How a Client Relationship is like Dating
by Jennifer Lawrence
Forming client relationships in the business world may seem a bit robotic. If you’ve never had to form relationships with potential business partners, you may think that each connection you make with a client is formed in the same way. Schedule a few meetings, discuss business, sign contacts, and BOOM – the relationship is formed and you just have to keep in contact with them each week. Wrong. Not even close.
Personally, I like to think of the process of forming relationships with potential clients as dating. We date. The same steps you go through forming a relationship with someone you’re crushin’ on replicates the same steps you go through with a potential client. From the moment I begin talking to a potential client to actually making the leap of faith to be “exclusive” with them. It’s not Facebook official or anything, of course because that would be weird, but we definitely start going steady. Let me explain.
Just like the initial mutual attraction you feel when you become interested in someone, the same mutual attraction presents itself when I start working with a new client. The relationship can start in a number of ways including: me reaching out to a company, a company reaching out to Leighton Interactive, or a referral (which I like to call the “blind date”). This stage is exciting – it’s new, it’s fresh, and it makes you think about “what could be” in the near future. Oh, the doodling of our initials on my notebook!
After you’re initially attracted to someone, there’s a stage of uncertainty that takes over. In this stage of the dating game, the nerves are a little high… Do they like me? Do I like them? Do they see a future with me? Do I see a future with them? What the hell am I doing? These are scary questions to think about – dating personally and dating a client. You want relationships to work out, but you have to overcome the uncertainty stage and make sure they’re a good fit. If they’re not, you have to move on. If they are, then you start to get more comfortable with a potential client (and vice versa). At this point, things get a little more serious. And this is when we move to the next stage: dating.
Dating is the opportunity to get to know each other better before making any major decisions. Dating allows both me and potential clients to keep our options open to possibly date other people. The dating stage can be long or can be short – some clients and I start dating fairly fast because we both “have that feeling” that things just feel right. Other times, dating can be drawn out for months, and you know what, that’s OK. Some of the best relationships take time, and dating is how to truly find out if things are the right fit between two brand-new people.
OK, so the dating phase is over – a potential client and I are ready to do this thing. We’re ready to move on from just “dating” each other and are ready to make things exclusive. When I reach this stage with a client, we know and understand each other. We know a lot about each other – how to best communicate, how we like to do our work, even information about our personal lives – and everything just clicks. We’re still growing out the relationship (because no relationship is perfect). We may have some misunderstandings, brief “arguments”, but in the end, we’re together. We’re in this together, and we want the best for each other. I become someone’s person, and they become mine.
From what I’ve just said, it can be understood that if you are someone who interacts with clients on a regular basis – getting new business, networking, growing your core, ect. – you can treat each of those relationships as if you were dating. What you would do in each stage of the actual dating process can be a great reference for what you should do when forming professional relationships as well. Believe me, it works.