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How to make clients your allies

By Sunder Ramachandran
Last updated on: June 29, 2006 13:51 IST

A job switch is a big transition. In our earlier articles, we already gave you the lowdown on the various aspects of this move.

If you are considering one, we suggest that you read our earlier articles. 
6 good reasons for a job switch will tell you whether or not it is the right time to do so. 
Job hunting? Top strategies will help you get started once you have made up your mind to move on. 
Quitting your job? How to resign gives you the right protocol when resigning. 

Whether you are shifting to a new company within the same industry, turning entrepreneur or joining your client as an employee, your clients are as important to you as to your company. More so during this transition.  

You may be faced with several issues, some of them ethical in nature. For instance, must you inform a client that you are leaving the company or must your senior do so? Can you poach your client when moving to the new company? What if your new job is with a client?

We try to answer all these questions and more. 

Communicating the news to your client

It is important to know that the client is aware of your movement to another organisation. However, let your boss do this for you. Ideally, your boss must write a e-mail to the client and make a formal announcement.

If you are friendly terms with your client, it is okay to share the same. But then make sure that you do it informally.

If you intend to inform the client yourself, also inform him about your notice period and that you will make a handover to your replacement.

This will ensure that the client does not feel jeopardised due to your resignation and stops doing business with your organisation.

Client resources
Don't take anything that is owned by the client or your old company. Don't overlook even simple things, like manuals or CD ROMS.

When compiling a portfolio of your work, make sure you are not taking proprietary information or any manuals either. That's a biggie! Just because you created it doesn't mean that you own it.

A company policy or your employment contract may tell you about who owns what. Most of the time it is to the company's advantage. So, it's a good idea to be extra careful about what you take.

It is NOT a good idea to take client-confidential materials and trade secrets. If you get caught, you might even be subject to criminal prosecution.

Poaching a client

It often happens that when you change companies, your client changes vendors too. In other words, because of their personal rapport/work history with you, they will follow you to your next company.

This is common in jobs which are relationship-oriented like financial services, personal services in law firms or sales.

Is it ethical to poach a client?  

Generally the answer is 'no', especially if you are going to work for a direct competitor. 

However, if you have not actively pulled your client but the client follows you anyway, then it is okay.   
The above of course applies ONLY provided you have not signed any restrictive clauses or agreements at the time of joining your old organisation. This is sometimes is the case in high-profile jobs, where the stakes are higher.

Joining the client?

There are times when your client is extremely impressed with your work and offers you a job in their company.

Make sure that the client really wants you for your skills and talent and not to gain insider information about their competitors whom you may be serving as well.

For instance, if your prospective employer starts asking you too many questions about the competitors and their internal strategies, you probably know that there is vested interest in the offer being made. The moment the competitor goes, your job may also be in jeopardy.

Make absolutely sure that the client is not hiring you on a contractual basis. Insist that you be offered a permanent job on the company's payroll.

Do not sabotage or take any information from the parent company that would handicap it or spoil the existing relationship with the client.

How to keep your clients happy

In your current job, if you did not invest time and effort in buidling relationships with your client, make sure you do so henceforth. We tell you how.

Make them your allies

It always pays to develop and maintain a good rapport with your clients. This is because clients can be good allies.

For instance, if you are looking for a new job, a reference or a referral from a delighted client will increase your credibility and help you market yourself better.

Clients can also offer you valuable advice about your business as they are at the receiving end of your services/products. Their suggestions and feedback could be your key to the top position in the company.

When to call clients

  • For feedback on your services/products.
  • When you are proposing/launching a new product/service, get their initial reaction.
  • Make 'Thank you' calls and send 'Thank you' notes. Even a courtesy call now and then works in your favour.

Go the extra mile

  • Remember their birthdays and other important events and make it a point to call or send a card. 
  • Send them information that will help them in their business; give them business leads and referrals. They will truly appreciate this and give you more business in return.
  • Send unexpected gifts and samples. If you find an article, book or an interesting web site, send it across to your client with a note saying "I thought you might enjoy this".

Have you moved jobs before? What were your experiences with clients? Share your tips and experiences

Sunder works as a trainer with a leading global BPO.


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Sunder Ramachandran