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How to Build Client Relationships One by One

Scott Scanlon HuntsCanlon.com

There is a fine line between engaging in a transaction and forging a partnership, says Greg Richter, who heads the In-House and Interim Legal Talent at Major, Lindsey & Africa. Here are his insights into forging lasting ties with clients.

Building a relationship with a new client starts with a conversation. That sounds obvious and simple enough. Yet that conversation is a significant event. Maybe it is the beginning of a single transactional assignment. Or maybe it is the start of a rewarding partnership that will go on for years.

In either case, said Greg Richter, global head of the In-House and Interim Legal Talent at Major, Lindsey & Africa, a recruiter should enter into such discussions thoughtfully and with a grasp of what one seeks to learn in the process.

The recruiter no doubt already knows his or her industry. And anyone who specializes in any given function surely knows that area inside and out. What the consultant is lacking, however, is a thorough understanding of the would-be client sitting in the opposite chair. "When you begin that conversation at the 30,000 foot level, begin it with the intention of actually getting to know your client," said Mr. Richter in a recent tete-a-tete with Hunt Scanlon Media. "Listen, truly listen, to what is going on in their world. Ask open-ended questions that will lead to you understanding where they are, the journey they are on and what their ideal state looks like."

"Be mighty curious. When you listen for their pain points and for the challenges that are vexing them, you open a door to a deeper conversation about strategy and are put in a position to prescribe the right solutions. This is the first step toward trust, which is the cornerstone of any long-term relationship."

Be Empathetic

This is active listening, Mr. Richter explained. It demands a high level of emotional intelligence, which allows the listener to be deeply empathetic and develop a true understanding of what the client is experiencing in terms of challenges and pains. "If your client feels that you are interested in more than the transaction and that you want to truly understand and help them get to where they want to go, then you are going to set a different tone — that of a partnership, where you are acting as a strategic advisor and working in the trenches with your client to facilitate change," said Mr. Richter. "You want any client to walk away feeling like the time they spent with you was extremely valuable and that you were able to help them think through challenges better than they could have without you."

Keep Your Promises

In building a lasting partnership, Mr. Richter said, the search assignment itself is critical. Quality is of the essence, in both the services a recruiter provides and the types of candidates that are presented. "That quality is what will back up and serve as the proof point to all the talking you have done until now," said Mr. Richter.

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