1 Maintain effective business support relationships with clients


This is about managing your portfolio of clients, having rapport with each of those clients, whether an individual or a team, and helping to develop their trust in the organisation you work for. This requires you to exercise skills from good listening to account management and the promotion of your organisation’s services.

What you need to show

You must make sure that your practice meets the following requirements.

  1. Maintain contact and exchange information with each client, in the ways that are appropriate and meet their need, through face to face meetings or by phone or e-mail
  2. Encourage clients to judge when and how to share their views and concerns with you and among their team.
  3. Find a style of discussion and exchange that helps an individual client or a client team to be open about business matters
  4. Clarify the roles and needs of different team members if you are working with a client team
  5. Detect if a client is anxious about their business and raise the matter sensitively.
  6. Encourage your clients to clearly explain what they want to achieve, so that you can identify and arrange support services that may help them.
  7. Direct clients who need specialist advice to those qualified to provide such support.
  8. Propose and promote services (including costs) that are likely to meet your clients’ needs.
  9. Advise clients about ways of resourcing, including financing, support for business development and assessing returns on investment.
  10. Make sure that your clients understand the roles and responsibilities of the support process and the limits of any contractual obligations.
  11. Review with clients how they feel the relationship with you and your organisation is going
  12. Keep up-to-date and accurate records of client contact at all stages of the relationship.
  13. Assure your client of confidentiality at all times.
  14. End an engagement with a client in a way that encourages them to contact you for support in the future.

What you need to know and understand

You need to know, understand and be able to apply each of the following.

Interpersonal and communication skills

  1. How to use effective interpersonal and communication skills, including, when appropriate:
    • listening fully and attentively;
    • questioning;
    • checking accuracy;
    • summarising;
    • reflecting back;
    • challenging;
    • respecting and acknowledging issues;
    • negotiation;
    • giving, receiving and passing on constructive feedback;
    • dealing with difficulties.
  2. The benefits and drawbacks of different kinds of communication in different circumstances (for example, face-to-face contact, phone, fax and e-mail).

Support relationships

  1. You need to understand and take account of:
    • the conditions for accepting clients onto different business support services;
    • the benefits and drawbacks of working in different physical locations (for example, your organisation’s premises or your client’s premises);
    • the boundaries of the relationship between you and the client;
    • the ways that different clients prefer to work;
    • the limitations of your role and responsibilities; and
    • any relevant contractual obligations.
  2. The limits of your own abilities and understanding of business practice.
  3. How to recognise when a client needs more specialist:
    • personal support (for example, through conversation with you, reference to a counsellor or agreeing it’s nothing to do with you); and
    • business advice (for example, an accountant, financial advisor, marketing specialist, IT consultant, e-business adviser and so on).

Funding and resources

  1. What business support is available, what the referral procedures and costs are (for example, other kinds of business support, specialist advice, learning and information resources).
  2. How to co-ordinate support services that match different client needs.
  3. The funding that is available and relevant to the client’s needs.
  4. The procedures of funding agencies.

Personal behaviours

You need to show the following behaviours.

  1. Appreciate how an organisation operates in different client sectors. IiP1.1
  2. Tailor your approach to align with the client’s goals and circumstances. IiP1.2
  3. Respect the client’s need for information, commitment and confidentiality. IiP1.3
  4. Listen and respond effectively, and check understanding. IiP4.3
  5. Adapt your personal style to empathise with a whole range of clients. IiP6.1
  6. Build and maintain rapport over sustained periods. IiP6.2
  7. Invite a two-way exchange of information and feedback with clients and others. IiP6.3
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