Building Client Relationships in a Virtual Environment
Working in a virtual environment without the opportunity to make a face to face impression can be difficult at times. In recruitment, it is all about sales and personal connections; working a very process centric environment can add another layer of complexity to the scenario. So, how do you build a relationship of trust and collaboration in a virtual environment?
In my experience, the #1 way of doing this is by using telephone communication vs. emailing.
I know this may seem very obvious, but in this day and age it is very easy to get caught up in electronic communications, as opposed to picking up the phone. Let’s face it, much of the time we’re all very busy and it is easy to send a quick email. I am not opposed to emails by any means; however I think in the beginning stages of rapport building, it is important to use the phone as much as possible. Through phone conversations, you’re able to listen for cues, uncover any issues, get a good sense of personalities, etc. It is also a great opportunity for the person you’re working with to do the same with you. Once you have a solid foundation and connection, the transition to email is feasible, but make sure you’re still picking up that phone and making a connection!
Do you research!
In my position in particular I work with client contacts from all over the U.S. When I am going to be working with someone for the first time, I make sure to do my research before going into my first conversation with them. I make sure that I know about the location they work in, the size of the location, the size of their department, and so forth; I also look them up on LinkedIn. This allows me the opportunity to learn more about their tenure, industry, and career path. I always send them an invitation on LinkedIn as well. Not only does this benefit the size of your network, but it also opens up the door for them to put a face to you name and provides an opportunity to learn more about your background.
Go into your first conversation prepared with the information that you feel is going to be most valuable to the other person.
While also showing that you’ve done your research and have made the effort to get to know them. Find out what is most important to them in the beginning and follow through on delivering these items.
The frequency of contact is also extremely important.
When you’re working remotely, the client cannot easily walk by your desk if they have a question and have very few ways of knowing what is going on with their requisition, or job posting. Often, this can be unsettling to a client, and they can feel as if they are in the dark or a non-priority. I find that with my client, if I keep them updated on the status of their requisition at minimum once a week via telephone they feel much more comfortable and confident that I am going to deliver. In addition, I always make sure to provide them with one written update as well. Most importantly, if I sense that my client is confused, apprehensive or frustrated I do not continue to respond back and forth via email; often, this only further exasperates the situation. Instead, I will immediately pick up the phone and call my client to address any concern. If they are not available, I will leave a voicemail and respond back to the email asking the Client to give me a call at their earliest convenience.
Once you’ve built that solid foundation with the client, use that foundation for all future interactions and take opportunities to remind them that you recall their needs, department and working style. Help your client realize that you understand their needs and are here to assist them with their goals. In a days of technology, we have to work harder than ever; not only to build relationships, but also to develop buy in and trusting work relationships. With a little bit of personal connection and extra effort, it is easier than you think!