We’ve all had bad consulting clients. It’s part of being in business. What’s most important is that you know how to identify the situation as quickly as possible, and resolve it.
Here are 5 types of bad clients consultants encounter:
1) The Line Crosser Client:
You know the one. The client that believes since they are paying you that they own all your time. They call you at all hours of the day and night and send you a barrage of emails and expect a response as soon as they’ve hit ‘send’.
Solution: Set clear boundaries from the outset. Let the client know what they can expect of you and what you expect from them to make the project a success. Establish a relationship as a trusted advisor, not servant at their beck and call. If you’ve failed to do this from the get go, let your client know that everything as agreed is moving forward with their project and that they don’t need to worry. And let them know that you have other clients and a business to run as well. Clarify the expectations.
One meeting they are thrilled with the work you’re doing and everything is going great in their business. The next time you walk into their office they act like the walls are falling down.
2) The Spellchecker Client:
These types of clients are such a nuisance. They are typically small minded and don’t see the bigger picture. They spend all of their time looking for the negative in every situation. They often mean well, their issue is that they are simply focusing on the wrong things.
Solution: If a client makes a comment, thank them for it, and let them know that you’re glad that 99% is where it needs to be and that both of you should stay focused on the most critical areas of the project. Because at the end of the day, a better result will be seen when everyone is focusing on the areas where the greatest value can be created. Not on small edge cases that don’t impact the project in any significant way.
3) The Mood Swing Client:
These kinds of clients are often uncomfortable to be around. You never know what they are going to say or do. One meeting they are thrilled with the work you’re doing and everything is going great in their business. The next time you walk into their office they act like the walls are falling down. These are the same type of clients that will say one thing and then do another. They make it hard to complete a project successfully, not for your lack of skill, rather because of their lack of focus and consistency.
Solution: It’s not always easy, though I’ve found the best course of action to take with these types of clients, and I’ve only had a few like this, is to sit down and be open about what’s going on. Let them know how you feel and that you’re concerned about the success of the project due to A, B, C. Don’t come out swinging, rather show genuine concern for the project and them. Ask them “how are you doing recently?” or “you seem like you’ve had a lot going on…” You’ll find that some clients, like people won’t change. They may have personality or behavioral disorders that can’t be fixed in the short term. So when you encounter this, it’s best to speak honestly with your client and confront it, rather than hope it goes away (especially if you see it happening more than once).
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4) The Forgetful Client:
You’ve just wrapped up a great meeting. Your client is all excited about the next steps. They’ve agreed to do X and Y. The problem is, they never get done. You check in a week later and get some lousy excuse. The same two weeks after that. Well my friend, you’re dealing with the forgetful client. These clients don’t want to put off taking action, rather they have so much going on (in their minds or reality or both) that they fail to take the actions that you need them to take to see success with the project.
Support and encourage them to be the leader that they are.
Solution: Find ways to help your client remember. Have their assistant schedule reminders. Increase your own follow up to the client. Explain the dangers of not taking action and what will happen (will they lose money, market share, publicity, etc)? Can you establish a system or process they can follow that will help?
5) The Indecisive Client:
This client drags things to a halt. They are so unsure of themselves that they want to get permission and acceptance from everyone around them at every step of the way. They are worried of what others will think of them. Especially if a project or initiative were to fail. The trouble is that they are steering the project off course because of their lack of confidence and inaction.
Solution: Empower them. Show them why they need to make the decision. Support and encourage them to be the leader that they are. Tell them that you understand they want to include as many opinions as possible, but that there are dangers that come with that as well. Decide which areas of the project require the input of others, and which would benefit from the client (the leader) taking swift and decisive action.
Have you dealt with these types of clients? Encountered any other types I didn’t cover? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.