Those legendary three-martini lunches were really a master class in client management, but temperance and technology have really changed the landscape since the Mad Men days. In the 21st century, you may well have clients across the country as across the street, so you need to develop new strategies to successfully manage those relationships. There's no end of advice on how to effectively do this, but it just shakes out to three basic points. Read on to learn how to fine tune your client management skills.
1. Be Confident and Toot your horn
When it comes to effective client management skills, it's important to get your clients to depend on your company and turn yourself into a trusted advisor and confidant.
When you're onboarding a new client, don't be shy about sharing your accomplishments and expertise. You were hired to do the work because you are an expert with a proven track record, so take the opportunity to elaborate on past success—especially if you have completed similar projects. When you're willing to offer details about how you've helped other clients accomplish their goals, you're demonstrating capability and confidence in your team.
If you're not comfortable selling yourself, ask an existing client to do it for you in the form of a testimonial. This kind of endorsement lets a client know that you're a good bet—that you take the job seriously, communicate well, and have innovative solutions to their problems.
2. Setting Expectations
The best way to successfully manage your clients is to set expectations at the outset, educate them on the process, and be completely transparent.
Manage the expectations
The key to managing client expectations is to set the scope of work in a clear and concise way. The more information you give upfront, the less likely a client is to micromanage the process—they trust that you will meet your deadlines. Also, when you set expectations in writing, you narrow the scope of your work enough that the client won't be tempted to overstep the boundaries.
Here's an example- If information or documents that are critical to the next step are requested and not provided, give the client a hard deadline to meet. If they don't, stop work until you have everything you've requested. Because you would never hold back on a vendor if the situation were reversed, right?
Educate the client on strategy and execution
Your ability to explain concepts and strategies to a given audience is crucial to your success. Assume that your client has a limited range of knowledge in your area of expertise (otherwise why would they hire you), so when you clarify the details, you build trust as they gain knowledge. You don't need to go into the minutiae of the project, but giving the client a good overview will lead to more in-depth discussions of their needs, and in turn develop a stronger professional relationship.
Provide a roadmap
At the same time, be upfront about your anticipated timeline for the project and confirm the scope of work. Transparency is always a winning strategy, so draw out the roadmap with as best you can, letting the client know that there will be unforeseen bumps but that you will let them know when that happens and keep them updated on your course corrections. Also let them know that your team will admit to any mistakes or mishaps on your end, then make sure you do.
Put your roadmap in writing
Create two documents for your roadmap. One is the expectations piece, the other is a scope of work document that iterates the following:
- Project overview and deliverables
- Preferred methods of communication
- Meeting schedule
- Miscellaneous needs from the client
An email is fine, but be sure to have the client sign off on the scope of the workpiece before you get started. Having all this in writing can save a lot of agita down the road.
3. Set up a client portal
A client portal goes a long way towards making that roadmap easy to read, which makes it a lot easier to manage the overall client relationship. A dedicated portal fosters close collaboration because you have a natural place to virtually meet (similar to an office environment or co-working space) and an centralized place for all lists, tools, and information relating to the project. No more sifting through random emails, you've got an internal mailbox. All the files and notes you need are a click away, all either of you need is the internet. Also, don’t forget to implement key tools into the portal, such as your preferred payment or invoicing app, for easy use and access.
A client portal also provides that transparency that's so important. When they can log in to their dashboard and easily access progress reporting documents or connect through the business chat, you're communicating without wasting valuable time. When you do need to meet with the client, they have the same access to the information you do, so you can get straight to business.
How Desktop.com Helps you Manage your Clients
So, that's not so difficult, is it? Now, is your team organized enough to implement your client management skills? Desktop.com has the solution for you—a comprehensive dashboard that manages all your apps, links, passwords, and communication tools in one place. With all key knowledge and people in one secure and well-organized place, your team can more efficiently focus on your clients.