10 Things Your Consulting Clients Won’t Tell You

As a consultant, your job is to try and get as much feedback from your clients as possible in order to exceed their expectations. However, there are certain things that your clients won’t mention to you, leaving you to figure them out on your own. Here are ten examples of those unspoken statements and some advice on how to deal with each one.

1. “I’m not real technology-savvy.”

How you’ll figure it out: When they start asking you stupid very basic questions.

What to do about it: One of two things. Either hold the client’s hand and patiently teach them what they need to know, or get them to trust you and just promise that the end product will work as planned.

2. “I’m not prepared.”

How you’ll figure it out: When you get a lot of “I don’t know” answers to your questions.

What to do about it: Issue clear guidelines about what you expect from them, and reiterate that the project can’t be completed without their input.

3. “I’ve got unrealistic expectations.”

How you’ll figure it out: When you realize that they want you to solve problems that are not related to your project.

What to do about it: Pause and remind the client exactly what you will do for them – and point out what issues are beyond the scope of the consulting project.

4. “I’ve got an unrealistic deadline.”

How you’ll figure it out: When your head starts to hurt after poring over the project timetable.

What to do about it: Try and nip it in the bud early on. Explain what is involved in finishing the project and either get the deadline extended or scale back the project’s goals.

5. “I’m trying to squeeze you for the best deal possible.”

How you’ll figure it out: When every conversation starts to feel like a negotiation.

What to do about it: Fight fire with fire. Bump up your costs with the knowledge that they’ll be dickered down – and assert yourself on matters of workload and payment.

6. “I’m paranoid.”

How you’ll figure it out: When your eyes begin to droop from reading all of the contracts and paperwork they want you to sign.

What to do about it: Read over everything before signing it, or get a lawyer to do it for you (and charge the client for the expense) to make sure that your rights are protected as well as the client’s.

7. “Getting information from me will be extremely difficult.”

 

How you’ll figure it out: After checking your email inbox for the umpteenth time and finding it empty.

 

What to do about it: Provide gentle reminders via email, phone calls, texts, and other methods. If necessary, email them saying that you won’t proceed until you get the information you need – and CC their supervisor if necessary.

8. “Every decision on our end will be made by a committee.”

How you’ll figure it out: When you can accurately predict that the response to your question will be, “I have to get that approved.”

What to do about it: Try to identify the actual decision-makers in the “committee” and include them in every correspondence. Otherwise, build in extra time for approvals for your work.

9. “The world revolves around me.”

 

How you’ll figure it out: When you get chastised for not responding to their every email or phone call as soon as it comes in.

 

What to do about it: Try to adopt a lighthearted tone when dealing with their repeated inquiries. If it does become a problem, take a proactive role in prioritizing the client with all of your other projects so as not to neglect your other clients.

10. “I’m a micromanager.”

 

How you’ll figure it out: When your stomach drops every time your business phone rings because you just know it’s that @$#%&! client again.

 

What to do about it: Unless their demands are outlandish, suck it up. They’re paying you to work for them, after all.

Chris Martin is a freelance writer for Business.com who writes for numerous websites and is also a ghostwriter for several blogs. In addition, he is an accomplished voice actor and an experienced sportscaster. Martin has also worked as a radio DJ, a traffic reporter, and a public address announcer for sporting events.

Image credit: abovethelaw.com

 

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  • http://www.hullfinancialplanning.com/ Jason Hull

    If you have a client like this, can you really succeed? Will this client ever be happy? Is it worthwhile to reevaluate the relationship and decide if it’s even worth going forward? I’d rather be in a client situation where I can create high levels of happiness for the tail-busting rather than create, at best, indifference for the same amount of tail-busting.

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Jason it’s a great point. Let’s see if Chris, the author of this post, can add his thoughts.

  • Waako Garvin

    clients are tricky, especially when they are working on a dead end, they always expect answers in the shortest time possible….great post

  • Florian Hollender

    Sure thing, clients won’t give you an inside scoop on how they’ll be working with you when you start your engagement…
    but you can do your homework.
    For example – No. 4, the unrealistic deadline: You should discover this before you agree on doing the project. The timetable is part of all proposals I write – changing the deadline afterwards? Has to be negotiated. If I have the necessary resources to throw on the project and can do it quicker? It’ll cost the client and will be done. Sure, you’ll run into situations where you realize that the timetable you made was too optimistic – but then its your fault, not the clients.

    On No. 8 – the committee-trap.: This is also part of every proposal I write: The project organization. There, it is written down who has final say over the project, who in top management I escalate issues to when the line managers don’t cooperate as promised, etc.
    When agreeing on the chain of command for the project beforehand, it is much easier to escalate problems and get to decisions quickly.

    Regards,
    Florian of KillerConsultant.com

  • CJAZ

    Jason – thanks for your response. Yes, unfortunately there is some truth to the cynical adage: “Consulting would be wonderful if it weren’t for the clients.” Your point is spot on, but I imgine that it’s difficult to discern which clients will demonstrate some of the abovementioned tendencies at the outset of the relationship. (Though Florian does provide some good advice.)

    Any other thoughts on how to deal with these types of clients are welcome in these comments.

    -Chris Martin

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