When I first started my career, I was inexperienced and approached clients with an agenda to push. I felt like being aggressive in making a sale and connecting with a client was the key to success when working with executives, especially those more experienced than me.
However, over time, I’ve learned that being effective in front of a client involves mostly observation and listening. Instead of pushing, you have to be open to receive. Picking up on verbal and nonverbal signs offers clues on how to craft solutions that meet a client’s needs, identify areas for improvement, or even change the approach altogether. Ignoring these signs can make you appear disconnected and out of tune with what the client needs.
People in client-facing roles, such as account managers, sales representatives, and consultants, could benefit from the lessons I’ve learned. Here, I want to share insights on client-facing skills and why they matter, as well as tips on how to develop them.
What Are Client-Facing Skills?
Client-facing skills are what’s needed for people, as service or product providers, to interact with customers, clients, or anyone receiving the fruits of their labor. These skills include the ability to listen, engage in dialogue, ask questions, solve problems together, and tell stories that are relevant to your audience. They also help you determine what information is needed from a client or customer so that you can provide the best service possible. What’s more, they’re essential if you want to build lasting relationships with clients who appreciate your work and recommend it to others.
Why Are Client-Facing Skills Important?
These skills help you connect and interact with the people to whom you provide services or products. If the ideal interaction involves zero friction, you know you’ve delivered your work in a way that meets or exceeds your clients’ needs. The skill surfaces when you absorb all information from them and use it to shape solutions that mirror their expectations.
A good example of how missing social cues in a meeting can harm a client engagement is when you fail to notice their frustration or confusion and continue pushing your idea. This can lead to a negative experience as they may feel their opinion is overlooked, potentially damaging the relationship.
How to Develop Client-Facing Skills
- Observe and listen – This is at the core of developing client-facing skills. Pay attention to what your clients need and show genuine interest in their concerns.
- Follow-up and summarize – If you have doubts or need clarification, send a summary email or make a phone call to confirm what’s being done. This can go a long way in fostering effective communication.
- Shadow senior colleagues – Spending time observing senior people in meetings provides valuable learning opportunities.
- Practice – Get hands-on experience managing communications on a project and interacting with clients. Learning from others is essential, but personal experiences will serve as your best coach.
- Embrace feedback – Be open to feedback from both clients and coworkers, and use it as an opportunity to grow and excel in your role.
- Stay adaptable – Flexibility matters when working with diverse clientele. Stay open-minded and adjust your strategies to accommodate different personalities and communication styles.
For some people, these skills come naturally, while others may struggle. The key is to find a style that works best for you and continuously hone these skills as you progress in your career. Effective client-facing skills can be a game-changer, impacting both your personal and professional development.