Dealing with a client and theirs needs is not an easy task and apart from the “client from hell” every client presents their dose of challenge; insecurities, worries, concerns. Every situation needs a combination of understanding, self-assertiveness, patience and communication skills. Here are few tips on how to improve your dealing with a client might the situation arise.
1. The gap between what they want and how they want it
This is a common one. The client comes and says thinks like “out-of-the-box approach”, “cutting edge technology”, “disruptive ideas”. You start all fired up, full of enthusiasm because of the new prospective and then you end up with a client that looks disgruntled and vetoes any suggestion; maybe just for confrontational’s sake.
How to deal with the challenge: show you are in charge
You might feel discouraged, or even in the mood for using their tie as a strangling tool, however you should keep your calm and zen attitude, take a deep breath say one of these three magic sentences (that I learn from Dan O’Connor, communication skills expert) and then repeat what you previously stated:
- That may be but…
- I understand, however…
- I see your point, and…
In this manner, you show to the client that you got the message and that despite their criticism, lack of enthusiasm of faith in your abilities you do not budge because you are a great communicator and you are not intimidated.
How to deal with the challenge: Challenge them back
If the client is afraid of new perspectives, the values that your risky ideas could bring to the business and even about all the questions they might end up responding to in case things go wrong, show them how much playing safe costs to the business. Do not be afraid to challenge them to state clearly what their main concerns are.
- Ask them the actual cost of playing it safe (that is keeping things as they are)
- Ask them to talk clearly about their concerns (not just a vague “It won’t work”)
- Ask them to think about what a safe option might look like
- Ask them to consider what extra support might need from you to feel safe
2. The gap in knowledge and how to fix it
As professionals we might consider many topics as simple and pretty intuitive, however, when you speak to people outside your profession you might discover that things are not as simple and intuitive as you thought. Plus, as individuals we tend to have different approaches to learning while our education, mental attitude and personal skills might help to define what we find easy or difficult to understand. Therefore, we need to adapt our language, style and depth to our audience. However, there are few tricks you might consider to help you deliver your message.
Take full advantage of Infographics
Infographics represent an easy way to deliver complex concepts into memorable bites of information. Taking full advantage of the power of images, infographics could become powerful tools to present business ideas to a client who is not -for instance- technical savvy.
Offer plenty of examples from inside your industry
Example are very useful to show people our thinking process, to explain difficult concepts using simple, everyday metaphors. In addition, examples are useful to show off previous work, such as portfolios that could better exemplify your type of approach (and maybe even create a starting point). Finally, come up with examples from competitors or closely-related industries, it would:
- Prove you are knowledgeable about the field and you keep yourself up-to-date
- Help to show key points about gaps in the market and how the client could take advantage from
- Provide examples of campaigns that have been successful and from which the client should learn
Come up with ideas from outside your industry
According to a Harvard Business Review, looking outside of your industry might produce more successful outcomes as reaching out to an industry expert may not provide those creative and disruptive ideas you were expecting. Therefore, in addition to be knowledgeable about your industry, you should also show your client that you are a multi-facets professional who can come up with creative ideas by applying concepts and strategies that have been successful in other fields and niches. Good strategies include:
- Read about niches that might relate to your field (psychology and media marketing, for instance) and expand from there
- Include every-team member in the decision making and value their opinions
- Expand your network, meet new professionals, offer your advice and ask (later) for help (did you know about RoR, or return from relationship?)
3. The gap in trust, how to better engage with your client
When meeting a client for the first time, it is impossible to know their needs and vision in just a couple of hours. It takes time, multiple meeting to fully commit to a client’s vision and to understand how your work might help strengthen their ideas and bring them to life. These are few suggestions:
- Let your client talks first. Put them at ease and let them explain what they are looking for (It does not matter if they are not clear, or do not know what they want. It is still a starting point)
- Avoid critiquing their idea, but instead offer suggestions that support and reinforce their goals (you can apply the three magic sentences, followed by a suggestion)
- If you feel like you might not be able to perform the exact task or finish in the exact time frame they have asked for, you should tell them honestly and professionally that you cannot deliver. Do not be afraid to say “No”. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than to disappoint.
4. The emotional gap, genuinely interact with your client
When meeting with a client show them you are interested in them not just at a professional level but also as individuals; talk to your client as they were real people, and not as you were addressing just a paying individual whose interest is somehow not aligned with yours. Remember that a better engagement, means deeper level of trust and therefore a bigger chance to push your client outside their comfort zone.
Engage with them during the decision making process
Clients want to feel active and part of the process. A clever method is to offer always three options to show that you are not imposing your decisions on them. Show them you are looking for their input, feedback and opinions.
Engage with them at an emotional level
People do not want to be convinced for rational reasons only. People want to make a connections in every aspect of their life. Consider a brand such as Nike, it is not just about sport gears, but mostly about pushing boundaries to reach for full potential. The same principle should be followed with your client. Ask them about their feelings regarding the project, both their fears and their hopes and aspirations.
5. The strategical gap, show them the big and the small picture
As pointed out before, your client needs to be included in the process both at a rational and emotional level. Therefore, it is important to keep the client involved by discussing priorities, budget details and progresses. However, while delivering the small picture on a weekly/monthly basis helps to keep your client on track of your progresses, you should also make sure that the big picture is clear both to you and your client.
- Take a step back, find time to think before discussing the next step
- Talk with your client and discuss ideas, blocks and problems. You will both feel energized at the end of this exercise
- Divide your goals into small-goals. They will start looking more doable.
- Create road-maps to identify the actionable first steps
- Create mind-mappers to keep you focused
- Make your strategy and your strategy goals clear with SMART goals
6. The agreement gap, production, timelines and process
If you have followed all the steps to create a trustful relationship with your client, it might be the time to start considering the logistic of the project, such as the final product (production), how long it will take (timeline) and how it will be delivered (process). Until you and your client agree on strategy, goals and timelines, you are always at risk of them not understanding what success is and how it should be measured. The solution is to create a scope-of-work document that outlines the program details, budgets and metrics. This will alleviate any confusion over expectations and hopefully eliminate a difficult conversation.