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Rules To Really Engage With Clients

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘delighting clients’ and ‘over-delivering on promises’ but what do these words really mean? When we are engaged by a client for a particular piece of work they ought to be happy if that work is completed on time. Sometimes though, over the period of an engagement their expectations can change.

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We’ve all heard the phrase ‘delighting clients’ and ‘over-delivering on promises’, but what do these words really mean? When we are engaged by a client for a particular piece of work, they ought to be happy if that work is completed on time. Sometimes though, over the period of an engagement, their expectations can change. This can be due to a growing understanding of their part as to what it is they really need. So how can a situation like this be prevented from becoming something worse? Clearly, it’s important to capture and agree on any changes to what was originally signed up to, but equally important is to get the inter-personal chemistry right.

Some rules then forgetting the chemistry right between you and your client:

Listen More Than You Talk

It’s only when you are making suggestions and describing aspects of a piece of work in detail that you will need to do the most of the talking. This might seem strange for some clients as they often get used to people coming in and in next to no time telling them how they could be running their businesses more efficiently and effectively. Don’t get sucked into this mistake. Take time to listen to what your client thinks are the issues they have and probe with questions that make them think (open questions, not closed). Tip: make it clear from the start that you will be asking lots of questions, listening and engaging in dialogue – there’s no such thing as a quick fix.

Don’t Agree With All They Say

A client will bring you in to get an impartial, objective assessment and engagement, so don’t pander to their egos and agree with all they say or suggest. They can get that from anyone in their own businesses and probably do, especially in small owner-managed businesses and large hierarchical organisations. As an outsider, you are best placed to say what you see even if it is uncomfortable for people to hear. Providing you are suitably diplomatic about how you put it across, you will be providing just what your client needs and probably wanted in the first place. Tip: be sensitive in how you put across information that might be seen as difficult and ask for a confidential one-to-one with your client.

Deliver What’s Asked For And More

Make sure you keep a close eye on what was originally signed up to, as it is effortless to drift onto other pieces of work as trust is built during an engagement. If it looks like some of the original requests can no longer be met because you have been diverted by the client into other areas, make sure you flag this early and get it agreed upon or come to some other mutually acceptable arrangement. Simply by being involved with your client and their business in the course of your engagement, you will be providing additional support and input over and above what was originally asked for. Keep a note of these, and make sure you include a mention of them at catch-up meetings. Tip: reflect on your engagement after it has concluded and jotted down some observations and thoughts you can then send to your client.

If you can get the chemistry right with your client and deliver what they need professionally as possible, you are well placed for repeat business and referrals. Who doesn’t want that?

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