There’s no need to fear a client who asks you for a service you don’t offer. If you want lasting partnerships with your clients, then take proactive steps to prepare for the inevitable “do you offer this?” question.
1) Make a list of the complementary services that you don’t offer, and find great partners who offer those services.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Start making a list of services that align with yours. For example, we’re a digital marketing agency, and we design marketing materials. We don’t print any materials in-house. That’s not our expertise. Because we know clients will need print production services after we design their materials, we have established partnerships with printers who understand how we work and our clients’ needs.
There are several benefits to this. We’re not scrambling to offer suggestions to clients when they ask how to get their materials printed. We can confidently describe our relationship with our preferred vendors and offer a seamless experience to our clients. There may be a financial benefit to us and our clients for establishing those relationships. And finally, building a network of vetted partners can help minimize misaligned expectations and mistakes.
Make sure your staff is well-informed regarding preferred partners. They should be able to assist clients in getting the necessary services. Clients will appreciate your willingness to either help secure or completely handle a third-party service. Be a committed partner.
2) Be willing to jump in and help when a client throws a curve ball.
Even if you do your homework and come up with every possible complementary service clients might want, they’ll will ask you for something you never imagined. Don’t brush them off. Ask questions, and help your clients figure out exactly what type of services they do need. Then offer to help them find a good fit.
There are several ways to assist. Ask your extended network for recommendations, and provide them to your client. Visit potential companies with your client — ask questions that ensure your client finds the right service. Briefly research potential companies. Check the Better Business Bureau, or ask for recommendations from the existing client base. This might seem like a lot of work, but there are two reasons it’s worth it. First, you are leaving a positive impression on your client because you are acting like a committed partner. Second, if this client needs a service, your other clients may as well. You’re doing homework now to be able to offer a solid recommendation in the future. That’s going to save some time and energy in the long run.
3) Make sure you’ve clearly defined your services -- and do them better than anyone else.
It’s important in any relationship to bring something of value to the table. Why do potential clients turn into customers? Why do those customers continue using your services? Once you establish you’re the best at offering certain services, clients will make your name synonymous with those services.
This will likely lead clients to ask you about a different service. They think that if you are really good at one thing, you’re probably good at something else. Don’t be afraid to tell them “no” if you can’t provide that additional service to them. However refer back to tip No. 1 and No. 2. Help them find a partner who can fulfill their needs. Remember: This is a service in itself!
If the client decides the grass could be “greener on the other side” and leaves you for another company that offers more services than you, don’t immediately panic. If you have clearly defined services that you do really well — better than your competition — you will most likely see that client again. If his new company just can’t offer the level of service you did, he’ll be back.
How You Help Is Up to You
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how you want to handle clients who ask for a service you don’t offer. You can tell them “no,” and let them seek out an answer on their own. Or you can tell them “no,” and offer valid recommendations and ideas.
Imagine how your clients would react to both situations. If you think they’d appreciate the latter, then start building out a solid network, be willing to help, and become a really solid partner your clients can rely on to help them achieve success.
Originally published Oct 20, 2014 3:00:07 AM, updated July 28 2017