How to become a consultant blog

10 Things Clients Hate and How to Avoid Them

I just read a series of great posts on Andrew Sobel’s blog on “Things Clients Hate.” I thought you’d see value in these and so I’ll share the top 10 with you today, plus my notes on each…

  1. A generic approach – When you approach a client, send them information about your consulting services and how you can help them or give them a presentation, are you customizing it for them…or are you reusing your materials? If the latter, this may be coming off as ‘generic’ to your clients and doesn’t show them you care about THEIR business.
  2. Overselling – Being eager and determined to land more consulting clients and work hard is good. Trying to push a sale on the first meeting with a prospective client is bad. Get to know your prospect before you try to sell them.
  3. Long slide decks – Do I really need to say much about this? Keep your presentations short and to the point. Make them visual and keep them light on text. Check out any presentation by Guy Kawasaki or Seth Godin for great examples.
  4. Wanting business immediately – Similar to number 2 yet slightly different. “When you meet with a prospect, you must have a long-term perspective. You must have the attitude that if something works out in the short term, that’s great, but if not, that’s OK too.” says Sobel.
  5. Not respecting their time – This goes beyond showing up late for client meetings. This is about respecting time in general. Time is a precious commodity. Get into the meeting, say what needs to be said, focus on the goal of the meeting and get out. Don’t let things drag on.
  6. Overreaching – This is a tough one. The point is to avoid selling services to your client that you’re not great at. It opens up room for a bad result. And it can damage your reputation as a professional. The approach I recommend is to align yourself with other experts and to offer and provide your clients with additional services through your alliances. That way you generate more business but keep the quality at expert level through the whole experience.
  7. Surprises – They’re nice on birthdays but generally not in business situations. If there are challenging issues to deal with don’t wait until the last minute to spill the beans and tell your client the bad news. Be proactive and upfront at all times. Clients don’t like hearing bad news anytime. But they hate hearing it at the last minute. It gives them reason to doubt you and lack trust in you.
  8. Going over their head – When you face a disagreement with your client don’t attempt to be sneaky and climb that ladder to discuss the issue with your clients’ boss. I always suggest dealing only with the boss so that issues like this don’t arise. But if you find yourself working with someone slightly down the totem pole it’s in your best interest to work the issue out and if you’re still not able to do it together, Sobel suggests that “you go together” to speak with the boss.
  9. Making them look bad – This includes things like not owning up and deflecting blame on a negative result, missing deadlines, and not communicating well. To sum this point up…be a professional!
  10. Not delivering – We talk a lot about this in our Consulting Success System. Hands down delivering the result that you and your client agreed on is the most important aspect of any project engagement. You can be a nice gal, but if you don’t deliver you’re giving your client reason to “not need your services” anymore. Deliver as you’ve promised and you’ll start getting referral business and see your business truly take off.

What are your thoughts on these? Do you have others you can add? Let us know in the comments below.


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18 thoughts on “10 Things Clients Hate and How to Avoid Them

  1. 11. Not having a clear objective – proposing a solution without clear objective/outcome is a big no-no and will certainly result in wasted sales opportunities.


  2. Bill says:

    This information is great and amazingly timely. I can connect with more than a few of them presently in my client relationships. Thank you once again for being there for me and all us that need to step back for a moment to clearly see our path.

    Regards, Bill.

    • Bill – thanks for the comment and being part of the community! Glad that you’re finding the posts helpful.

  3. #12 Setting price that is not linked to value – setting clear objective/outcome for a consulting project is 1/2 of the battle. You must connect the price you are charging to the value of the outcome your work is about to deliver. As a client once told me, “the cost is relative. I don’t care how much your service will cost me as long as you can deliver what you promised and the return is higher than what I’ve spent on you.”

    • Sasha – this is something all consultants need to master. From the client perspective the main thing is delivery of value, ROI, and profit.

  4. winston says:

    very informative

  5. Great article! Very succinct and very valuable! One of the other things I see is either lack of follow up or poor follow up. Clients want to know that we care. Listening and prompt follow up demonstrate that.

    • Adrian – thanks for the comment. In this case I’d say “clients hate” when you don’t follow up on a promise. What they love is having a trusted advisor and consultant that follows up with them and pushes them forward even though they know inside they should do it themselves – that encouragement and push is something clients greatly appreciate.

  6. Yes all very good tips, and things I needed to hear.

    # 6. Overreaching to me is embarrassing, I noticed how I can easily say “Yes we can do it” too soon but actually looking at the clients budget and resources. Then your left in a uncomfortable situation and have to eat your words.

    • Zahib – listening more than speaking is a quality successful consultants typically have. It’s often easy to say “yes” to anything a client asks but leads to regret and ultimately less value delivered and a poorer experience for both the client and the consultant. Great comment!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good article Michael. Wanting business immediately is one of the things that resonates with me. Building relationships with your potential and current clients is a longer but more rewarding process. When I begin to get charmed with the “gurus” who profess the short and hard sale I remind myself how much I hate it when it’s directed at me. Enough said!

  8. On #5. Over the years,when contacting a prospect for a first meeting I have asked for just 30 min of their time to meet, learn about each other and see if there may opportunity to do business. I have always received a positive answer. And, at the end of 30 min, I say something like – “well we have met for 30 min as I requested and I don;t want to over stay my welcome. I have enjoyed our conversation….” In almost all cases they have responded that is fine lets talk some more, 9 out of 10 times they have become a client. I do this still today.

  9. #13. “Are you really listening, or just waiting to talk?”.  Many people simply love to talk and sell their ideas – maybe it’s ignorance or maybe it’s passion. Either way, when you do not actively listen to what the client is saying, you limit your ability to obtain mutual understanding and may even miss the underlying message altogether.

    The role of the consultant is to listen first and then talk, or even better, facilitate conversation. Effective listening creates a culture of meaningful engagement, which is the best kind for consultant-client relations!

  10. Fay Cooke-Nurse says:

    Michael and Sam, great information as usual. Here in Barbados, West Indies, PR professionals recognise that to conduct business with local, regional and international clients, we cannot afford to forget the above guidelines. At the end of the day, PR is about relationships and in any relationship, when you are committed, you want to give your best.

  11. #4 – have a long-term perspective…tons of value in that one. This goes a long way to engender the right attitude between both parties (consultant and client). Less of ‘I can boost your sales through X, Y, Z’…more ‘let’s look at the bigger picture, keep an eye on the milestones and steer a course to success’. Much more value in that – and even more FLEXIBILITY.

    Great post!

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