Effective client relationships are the foundation of a strong and healthy business and allow you to do your best work. As a solo professional, you will serve clients with different needs, preferences, and personalities, and may require different techniques to manage the relationship.
Adding to the challenge of client management are situations such as employee turnover, business or competitive threats or internal politics that may cause your clients to be more emotionally charged and reactive.
You can set the tone for a productive and cooperative client relationship from the first interaction. Dig deep and prequalify the client to make sure that you will be able to work together successfully. Establish clear objectives and roles at the onset of your client relationship and document them in your client contract. Don’t simply trade proposals and contracts but have a discussion to ensure that you and your client are starting your relationship on the same page. Early meetings can also help you to identify your client’s personality type and preferences and avoid potential landmines.
Take time to determine how your client will view success. Identify early on their expectations about the following:
Understand their business and what they hope to achieve by engaging you. Together, determine clear and measurable objectives. It is critical to establish the results your client wants to achieve. Be explicit about what they expect and how they will measure success. Be honest if the client has unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved.
It is also helpful to set up metrics and systems that may not be reported to clients but help you to stay on track with the expectations you set.
You will also want to manage expectations about workflow and interactions. A few questions to consider:
- What will be the best way for you and the client to communicate – phone, email, text?
- How and how often will you communicate progress?
- If the engagement includes media relations, is the spokesperson prepared for fast responses?
- How are decisions made in the client’s organization? This will help you to plan workflow and timing if multiple reviewers/approvers will be involved.
- How will you access any information you need from the client, e.g. content, Google Analytics, images?
An onboarding document and kickoff meeting is a good way to set the stage for success but will need to be reinforced by consistently managing expectations.
Setting and managing client expectations play a crucial role in establishing good relationships with clients. It also sets the tone for you to produce great results and the enjoy the work you do.
How do you keep your client relationships on track?