The most valuable asset I have in my business is my client relationships. Even if you stripped away everything else I had, with those relationships, I’d be able to build it all again.

The big “but,” however, is that creating those relationships doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen by accident. So I wanted to share with you just some of the ways I give my corporate clients the love and attention they deserve!

Celebrate their accomplishments. So that I can easily stay “in the know easy,” I have a Google alert set on each of my corporate clients. I also subscribe to their press release feeds. This means that whenever one of them experiences a significant accomplishment or garners a glowing news article, I’m aware of it and can offer up my congratulations in a simple email. (Or flowers when it’s huge!) Trust me when I say that they will take notice of the fact that you noticed.
Make quality referrals. One of the top ways corporate clients find vendors to buy from is by asking for referrals from the vendors that they are already buying from. (Hint: If a client asks you for a referral that shows they respect your opinion!) The challenge here is that the quality of the person or company you suggest will, at least in part, reflect on you. So the advice I give my private coaching clients is this: Make only quality referrals. It’s much better to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know anyone,” versus putting your reputation on the line.
Send helpful information. New studies and reports. Relevant magazine articles. Award opportunities and top rankings. Events they should be attending. Cool online tools that will save them time. These are just a few of the things I like to pass along to my clients. Because they are so busy they appreciate that I’m always keeping their best interest in mind.
Be responsive. Within corporate companies things can move slowly for months. Then something becomes “urgent” and it’s all hands on deck. Stress levels can go from high to nuclear in just minutes. Ironically many outside experts don’t understand this. In fact, being slow to respond to requests is one of the top three complaints that corporate decision makers have about vendors. Build a reputation as someone who gets back to clients quickly and you’ll soon find yourself at the top of their go-to list.
Send gifts. You can’t buy a client’s affection. But sending gifts, when it’s appropriate, is great way to show your appreciation for their business. I like to send holiday gifts. Others suggest doing it when the mood strikes so you don’t set a precedent. Remember that many companies have policies that a gift must be worth $25 or less for an employee to accept it. For defense companies, the best option is to send food that can be shared with the whole department. It’s the one thing they are allowed to accept.
Give honest feedback. One of the not-so-great things about the corporate world is the politics. Because it can be hard to trust others, or show any vulnerability, people in corporate often find it tough to get honest feedback on anything from the direction of a project to making a tough decision. Simply being there as a “sounding board” they can turn to — and giving your honest feedback even when it’s not positive — will help to establish you as a trusted insider.
Bring them lunch. Or breakfast. Or dinner. Offering to take someone out to lunch sounds like a really good idea. However, in reality, it’s often seen as yet one more thing the corporate person has to put on his or her already-jam-packed calendar. So instead, on occasion I like to bring food with me to client meetings — especially on days I know my client is completely swamped and likely hasn’t had a chance to even grab a snack.
Support their causes. I’m frequently asked by my corporate clients to support their involvement in walks, runs, bike rides and other activities to raise funds for the charitable organizations they care about. And I always donate. Each year I decide upfront on a standard contribution amount so that 1.) I have the bandwidth to say yes all year long; and 2.) So that I’m fair to all my clients. Your clients will appreciate a donation of even just $25. Plus, it’s for a good cause and it’s tax deductible!
Respect their time. It would be impossible to over emphasize just how insanely busy people are in corporate companies. If there is just one thing they’ll never have enough of, it’s time. And compared to small business owners like us, they have a lot less control over the little time they do have. So anything and everything you can do to take up less of their time (shorter emails, clear responses) or even “create” time for them (taking things off their plate, offering suggestions that will save them time) will cement you as a valuable partner.
Some of these actions may seem like trivial things, but building relationships is the KEY to unlocking significant corporate opportunities for your business.

Author's Bio: 

Known as The Corporate Agent, Angelique Rewers, ABC, APR, teaches micro business owners and solopreneurs around the world how to grow their small business by working with Big Business. Get her FREE CD and articles at www.TheCorporateAgent.com.