It’s Not You, It’s Me: Tips for Successful B2B Client Communications
When your business provides a service to another business, you’re the vital link between them and their customers. Small businesses, startups and corporate enterprises depend on business-to-business (B2B) consultants, agencies and service providers to:
- Help them reach their target audience
- Sell them products that increase their productivity and efficiency
- Generate leads, inquiries and sales
- Give technical assistance with legal issues, information technology and human resources
- Maintain offices, equipment and vehicles
However, it can sometimes be difficult to communicate effectively with your clients.
When you’re on the receiving end of a challenging client interaction, it can be difficult to avoid taking it personally.
As a business owner or agency employee, you naturally hold yourself responsible for satisfying your clients needs.
It’s important to remember that communication is a two way process. While you can’t control what your client says, you can enhance your communication skills to increase your chances for successful client interactions.
The Words Get in the Way
Sometimes clients aren’t necessarily unhappy with the work you are doing. It’s the communication that’s the issue. And sometimes it’s not the frequency of communication – they may be getting the reports and updates. It’s the words you’re using when you’re giving updates or answering questions.
They might not understand jargon or remember technical terms. Therefore, be mindful of using jargon and when you do, explain what it means.
You should also be aware your client’s style of speaking. If they use graphic phrases like “hash out a solution” you may want to use soft phrases like “bring clarity to this situation”? This redirects the tone of the conversation.
Similarly, practice active or reflective listening. During the conversation, use phrases like “I just want want to make sure I understand the issue…” or “So what I hear you saying is…” Summarizing what the client has said to you shows them that you are trying to understand their needs.
Feedback or Pushback?
When clients give you feedback and it feels like pushback, ask for clarification. For example, use phrases like:
- “Tell me more about why you don’t like this…”
- “Tell me more about why this is important to you?”
- “Help me understand how this helps reach your target audience?”
- “Can you tell me what challenge you are trying to solve?”
This way you are not rejecting a client’s feedback out of hand. You are seeking more information so you can frame a solution.
Also, acknowledge the client’s position and then shift the focus to resolving the issue. Use phrases like “I can see how you thought that” or “I can understand your thought process.” This will move the discussion beyond the complaint and towards finding a solution.
If you can’t identify a solution during the conversation, tell the client you will consult with your team and follow up at another time.
Use All Your Tools
Today’s world is fueled by technology. However, email doesn’t always help you effectively communicate with your clients. Emails can be rushed through or only partially read or not read at all. Sometimes the words in emails can be misunderstood. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone, schedule an in-person meeting or set up a video call when necessary.
However, email is very useful when it comes to follow up. Immediately after your conversation, send your client an email summarizing what you’ve discussed. Include the feedback they shared, what issues were settled and any follow up actions they can expect from you. This will make things measurable and give the situation some closure.
Both you and your clients are experts. Your areas of expertise are different but your overall goal is the same: customer satisfaction. The key to reaching this goal is effective communication. Successful client interactions are built on listening to clients and being intentional with your words. You don’t always have to tell clients what they want to hear but you do need to deliver the message in a way that will help you deliver on their goals.