relationships will own their part of the solution, making the necessary changes and investments on their side when that it what the third way requires.
What Your Client Learns About You
Your clients learn an awful lot about you by how you handle problems and challenges.
The first thing they learn about you is your geographical preferences—where are you when the real problems and challenges need to be dealt with? Are you in the foxhole with your client, or did you run for cover? If you aren’t with your client when things get sideways, your client doesn’t have the relationship that they need.
If you are present and prepared to address the challenges, your client will know that you own the outcomes that you sold them. If your not willing to look the problem directly in the eye, your client will never believe that you can be trusted to be a strategic partner, a business manager.
How you handle the major issues will also allow your client to discover that you have the business acumen, the resourcefulness, and the determination to help them find a solution. How you—and your company—work to help your client through their problem or challenge is an indication of what kind of partner you are.
Neither you nor you client really know what kind of relationship you have until it is tested.
It isn’t being perfect and never having a problem that builds client relationships that stand the test of time. Passing through fire together is what forges the strongest, lasting relationships.
Are problems and challenges a risk to your client relationships, or are they really opportunities?
What do you learn about your clients by working with them on the issues that stand between your client and the results that they need?
What do your clients learn about you by the way you handle the issues that prevent them from getting the outcomes they need?
Think about the last major issue you faced with a client. What did you learn about yourself and your company through that experience?