"Somewhere along the line, I will screw up. I won't return a call, answer an email or give you the attention you deserve. So when that happens, will you do me a favor and let me know? You mean a lot to me and I really value our relationship."
A slice of humble pie might be what we all need early in the courting stage. Relationships are two-sided and require attention and commitment from both parties. If I began dating relationships with this type of commitment, then I probably wouldn't have been crying in my beer on Friday nights. <world's smallest violin>.
At the Legal Marketing Association's (LMA) Annual Conference in Denver, I attended Shari Harley's session "Managing Your Reputation, What They Say When You're Not There." Shari reminded us that managing your reputation starts by asking more questions and assuming less. When an existing client hires someone else, then most likely something went wrong in the relationship. Do you ask the client why or do you just assume it’s too late to do anything about it? Why ask why, right? According to Shari, information is power; power gives you control. "I want you to have more power and control, said Harley. To do that you must ask more and assume less."
A big part of Shari's message is that everyone is 100% accountable for their own career, relationships and business outcomes. What is easily forgotten is that your personal and professional reputation is one of the most precious things you possess. While it's too late to go back to high school and fix that reputation, it is never too late to take control of your professional one today. You can start by using these three straight-forward tips:
- Know your reputation by asking others (clients) what they think of you, what you do well and what you could be doing better.
- Keep your word and do what you say you will do.
- Remember that everything you do makes an impression.
At the beginning of a business relationship tell clients, vendors or the people that work with you what your expectations are. Then ask them what they expect of you and what forms of communication they prefer:
- Do they like email or voicemail?
- Do they like scheduled appointments or drop by's?
- Do they like phone or in-person meetings?
- What are their pet peeves (that's a good one)? What shouldn’t I do?
You need to ask to get answers. Having this information gives you power. Power provides you with control. Hmm, Shari is definitely on to something here.
How do you view and manage your professional relationships?