A business is nothing without its clients. From scoring new clients to caring for existing ones, client relationship management is a lot of work — but it’s worth it.
Client relationship management allows us to steady and grow our businesses. As entrepreneurs, it’s our job to be there throughout the client journey, from lead acquisition to collecting customer feedback.
But we know you already have a lot on your plate as a small business owner, and keeping on top of every client relationship is overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. We want to help. Read on to learn hard and soft client relationship management skills that will help you develop your business and keep clients happy.
What clients are looking for
CRM skills (or customer relationship management skills) are foundational to running a successful business. Yes, clients are drawn in by a great product, but they care about their entire experience with our businesses — they value strong relationships and quality service.
Good client relationship management puts clients front and center. When we prioritize client satisfaction and show their needs are central to our business decision-making, we build trust with our clients and solidify our business’ positive reputation.
And having happy clients doesn’t just foster customer loyalty — it brings new sales opportunities when potential customers hear just how amazing you are with your existing ones.
3 client relationship management hard skills
Coaches who run their own businesses have to wear multiple hats. We must be good coaches to our clients, but we also need to master hard skills in business administration to ensure the client experience is excellent from start to finish. Here are three hard client relationship skills to learn:
- Sales. The first step in client relationship management? Sourcing clients. Learning to create a “sales funnel” that directs potential clients to your site will help your business find consistent growth. This sales funnel is made up of your “in-bound and out-bound” activities — basically, it’s how you funnel new customers to your business, where you can entice them with your amazing product.
- Marketing. Your business offers excellent coaching service, so how do you get customers on board? With effective marketing, of course. Whether it’s advertising your services to potential clients or reminding existing clients of new and exciting initiatives, it’s essential to demonstrate your business’ value to your customers. Learning to market your services effectively will aid in client acquisition and retention.
- Knowledge of CRM software. If CRM sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is! Client relationship management is no small task for an entire customer service team, let alone a solopreneur. But don’t worry — with the right tools, a lot of the processes can be automated. With effective CRM software, business owners only have to focus on the most essential parts of client management.
Looking to dive headfirst into the world of client relationship management and up your customer service game? We’ve got you covered. Try Practice’s all-in-one client management system today.
5 client relationship management soft skills
Hard skills often take a long time to learn and hone. But even if you don’t have all the necessary hard skills down pat, many client relationship management soft skills can be picked up and practiced on the job. These include:
- Negotiation. As coaches, we’re our own marketing and sales team — so our negotiation skills have to be up to par. Having strong communication skills helps us demonstrate the value of our business to our clients and ask for adequate compensation in return. The ability to reach an acceptable compromise is a large part of customer satisfaction.
- Honesty. While it may seem like a good idea to only tell a client good news, this violates the principle of honesty. To build strong client relationships, we must rely on a foundation of transparency and clear communication — and that includes telling them about hiccups along the way. Clients will appreciate being kept up-to-date and may even choose to join the problem-solving process.
- Interpersonal skills. Customer service is part of the unwritten job description of a coach. When interacting with our clients, we should always maintain a positive attitude and cater to their needs — this makes a great customer experience. We can do so by being genuine, empathetic, and thoughtful in our communication.
We can develop our social skills to ensure we’re being friendly, warm, and welcoming to our customers. We can also work on active listening — being attentive and creating a productive dialogue — when clients come to us with concerns.
- Resilience. Running a business and managing clients comes with bad days. A computer crashes, an important document is missing, or a client is short with us. It happens. Being able to bounce back from disappointment is key to entrepreneurship, and resilience plays a key role in managing client relationships. Clients may not always be cooperative or polite. Keeping your cool and knowing not to take things personally is easier said than done, but if you can master this skill, it’ll relieve a lot of the stress and frustration that comes with client management. This is another opportunity for mindfulness — remember to care for yourself and your emotions after a long day.
- Strategic thinking. Goal-setting is important both for ourselves and our clients. As business owners, we have milestones and metrics we’d like to achieve. Mapping out how to execute steps towards these outcomes is essential for business success.
On the other hand, as coaches, our clients rely on us to guide them toward their personal goals. Strategic thinking not only helps us on the business administration side, but also improves our ability to serve our clients!
How to excel at client relationship management
Now that you understand the skills that make excellent client relationship managers, let’s put them to work. Here are some ways you can implement your soft and hard skills:
- Value face-to-face interactions. While it might not be possible to hold every face-to-face, we should endeavor to meet this way with our clients whenever we’re introducing ourselves or discussing an important topic. Whether it’s in-person chats or meetings over a video or phone call, speaking face-to-face adds a personal touch to our services. Plus, it allows us to use our interpersonal skills and smooth out communication.
- Stay professional. When meeting with clients, we want to demonstrate we’re friendly, capable, and knowledgeable. This means arriving on time to meetings dressed appropriately and with all the materials and resources we need already prepared. Since we want our clients to find value in every interaction, the last thing we want to do is waste their time or appear unprepared. Additionally, we must always conduct ourselves politely and calmly. Even amid a disagreement, coaches should never take things personally. Instead, we should empathize with our clients and focus on reaching a compromise.
- Be available. Aside from regular meetings, it’s important to let our clients know we’re available to provide further support at other times during the workday. Opening up our schedules to clients needing our help prevents the coach-client relationship from feeling transactional and superficial. When we can assist with unexpected hurdles, we show that we care. Being available to our clients also means using their preferred method of communication whenever possible. We should strive to be available in a number of ways so each client can choose the method that works for them.
- Ask for feedback. The best coaches focus on constant learning and improvement for themselves and their coachees. Collecting feedback is a great way to determine what improvements are most valuable to clients.
Since our coachees are our first priority, we want to ensure our business decisions align with their needs and wants. Implementing regular feedback collection into the client journey helps us stay on track for achieving customer success. Feedback mechanisms can come in the form of marketing campaigns, CRM software, or one-on-one meetings with clients.
Master your management skills
Client relationship management is no easy task, especially for a solopreneur. But it’s far from impossible — with the right mindset, skills, and some practice, anyone can become a CRM whiz. And remember: you’re not going to nail it on the first try. Be patient with yourself, take our advice, and stay positive.