Clients who make unreasonable demands, demean your hard-working staff, and wreak havoc on your day-to-day are not the kind clients you want. Unfortunately, many business owners have these clients on their account list and struggle to make the relationship as productive as possible.
A business relationship in which you “expect” a client will be disrespectful based on past experience simply is not sustainable. You must be in control of your clients. Here’s how:
Knowing a client’s expectations is critical to keeping the account moving in the right direction. What they want from you and what they will get should align. Only you will know from the outset if their wants and needs are too egregious and unreasonable. When a client has agreed to your proposed scope of work, and prior to starting anything at all, you should hold a comprehensive planning meeting during which you agree to the terms of your engagement. A clearly defined plan will be easier to execute and leave little room for disappointment by the outcome. Make certain to get a firm commitment on timing, budget, communications flow, and schedule. Additionally, document the clearly defined plan in an email to everyone involved – this can be used to benchmark everyone’s expectations.
Being out of sight, out of mind is not an effective strategy for working with a client. Visibility and regular contact is key. Establish a schedule of status calls or meetings throughout the life of the project. By doing this, you will be aware of any changes that might impact the project including any modifications a client might want to make to the proposed work. You can provide updates and progress reports via email on your end so there are no surprises at the end. Being aware of changes early and staying in touch about ongoing work is the best game plan.
Listening skills are a prized commodity these days. To be in control of your client relationship you must be the person with excellent listening skills. Believe me, clients are known to say one thing and mean another, and their tone of voice is often the give-away. Be certain that everyone on your team is well trained in active listening and understands that the words the client says can be completely contradicted by their tone of voice.
Clients who feel “left in the dark” about progress, deadlines, and budget are often the most stressed and demanding. Help them to remain calm by proactively sharing information with them. You need not wait for a regularly scheduled status call; a simple check-in email or call will leave a client feeling confident that you are in control. The worst situation is when a client reaches out to you to see where you are in a project. The more you control what they know, the easier it is to curtail avoidable outbursts and insecurity.
Control is the power to influence or direct a person’s behavior or course of events. Do you have clients that require more hands-on control? It’s never too late to start. Schedule a meeting, redefine the expectations, obtain their agreement, and watch the relationship improve.
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.