As international business becomes an increasingly strong revenue stream of many firms, some professionals find they now need to manage relationships with clients who are not in the same country or continent.
Just because you are miles away from a client doesn’t mean you can’t build a really valuable long-term relationship with them. To be successful though, and retain and develop the long distance client relationship, a different approach is needed.
In this post, we share a number of strategies which we’ve found to be effective. Key to all is breaking down the distance barrier and creating the sensation of being close at hand. Do this by always offering help and providing links to information, new and other contacts in their business. Make it seem that you are just around the virtual corner!
Maintain regular contact
It greatly helps to create a practical contact planner or ‘memory jogger’ to ensure you make monthly or bi-monthly contact. Regularity of contact is key. Ask your client about their favoured means of contact. There is little point sending them e-mail updates if these will not be read. Even in these days of ‘e’ communications, some clients like hard copy to read when away from their screen. Others would prefer a call. Don’t waste your time. Find out what they’d value most.
An effective substitute for not meeting face-to-face, is to arrange a quarterly video conference or teleconference with a set agenda of information, enquiries, updates and sector news. Prior to each one, contact your client to get any special requests for information or focus. Also include the client on any relevant webinar programmes your firm may be running. These do not have to relate to your technical offering, but can be of a broad business basis and could be attended by teams on both sides to create a wider sense of close support.
Personalise your approach
Ensure all know-how is tailored or personalised to your client in some way. Generic updates will only serve to exacerbate the client’s sense of distance and disassociation. Build into your programme of contact a couple of ‘off the cuff’ telephone calls, just to ask them how things are going. This will help dispel any sensation that ‘out of sight is out of mind.’ If you are dealing with ex-pats, a little bit of trivial home news on subjects of interest to them will always go down well. Think about the ‘hooks’ that will enable you to contact them with a purpose.
Demonstrate your commitment
Also show commitment to your client by staying up late or getting up early to fit in with their time zone. Ask about their future movements to ensure you take advantages of their visits to your country or nearby. Early notice of these will assist you getting a spot in what is likely to be a busy diary and a short visit. Offer to show them around if their schedule allows this. Likewise, tell them well in advance if you intend to visit their jurisdiction. Make the most of the communication that you generate around this visit.
Be their business partner and ally
Your client will really appreciate it if you help them to make connections in their country – business or social – just as you would with clients closer by. Be their ‘eyes and ears’ in your jurisdiction. Think about information, trends, drivers and people that will be valuable for them to be aware of.
Above all, make it very easy for your client to contact you – provide an alternative person for them to contact in your absence and make available e-mail, mobile phone, office phone and home phone details if appropriate. If you are easily contactable, this will encourage them to turn to you first for advice or help. Your competitors may not give them that same comfort of being just around the virtual corner.
Master the little touches that make you seem close by and communicate in a way your client likes. If you can make each contact valuable for them, your client will really appreciate the effort and attention they get.
The Results Consultancy also run Key Client Management workshops, coaching and e-learning for teams on the topic of managing overseas client relationships. If you would like more information on these please contact us on t: 44 (0) 20 7488 4419 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.