28 Business Habits That Build Loyalty & Reputation

  1. Your #1 task is delivering your best services on time; Just do it.
  2. Emails and Phone messages should be responded to promptly.
  3. Always be on time – are you ready to pay them for the time you’ve kept people waiting? Can you afford the loss in trust?
  4. Plan every conversation, email and meeting as if your reputation depended on your thoroughness.
  5. Your client should see a copy of everything you send or say on their behalf.
  6. Listen carefully, with real interest, even when the client’s conversation doesn’t seem important. They are your client because they trust you; it’s all about the relationship.
  7. Any question asked of you, when you are in the role of a contractor, should be answered, if not immediately, then as soon as reasonable. Get the answer or refer them to someone who can answer it.
  8. Don’t keep people waiting. Imagine every minute they wait reduces their trust by 5%.
  9. Telephone on-hold buttons are a necessary evil. Promise to call people back promptly if you can’t talk with them in 30 seconds.
  10. If your client’s accountant authorizes payment, get to know them. Part of their job is to reduce costs: make sure they know the value of your services.
  11. The process of your contract should be understood in terms of time for each stage and what’s required from the client to ensure smooth delivery of services. Do they know all the approval steps?
  12. If you are making progress with client’s project, let them know; regularly.
  13. When you see client’s ideas or methods could use improvement, don’t tell their staff person who can’t authorize improvements.
  14. Surprises are not appropriate in a report; discuss these items before completion of the project.
  15. If your client is rude, you will lose them if you aren’t careful. It’s an on-going problem for your employees to deal with them, you can politely suggest their work isn’t appropriate for your company.
  16. Never answer a personal call during a client meeting: use voicemail when you can.
  17. Treat the person who has given you a referral as a valuable friend; they have the power to repeat it.
  18. Each contact you have in the client’s office or home is valuable; they can raise or lower your reputation when you aren’t present, during the contract and years into the future.
  19. If you think you have a new client, let them know you are making room on your schedule to deliver full service and attention.
  20. Keep your service in top shape by keeping up on your professional development.
  21. Let current and potential clients know you and your people are up to date and able to deliver professional services.
  22. If you have to increase fees, tell clients right away and what benefit it will have on the work they receive. Tell them in written form, and don’t hide it.
  23. If you are very busy, don’t tell your clients unless you want them to know your services will be reduced.
  24. If you can’t deliver on a service request, tell the client right away so they can take alternative measures to solve it.
  25. Have a file available to all your staff when you require additional information: who needs to know what? Then you can achieve multiple goals with only one interruption.
  26. Ensure all your people involved with a single client know about each others goals, roles and needs.
  27. There are many ways to communicate; ensure all your staff record all communications on a client’s situation and project in a file accessible and used by all concerned.
  28. Changing market conditions create changing needs, within your company and with all your client’s businesses. Find their needs, consider your possible solutions and communicate.


Proposal Essentials

Do you want to bid on this project for this particular client?

Is this potential client strategically valuable?

Do you know this organization well?

This will be an advantage both in understanding the work to be done, and the particular circumstances of the potential client.

Do you know how to complete the work?

You might take one new work to learn a new market or practice area.

What’s the competition on this bid?

If it’s an open RFP (Request for proposal), there will be a number of competitors involved. Is your experience and skills unique, or is low fees your competitive advantage?

What are you willing to spend to get the work?

If the job is worth $10,000 annually, then spending $2,000 is a smart investment. It’s only an $800 fee you want to get them to commit to, you probably have a standard document already prepared and ready to send.


Steps to start

Read through the RFP carefully; if it’s complex, have a colleague go through it independently and then read each other’s notes.

Is the potential clients decision-making criteria clearly spelled out?

Who will be deciding?

What’s the background and authority of the decision-makers? Company presidents are strategic and long term, accountants are trying to save money, managers want to know how easy it is to implement your plan – communicate to the audience on their terms.

Don’t go beyond the RFP. If you are very familiar with the particulars of the situation and potential clients, state that in a separate document, such as a cover letter. Meet with decision-makers if you can. The more important the engagement is, the more information you need. They should take the time if the engagement is crucial to them.

Who do you know who know the potential client? The more ways you do your research, the more your picture of the situation and needs will be accurate.  You understand their situation, or will once they give you the opportunity, and you will be able to deliver a highly tailored solution that fits their requirements.  You have a clear idea of the solution they seek, or how they want you to tell them what they need.

Use the language the different decision-makers use: from strategic to operational to financial.

A logical reason you are the one to deliver the situation.

Facts about your firm: relevant experience, size, history, senior personnel, organization, contacts available to answer their specific questions, key contact who will steer their project.

Processes you use to ensure thoroughness and success in your engagements. Past successes can give you a chance to tell a story: don’t be afraid of being personable.

Schedule and milestones; who reports what and when?

Fees and cost structure; contingency plans in case unforeseen circumstances change the expected tasks required to complete the engagement. The overall message of your firm’s distinction from potential competitors: how is your firm unique and best suited. Communicate your firm’s personality. If the tasks and fees are the same, why should they consider your firm?

Easy to follow: Review the structure of the proposal, use a table of contents and section tabs if it’s large. Make sure your language is easy to understand for non-technical decision-makers. If you are responding to a RFP, itemize your solution in their terms and in their format. You are marketing the trust they should have in your people and their professional abilities; ensure your document builds trust. Use graphics and tables only if they aid communication and clarity.

Develop a balance between persuasion and hard sales language. Promise only what you can deliver. If you get the opportunity for in-person delivery, match the presentation to the document. Be aware of a presentation that relies on technology. Keep it memorable and straightforward.