Give & Take; Building Relationships with Top Customers

Let’s face it. Spending time with customers strengthens relationships and strong relationships lead to loyalty. And there’s no better way to add value to the time you spend with your clients than during an Advisory Board meeting. 

An article by Andrew Sobel, Value for Time, recently came across my computer screen. In it, he points out that for customers, value can be seen in both giving and getting something in return for their time. He goes on to list ten ways you can increase the value of time spent with clients. I see it as the yin-yang of customer relationships!

What struck me is that nearly every suggestion can be done during an Advisory Board meeting. And better yet, it can be done with your top 15-20 clients all at the same time!

YinYang1.  Conduct a pre-meeting survey. Allow members to provide you with their most important issues and priorities, then include them on the meeting agenda.

2.  In the opening session, ask members the following questions:  “What key initiatives are you working on?” or “What’s top-of-mind?” or “What are you losing sleep over?” Acknowledge that priorities change and allow them to vent for a moment.

3,  Make a list of non-agenda topics that members want to talk about. If time allows conduct a “hot topic” brainstorming session at the end of the day.

4.  Pique their interest early on. Share what’s keeping you up at night and/or include a strategic/industry update from your CEO. Give them something concrete to take back to their own organizations. 

5.  Share a secret or something new that hasn’t yet been announced to the general public. Reward them for meeting with you.

6.  Stretch their thinking and ask a thought-provoking question about the industry. Allow them to give you their perspectives and make an impact to your organization.

7.  Make a personal connection with each member during refreshment breaks and meal events.

8.  Discuss a common problem in an open forum. Allow members to share their own best practices whether or not it pertains to you!

9.  Provide members with a pre-meeting reading assignment so they are prepared for discussions. Allow them to learn something new too. 

10. Focus on client needs, not your own agenda during the meeting. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s all about them!

Relationships of any kind are all about the give and take, the yin and the yang. We feel valued when we are able to give a little of ourselves, our time and our perspectives to help someone else. And that value increases exponentially when we get something in return.

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