I spent some time with a friend recently. She’s an avid gardener, but her own garden had fallen into a state of chaos. Looking out over her newly-landscaped gardens, it was hard to imagine that it had ever been a mess, but she assured me it had.
She’d just let it go – looked at it, time and time again – but never made the time to pull the weeds and cut back the overgrowth. Time flies and, this year, she took a look at it and said: “Enough.”
She brought in some help and cleared the decks. The whole garden was re-done. The weeds were tossed. New, fresh plants were brought in. The works.
Newly-planted gardens don’t exactly wow people, mind you. It all looks a bit bare from the start. But she told me that there is a saying with perennial gardens: The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.
Sound like anything? Because to me, it sounds like the process of building client relationships.
The thing is, if you neglect clients… they wane or die out. But, with enough focus and determination, salvaging even those “lost” clients remains a possibility. And certainly, the kind of thriving, successful business relationships are not made overnight. They, too, sleep, creep, and leap their way into our personal and professional lives.
My advice on building client relationships is always to give first, to give plenty, and to give consistently… but don’t overwhelm your clients with offers and opportunities, or you risk drowning them. Again, the gardening metaphor comes in. My friend loves her garden, but she tells me that she takes her cues from the plants. When they look puny, she waters and fertilizes. She nurtures them, but she by no means smothers them.
After a while, much like the new garden, when a client relationship starts to flourish and offer things up in return, the best course of action is to accept those gifts – and accept them a little at a time. Don’t try and take everything you can get. If you take too much of a new flower at too early a stage, it just won’t grow to be a healthy, strong, sustainable plant. Isn’t the process of building client relationships the same? Too much too soon can be a big misstep.
Nurture and grow your client relationships just as those avid gardeners do with their work. Just dig in, be patient, and the fruits of your labour will pay off.