Effectively Managing Clients – Even the Difficult Ones!
All business owners will encounter a difficult client at some point – someone who insists on impossible deadlines, suddenly changes their mind, or gives feedback like “I don’t know what I want but I’ll know it when I see it”.
It can be hard to manage clients but these tips may assist to smooth the way:
Listen to your client Do not interrupt or attempt to complete your client’s sentences, and by the same token, do not agree effusively with everything they say. A good tactic is to listen intently and then summarise what you’ve heard. This shows that you’ve understood and gives the client an opportunity to correct or clarify outstanding issues.
Excite your client about the direction not the details Try to keep the discussion focussed on the concept itself rather than the details. Engage the client and guide their feedback by asking more precise questions such as “Does this effectively provide the solution you expect?” That approach will help ensure you are both on the same page and subsequent rounds of feedback will be much more productive.
Distinguish between opinions and directives Remember that you have been hired for your expertise. If you feel that the client is wrong, tell them and explain why they should listen to you. However, bear in mind that sometimes what sounds like an opinion may actually be a specific directive – there may be a particular reason they can’t do something. If you’re not sure, ask.
Find out why the client is making bad decisions If you find yourself confused by some decisions that seem actively to contradict what has been agreed, there may be an underlying reason: budget concerns; the opinion of another exec or board member; a conflict or crossover with other initiatives; maybe even something personal. Try some tactful digging to find out what’s actually going on because if it’s preventing you from producing great work for your client, you need to find a solution.
Have regular check-ins Schedule a regular catch-up call, or email a regular update to the client to keep them informed of progress. Remember to provide context. Your client may have forgotten what was discussed in the previous update so remind them of status. Always keep it brief.
Get final approvers on board early Always know who has final approval on a project and ensure they are onboard with the initial idea and keep them apprised at key stages along the way. That will help you avoid approval-related surprises on deadline day or payment day!
How are you effectively managing your clients?
Adapted from an article by Mike Trigg, hightail.com