The key to a successful relationship with your clients is just that – a relationship. You need to be there for them and they need to trust you. They also need to know that you have their best interests at heart and that you care for the same important things that they do. But how do you find out what that is?
We can turn to the world of personal and professional coaching for some insights.
A professional coaching relationship, unlike the relationship with a mentor, a teacher or a manager, is about the questions. The client is the expert in his or her field; the coach is the expert in asking insightful questions that help the client get to the nugget of what really matters.
You can be a coach to your client. It will help you get to know them better, to ensure values alignment, and help you to deliver quality work that is appreciated and rewarded.
Some questions to ask:
What are you looking for? Determine your client’s future vision, their goals for the project. Likely, you already ask a question like this, or something along the same theme. However, most consultants and free-lancers stop here. This does not, however, get you to the core of your client’s needs and interests.
And if you got that, what would that get you? Let’s say your client is looking for a new letterhead design. You now have the answer to the first question above. But what if they did get their new letterhead design? What would that get them? (Apart from a new letterhead design…) Might it get them a more professional image? Might it get them a more modern image? A better connection with their corporate values? A segue into a new product market? There is a reason they want the new shiny thing – you need to find out what that is, and then ask…
And what’s important about that? What’s important to them about looking professional? Or looking modern? Or moving into that new product market? Or connecting with those values? This helps to ensure that your delivery to them really helps them to move in the desired direction in a meaningful way. And then…
What would success in that area look like to you? If they succeeded in getting that new professional image, what would that mean to them? What would be different? What would be successful in the future? Digging further into the importance and vision of your work, from a client’s point of view, will help you as you creatively provide solutions.
Overall, engaging in a meaningful series of questions with your client before embarking on the work will help you to develop an important relationship with your client – one where they know that you care about them personally and professionally, not just as a one-off client gig. When the client feels heard and understood, creativity comes easier for you, as well as the potential for repeat business. Happy coaching!
Lisa Sansom is the Founder of LVS Consulting. A certified coach and positive psychology practitioner, Lisa helps businesses, teams and individuals be at their best. For more information, please visit
LVS Consulting or email Lisa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.