You might not have realized it, but the key to ending up with the ideal client is you. We frequently talk about who the ideal client is – you know, the kind that pays quickly, respects your time, responds to your requests, and sticks to their deadlines. But if you’ve worked with clients, you know they do not all come in the perfect package. The “bad” ones tend to be annoying and unprofitable - they call at all hours when they need you and are shockingly unresponsive when you need them. And the good ones seem to be few and far between. The truth, though, is that those “bad” clients may simply be responding to the faults of you or your team. Here are three ways your team can positively impact your clients and ensure you don’t get bogged down putting out fires and dealing with a mess that could have been avoided.
The plain truth about managing clients is that you will not be successful unless you manage their expectations. When bringing on new clients, your role is to inform them of how you can solve their problems. The best way to make sure you are able to solve their problems beyond the contents of a catchy sales pitch is to involve your sales team and your project management team in the initial discussion. If you do not involve the right people at an early stage, the connection between the client’s expectations and your team’s ability to deliver may not be in sync. This is mainly because the sales team and the project management team have different incentives, and their goals do not always line up. This disconnect happens when the sales team tries to win new accounts without a sound understanding of what the project team can realistically deliver. Not only can this cause tension amongst your staff, but it can lead to a conflict with your client. If the project management team is included in the initial conversation, they are able to set realistic expectations, goals and deadlines from the very beginning. It also creates a warm hand-off from your sales team to your project management team, enhancing the customer experience. Involving the right people in the initial conversation establishes a holistic mentality within the entire team, ensuring that everyone is thinking about the success of the project and not just about closing the deal. Remember that if you manage your client expectation and include your team in the conversation, you will improve your clients’ perceptions of you and your staff.
A common misperception that we frequently make is taking for granted that our clients are aware of the internal processes and systems in place to deliver their services. In fact, there can be a significant knowledge gap between your team and your client, and you may need to educate your client on the project plan and action items in detail. This is where clear and consistent communication can make or break the relationship with your client. Transparent communication is pivotal to a good client relationship, and will lay the groundwork for building a successful, long-term relationship. If you fail to do this, the client may not see the value in using your business, choose not to continue the relationship, or not send additional work your way. The time you invest in clear communication will result in deepening trust and will demonstrate your commitment to your client’s business. Remember that it can take years to build your clients’ trust and only one poorly communicated situation to lose it.
The good news is that you do not have to conquer the management of your client expectations alone. There are mind-boggling sales solutions out there that are specifically designed to take a client from the sale all the way to the project phase. It’s a known fact that communication is vital for the basic survival of any project, and the best way to manage asynchronous communication is with a sales that captures all client-related communication and has an easily accessible client portal. Imagine hosting the initial meeting for everyone and easily jotting down their needs and expectations in a system that is also later used by your project management team. As your team makes progress on the project, they can easily circle back with your client as their needs and expectations are met.
Ultimately, technology should never be an afterthought. The right sales is the bedrock of solid business relationships, and it makes it easier for you to stay on track, manage expectations and deliver timely and profitable services. The important thing to remember is that while it benefits your professional service business, it also benefits the client. When you are able to deliver what your customer expects, everyone is happy. Simply acknowledging the potential that technology can have in achieving this end goal is an important step to take.