It’s Not You, It’s Me: Tips for Successful B2B Client Communications

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:

  1. Help them reach their target audience
  2. Sell them products that increase their productivity and efficiency
  3. Generate leads, inquiries and sales
  4. Give technical assistance with legal issues, information technology and human resources
  5. Maintain offices, equipment and vehicles

B2B Client Communication | BlueprintMost clients don’t have the technical expertise, time or staff to take care of all the things they need to run their business. That’s why they hired you.

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.

By: Eddie Santiago
  • Aaron Ward

    “Immediately after your conversation, send your client an email summarizing what you’ve discussed.” Great point. This gesture alone can save headaches or the blame game moving forward. Very easy to follow, nice breakdown Eddie.

  • Adam Baxter

    I really like what you said about understanding your clients style of speaking. This will just help you to act relatable to your client, which is really one of the most attractive attribute you can have as a business.

  • Joshua Bains

    Talking with clients – hah – that’s kid stuff, and Eddie knows it…

    Just think about how you speak to kids.

    1. Don’t assume the message got through until you’ve got proof from the client that it did.
    2. Tie your plans to actionable and time based goals.
    3. When the goal doesn’t happen don’t blow your volcano…instead talk about what the impediments were and how to solve those. The person isn’t the problem – it’s the behavior. How do you help the behavior change? (If it was my kid, it would be through changing MY behavior.)

  • Jeff Cline

    Great points Eddie, It’s so easy to use terminology and speak as if your client understands what you are talking about, taking the time to make sure they understand what you mean, and simplifying or relating the process in an analogy can make the difference as much as making sure you are not overloading them with info. Learning the different styles of communication between clients and working to their needs only helps to strengthen partnerships.

  • Samantha Torres

    Follow up emails are a lifesaver! I use them all the time and then they’re great for referencing when looking at what actions need to be taken, as well as reminding all parties of current concerns. These are great for making sure nothing falls through the cracks!

  • Chuniq Inpower

    Eddie, thank you for sharing this! Sometimes we need gentle reminders to better maintain client or business relationships. Feedback and of course listening to that communication can help uncover important issues that may arise during projects. One critical element that is missing is humility; business owners (service providers) should set the tone for these conversations with a humble interest in solution-generating and rapport-building.

  • Naima

    Great article! It’s amazing that simple things like a follow up email can save time and money when it comes to business communication. Thank you for the great tips, Eddie.

  • Elizabeth Weaver

    Eddie, these are great tips. It’s not always easy to comprehend a client’s vision exactly in the way he/she sees it. What you’ve shared here are great ways to really dig deeper and come to a conclusion, rather than wasting time guessing. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Patrick Price

    Emails do leave you with a sense of more understanding after a phone conference. I think even inside of Blueprint, having notes of what was discussed helps us do better business with clients because we make note of what we discuss and make sure to implement it. Good read!

  • John

    This is a thought provoking read. I have a little experience working directly with clients, and definitely agree with everything said here. There’s a lot of depth to this topic; one of the most important things I feel you touched on was being aware of your client’s style of speaking. Things can really go south when someone takes you to mean something you didn’t, judging from the way it was said.

  • Communication is a process. I can’t help but think of the classic line from Jerry Maguire, “help me help you.” It is so important to maintain a service attitude, listen to what the client is really saying and focus on driving results that matter.

  • Victoria Vener

    These are all great points. Good communication is such a huge part of maintaining any relationship, but sometimes it can be hard to remember that in the context of B2B. It’s easy to forget that the person you’re communicating with may not see things as you see them, especially if both sides have a very clear idea of their side of things. I particularly like the clarification request phrases you provided.