Build Better Business Relationships - Never Lose Another Client | Nick Armstrong | Skillshare

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Build Better Business Relationships - Never Lose Another Client

teacher avatar Nick Armstrong, I make marketing FUN.

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      What you'll learn: never lose another client!


    • 2.

      Strategy 1: Set proper expectations: teach clients how to work with you


    • 3.

      Strategy 2: Cool tempers - a 60-second exercise


    • 4.

      Strategy 3: Find problems fast - active listening to solve problems


    • 5.

      Strategy 4: Document, reset, realign


    • 6.

      Strategy 5: Build leeway with simple things


    • 7.

      Recap + Project


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About This Class

What if you never again lost a client due to disagreements or misunderstandings? How much money would that save your business? How much stress would that save you?

Clients are the lifeblood of every business endeavor, losing just one can have major implications for your budget and ability to keep yourself in business - even more so if you are a freelancer or solopreneur.

This class will teach you:

  • How keeping your clients happy doesn’t mean “the customer is always right”
  • Strategy #1: Set Proper Expectations - prevent future issues with smart policies
  • Strategy #2: Freeze Hot Tempers - 60-second plan to freeze hot tempers and push the pause button on client conflict
  • Strategy #3: Find The Problem Fast - discover, understand, and fix the source of the problem
  • Strategy #4: Document, Reset, Realign - recover, reorganize, and rebuild the client relationship to keep your current clients happy
  • Strategy #5: Build Leeway With Simple Things - build rapport and trust that'll save you frustration later

Who is this guy and how does he know about business?
I’m Nick Armstrong: the Geek-in-Chief behind WTF Marketing, dad, author, Ignite, PechaKucha, Startup Week, and TEDx speaker, audio drama enthusiast, and award-winning entrepreneur. Through WTF Marketing and partner organizations, I’ve served a wide array of happy clients ranging from mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 100’s. I’ve co-organized community events like Fort Collins Comic Con, Startup Week Fort Collins, TEDxFoCo, Ignite Fort Collins, LaidOffCamp/CareerCamp, PodCamp Fort Collins, and more. My local efforts landed me a prestigious spot as one of BizWest’s 40 Under Forty in 2016 and the Colorado Association of Libraries’ Library Community Partnership Award in 2018.

If you're launching something new, my classes can help you:

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Nick Armstrong

I make marketing FUN.


I'm Nick Armstrong and I make small business FUN.

I'm the Geek-in-Chief behind WTF Marketing, Fort Collins Startup Week, and Fort Collins Comic Con. I'm a dad, author, speaker at Ignite, PechaKucha, and TEDx, audio drama enthusiast, and award-winning serial entrepreneur.

More than anything, I love to make people laugh, especially while I'm teaching.

I want YOU to learn how to have fun in every aspect of your business and my classes are built specifically around fun, actionable projects.

Ready to make your business fun? Check out my courses below...

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. What you'll learn: never lose another client!: Have you ever lost a client because of a misunderstanding or communication air that became so catastrophic that the client didn't want to work with you anymore? What if that never had to happen again? What if you could take all that stress, that anxiety of whether or not you were going to get paid or if you had to finish the work if you weren't going to get paid? Or if you need to call a lawyer to talk about your contract? What if all of that anxiety didn't have to happen again? My name's Nick Armstrong, and I've owned my own business for eight years, and over the last eight years I've made a lot of mistakes. But I've also learned how to communicate well with clients and how to set expectations at front so that they know how to work well with me and want to come back for more work. What I'm gonna teach you in this class is how to set those expectations up front because the customer isn't always right. But neither you as the business owner, how to work those two different conflicting points of view together into a proper set of expectations. and processes that will serve you in your business and your clients. Well, for many years to come, I'm gonna talk about also how to cool down hot tempers so that when those conversations get a little heated, you can bring it back down to Earth and bring it back into a productive relationship. I'm gonna talk about how to listen effectively so that when your client brings an issue to you that you might not think is a big deal but is a major issue for them, how you can address that properly so that they feel cared for and listen to. I'm gonna talk about how to properly document, reset and realign expectations after an issue so that when you do have conflicts that boil over, that they aren't so catastrophic that you lose the work and that you have to look for another client to pay your bills that month. I'm also gonna talk about some simple things that you can do to buy leeway and build yourself a little buffer room so that when you do make mistakes, you will have a little bit of patients from your clients to fix the issue and get back to work. Let's get started 2. Strategy 1: Set proper expectations: teach clients how to work with you: How long do you spend on teaching your clients how to work with you? Is it five minutes, maybe bullet point email or introductory email? That sort of explains your process. I tell you what I did at the very beginning of my business. I did nothing. I sent my contract and I hoped, and I prayed that they would understand every single line item and never question it. And that is a recipe for disaster. Don't do that when I send my contracts now, I also make sure that we go over it line by line by line, and that way my clients fully understand what it is that they're committing to. They understand what I'm committing to as far as the scope of work, and we can clarify any questions or issues or irritations right there on the spot before they become catastrophic issues. Teaching your clients to work with you and how toe work well with you is one of the most important things that you can do as a freelancer or small business owner. I don't think a lot of small business owners or freelancer spend it even like five or 10 minutes on this and it becomes a really big roadblock to their success and their profits and their cash flow. It's a huge hindrance. There are really easy ways to make sure that your clients and you are on the same page when you sit down to the negotiating table to sign that contract. The first is make sure that from moment one, the marketing messaging on your website, your business cards wherever else market to the meeting, the words you say, how you say them, the tone in your voice continuing on through your contract to make sure that the terminology you use the phrasing, the words, the tone that you use that way that it's structured all of these things have the client centred first and that they also protect you. All of these things need to be consistent, and most of them should be goalposts. They should be easily identified in the contract. They should also be easily identified to the client so that they know that you're going to check in two weeks in three weeks in four weeks in and then after the project. One week, two weeks, three weeks after the delivery ble so that they know that you're going to be consistent as you do this. If you announce that you're going to do a thing, you also have to do the thing. So make sure that it's something that's feasible for you, and that works well for you. The most important question to ask yourself is when setting these expectations up front, where have most of my clients encountered issues along the process of working with me? If you can answer that question and write down 5 10 bullet points, you now have terms in your contract that you can update when you have conflict right down the source of the conflict. Try to identify what's happening and why, so that when it happens, you can write it into your contract. This is an important lesson. I learned from Moment one of my business. I once had a client early on in my business. Pay me 90% of a contract because I was one pixel off of a design and I didn't have any terms in my contract that precluded their ability to do that. So it seems like a ski easy sort of thing to do, and at the time I was really incensed about it. Now it's in my contract. If you make a partial payment, you get a fee. And I stopped that from happening. It's never happened again. I have never been paid less than what I asked for from a client because of that line in my contract, any time that I had a little bit of brain damage from a client, something that really irritated me or really was impactful of just a we butted heads and now we're both irritated. I wrote it into my contract, and that is the easiest method to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself. When you have issues with clients. If you can make sure that any time you have an issue with the client, it doesn't matter what identify the source, identify the cause, write it into your contract, make sure that you cover line by line each item in the contract to make sure that your clients understand what they're agreeing to and that they understand what scope of work you're agreeing to. In the next lesson, we're gonna talk about how to freeze hot tempers 3. Strategy 2: Cool tempers - a 60-second exercise: How often do you say things to clients that you wish you could take back, especially when they come to you with an issue or a problem? Pretty frequently. I know early on in my business, it was pretty frequently. That was, until I discovered that there's a really simple technique to calming down flaring tempers, whether it's yours or your clients. The 1st 15 seconds, all you have to do is say, I'm sorry. I understand that we're having a problem. Do you mind if I take a minute here to figure out how we can figure it out together? That's why I have to say the most important part is I'm sorry. Don't say I apologize, Okay, cause I apologize Is weak language. It's sort of up there with eulogize something that you are doing for the guy in the coffin , right? I am apologizing for this thing that I'm looking at you. You don't want passive language in an apology. What you want is I'm sorry. I understand that we have an issue. Let's work through it together now. Specific words after I'm sorry can be your own. Let's work through it together is a nice touch because it, you know, it creates a bridge of understanding. Now they might be so flared up and shut that they're going to just, like, walk away. Okay? If they are so upset at you that they don't want to talk then and they're just bringing up in issue to put it in your face, that's fine. Let them walk off and let them do their own thing, cause you might lose that client anyway. But for clients that air say verbal and not abusive, you can do this. Say, I'm sorry. Would you help me to understand where the problem is so that we can work on it together? And then you shut up? You don't say anything for the next 30 to 45 seconds while they work through the issue and tell you what the problem is now it might take them if they're really mad. 10 to 15 seconds or so, and if they're not really mad, it'll take them a little bit longer. If they've had some time to think about it Now, if they've got cold anger, then you're probably gonna lose that contract. But if they are recoverable, then you can figure out how to get through to them based on what they say in that problem statement after they've had their say, The very next thing you say is thank you. What I think I've heard you say is and then you repeat it back to them, using your own words. But you make sure to include the emotions that they said during the problem statement. So as they're going off, you say Okay, you're frustrated because of this and that and the other thing, and so okay, and then the very next thing you say is thank you. What I think I've heard you say, is this and then they will either restate the problem or they will mitigate some of the things along the way that were caused by the temper flaring up right, Either yours or theirs. And the other thing that this does is it gives you a script to avoid becoming defensive. Because of you become defensive. You lose the client. Simple. Is that if you say oh, well, you know, I was sick and my kids were sick and my dog was sick in my truck blew up and we had all these problems. That's not on them. Right. You will lose the client there. The best thing you can do in your situation is to say I'm sorry. Would you help me understand the problem? A little bit better. Could you explain to me where we went off track? Then you shut up and you let them do their thing. You take notes about the emotions. What's going on? What's the specific problems? What are some of the consequences that they're listening? And maybe they're, you know, still hot under the collar about it. And they're trying to say, you know, like they're trying to put more blame on you than you actually deserve, but you're giving them a chance to vent. Once you've given them that chance event, you can turn around and say, Okay, thank you. What I think I've heard you say is this and you reiterate and then they will mitigate for you because it de escalates every time you do this. Now, once you got to the the root of the problem, you can then say Hey, thanks for explaining that to me. Could you mind if I take a few minutes to brainstorm a solution that I think will work for both of us. And that's the moment where you let yourself off the hook of either the guilt or the defensiveness of being attacked. Because in that moment that those two emotional states, whichever one you're in, or both, if you're in both of those emotional states, that's really not a good place to negotiate. From what you do by saying, Hey, thanks for explaining that to me. Do you mind if I take a minute to brainstorm a solution that might work for both of us? That gives you a few minutes to calm down and to think up a solution that won't give away the farm? And it won't get the client all riled up because it's too stingy in those 60 seconds you are apologizing. You're saying I'm sorry. Don't say I apologize. You are listening actively to their problem. Say, can you please explain to me where we went off track? And then you shut up and you listen actively toe what they're saying? And then you say, Thanks for explaining that to me. What I think I've heard you say is this and that will feel somewhat forced. The first couple of times you do it, but after a while it becomes natural because what you're asking for is a solution. A better understanding of their specific issues will give you a better outcome, right, and that's the position that you want them in. You want them to be in your shoes trying to understand the problem, too, because that's reciprocal. It's not one person battling another. It's a reciprocal communication and that reciprocity is the thing that takes those temperatures down a notch, and it only takes 60 seconds. Once it's done, you can say Thanks for explaining that to me. Would you mind if I take a few minutes to brainstorm a solution that might help both of us ? And that is how you avoid giving away the form. It's also how you avoid a rage. Quit on a client that is, you know, trying to take too much. Now, if it's a truly an abusive client, don't do that. Let him loose if they're not worth it. But if it's a client that you have enjoyed working with except for his, like some minor issues with the contract or whatever else train, save it as best you can. In the next lesson, we're gonna talk about how to find a problem fast 4. Strategy 3: Find problems fast - active listening to solve problems: in that 62nd exercise, we talked a little bit about proper listening and active listening. So aside from shutting up, what does that look like? Well, I'm actively listening when somebody comes to me with a problem. You did this. And I'm so frustrated because of this and that and the other thing and we do you know, when they're saying that I'm listening for three things. The first is I'm listening for the cause of the problem. What happened that created this problem. The next thing that I'm looking for, I'm looking for the emotion. What is the emotion that they're feeling so that when I repeat it back to them, I can match my empathy to their emotion? I understand That's really frustrating. And it is really frustrating, right? And so I'm not just sitting here like, Oh, that sounds frustrating, Which is condescending. You want empathy, not condescension. And I'm looking for consequences. What were the consequences of the problem that were frustrating? Okay, that natural frustration that occurs across the span of a project, just a buildup of minor frustrations. Over time, you could buy yourself a lot of leeway by reducing irritations, inconveniences and minor frustrations because those are the things that turn into big flare ups when lots of money is on the line or lots of scope is on the line and there, depending on you now understand that you cannot get defensive throughout this entire listening process. It's really tough. You have to separate your ego from the work. Your ego cannot be involved in this, and if it is, you need to take a step back and figure out how to deflate your ego a smidge so that your ego is not attached to the work that also had a few minor bugs in it. OK, if you can remove your ego from it and understand that the client has already done the thing that they needed to do and is going in fact beyond by telling you. By the way, there was a problem here, and I think you need to be alerted to it. They're doing you a favor. That is the best thing that a client, aside from paying, you can dio and referring you write paying, referring cool, but also tell me if there was a problem so I can fix it for next time. So that other clients who might be less understanding than you won't bail on me, right? That is a super valuable exercise. We also talked about buying a little time before guilt or defensiveness could interfere with your decision of what to do in response to this problem that's been presented to you When it comes to the solution, you don't want to let guilt or defensiveness rule your response. That's why you buy yourself some time. But let's say you come up with those responses of what you're able and willing to do that air sustainable for your business, and the client still meant, What do you do then? Well, you can pause the anger by saying, I feel like a delivered some ideas here that maybe are not in line with what you were thinking. It's a solution. Can you tell me some things that might work well for you? When you create a solution, you're trying to create something that works for both of you. If the client is out to punish you, then you need to start thinking about looking at other solutions, getting a lawyer, whatever us. But if the client is really genuinely wanting to work with you on a solution and is upset is wanting to work out something. Then you're in a good position to negotiate. And the next lesson we're gonna talk about how to document had a reset and realign relationships. 5. Strategy 4: Document, reset, realign: building better business relationships is all about how you handle conflict when it happens , because everybody is happy when everything goes hunky dorey. But when things go off the rails and you can respond well and not just well but exceptionally then you have just earned a longer term relationship with that client when it comes down to whether or not they will stick long term. You also have to consider whether or not you documented the issue well. And if you didn't document the issue, well, then you are prime ing yourself to go out and open old wounds again, which is just the worst thing you can do in your position. So we've gone through how to cool off flaring tempers. We've gone through how to listen. Well, we've gone through how to identify the problem fast. But what we haven't done is talk about how to document the problem because you don't want to step in the same puddle that you stepped in before documenting in some sort of crm for the client is really important so that they know that along the course of work this problem occurred. This is what we talked about. This is how the problem made you feel, and this is what we did to solve it. Now here's where you can have a little bit of fun. You can actually send a thank you note or, ah, sympathy about my screw up card or other things that might get them toe laugh and joke around with you. You could mention it as part of the thank you note that you send to them whatever it is that you do at the end of your contract, your wrap up phase. If you want to joke about it, that's great. You can even ask to include him as a case study on your blog's that might get a couple giggles. You want to document the issue not just for them, but for your sake as well, so that when you have an issue with a client, it goes straight into your contract as a future line item. If it's applicable, right. So if you had a typo in your in your contract, maybe you make your dates easier and more actionable for you to see so that you don't create that same type of error again. Learning from your mistakes is one of the most important factors in your business. Longevity. If you can't figure out how to not repeat history when the history is bad, you're gonna have a really hard time in business. Finally, I want you to think about reviewing your contract monthly and using a proactive I toe look for issues that might come up in the future. Things that maybe they didn't create conflict. Or maybe there was a little bit of ah, hesitation on the part of the client when you explained it. Those things they might not have created an issue per se, but they might be signs and markers for a future issue that's coming down the pathway for you in our next lesson. What we're gonna talk about is how to build up leeway with your clients so that you don't have to burn bridges every single time you make even a little tiny mistake 6. Strategy 5: Build leeway with simple things: When's the last time that a business really went out of their way to surprise you that you were so impressed with the thing that they did that you have to talk about and recommend them to others? This is the level of surprise that we're looking for when you engage with your clients, because these are the things that build up leeway. So do you remember the names of their Children? The clients? Children? Do you remember the ages of their Children? Did you get them an age appropriate book as a thank you for signing on with your company? Did you send a thank you note? Did you send a business anniversary card? This is the first date of the day that we work together. Here's Ah, here's a thank you note and a $5 gift card to a coffee shop that you like. Do you remember that they like tea and not coffee that's happened before? Do you remember that they don't have kids or that they're not married? Or did you see that they had a sickness or car wreck and you sent them a sympathy card? Or note the's air? The things that build up trust and the more trust that you build up, which is what clients need When things go wrong, things go off the rails and they don't know that you're in their corner. That's when conflict begins. Building better relationships is all about remembering. The other party is important, too, that they're the hero of their own story. If you act like the only hero in the story, they're not going to feel very respected. Your clients air going to know that they're going to act appropriately, and then they're going to become the only option that's left if they also want to be a major character, which is the antagonised, the villain and you don't want that. So there is no reason to treat the client, the customer, all of their stakeholders, everyone that you meet in their business up and down the road. There's no reason to treat them as if they aren't the heroes of their own story, because they are the other way besides the shock and all the while type stuff that you can do. The easiest way to build a buffer is to reduce irritations, inconveniences and frustrations that are minor, right? So like Oh, could you send me that password one more time again, or could you send me the log in data or I don't know, You sent this to me already, but could you give me the data on the's air? All inconveniences, right. The client doesn't need to deal with this. This should not be on their plate. They should not be tasked with these little minor inconvenience type things that are just simply like reminders. They're not your personal assistance, even though they might have the data. When that happens in reverse, when the client asks you for something silly that you know, you've sent 100 times, send it to them anyway with grace. And if you don't, you're going to create a conflict in that same way where you're burning, trust every little irritation, inconvenience, nit. Pick all of those things. Diminish that buffer of trust that you're building up piece by piece, email by email, and eventually you're left with none. And that's not a place you want to get to because that doesn't build a better relationship . The same thing is true about reminders on dates. If you can give them a good reminder. Well, in advance of when they need to give you something, or if you can give them a little bit of wiggle room when they don't deliver something on time that you are waiting for to complete their project. If you can give them a little bit of buffer and you've built it into the project because you've been there, you know it's a problem and you know that they don't deliver on time, then you can actually create that buffer for them and give them a little bit of breathing room, which is the most significant way to build trust with a client is if you can let them off the hook when they have issues, they will return the favor and let you off the hook. When you have issues, that's what business is all about. It's people dealing with people, and people are fallible. So give as much leeway as you can afford in the type of leeway that you would like to see reciprocated in the next video, we're gonna talk about our project and do a quick recap 7. Recap + Project: building better business relationships. The heart of doing that is all about how you handle conflict when it comes up, everybody's happy when it's hunky Doory. But when things go off the rails, how do you react? That's what we've been talking about in this class. The first thing that we talked about was how to set the proper expectations. And if you set the proper expectations in your marketing, your tone, your contracts, your progression along the project. If you set the right deadlines, how you deliver those if you communicate well throughout the work and how you follow up. If all of those things are in line, then you have set proper expectations throughout. As you encounter issues, if you can cool tempers rather than causing them to flare, you're doing well. You using that 62nd exercise, you're saying things like, I'm sorry, and could you help me understand the problem? And what I think I've heard is, and those three phrases, when used together in conflict occurs, are so powerful that they can freeze a temper in its tracks. If you're doing a great job in listening, then you are finding not only the problem, the cause of the problem. You're listening for the emotion of the problems. Well, they're identifying the consequences from that problem, too. And all three of those things allow you to avoid similar mistakes or similar burrowed blocks in the future with that client. And also, it allows you to make a better solution because you've bought yourself that little bit of leeway that allows you to not let guilt or defensiveness influence your solution. Next, we talked about documenting those issues that you find when you have conflict with a client not only documenting it and the solution in the timeline of the solution for the client, but documenting it for yourself. So, you know, if the repair work did its job, was it effective? Was the solution effective? Was the timeline okay? Did it cause you to overrun your buffer with other clients? Did you create other problems that you weren't aware of? And finally, did the issue that came up go into your contract so you can avoid making the same mistakes again in the future? If you notice a pattern of mistakes, do you have a mechanism to correct it? Finally, we talked about how to build that buffer by reducing irritation, reducing inconveniences and reducing minor frustrations but also building in time for big wow moments into your work. Each of these things is an important step to making sure that you're building better business relationships. So here's what I'd like you to do for your project. There's two parts. The first is I want you to identify an issue that you encountered with a client and how you solved that with a line item in your contract so you don't have to identify the client or anything else like that. But you do have to tell us what happened that caused a problem and then tell us in one or two sentences. What is the new line item in your contract that allows you to prevent that from happening? Next is I want you to identify something that you do in your business that helps build that leeway or that trust. It could be a big thing. It could be a little thing. I just want you identify it and put it in the comments in our class. I hope you had a wonderful time with this class. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out in the comments section, and I'll see you next time