There are several key factors we need to keep in mind as we make these decisions and these come from our clients!
Key 1: Problem Solving. Do we understand what our clients are really trying to accomplish? This is where we put on our detective hats and spend time during the beginning of the relationship and during critical touch points in the process. It does not hurt to have a general check list of questions in front of us when we are first meeting with them, especially if this is a virtual project. Are we prepared for changes in their original requests, based on new business conditions? Do we ask specific questions about timelines, especially when we look at our schedules and see “hot spots” with other clients’ needs? This suggests a “project management” approach to our business dealings, with “who, what, when, where, how and why” questions explored up front in detail. Frequently, we have at least one exploratory conversation and perhaps several visits to ensure this is a good fit for both parties. If it appears that this is not a good fit for our organization, do we have someone we know and trust that we can recommend to them as an alternative? Hint: we need to have contact information for our professional associates in a variety of industries ready to give them and once given; we need to notify our associates that they may receive a call from this potential client for assistance.
Key 2: Communication Skills. Our clients generally expect us to have excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, even if they do not possess these same skills. Do we and our teams understand their preferred methods of communication and is this item on our check list at the beginning of the process? This is particularly critical if the client is from another country, with different language and cultural expectations. Do we learn from what they do not say, as well as what they do express? Do we refrain from slang or regional expressions which might be misunderstood?
Are negotiation skills sharpened? For those who feel hampered in this area, do you know someone on your team or a professional associate who may assist? If the client asks for something outside the original project scope, are you prepared to get more help to get the job done, recognizing that there are costs associated with this decision? Are your contractual documents in good order, with specific remedies in place? Do you know what questions to ask to assist your client in understanding the legal documents for this project?
Key 3: Knowledge. We may be surprised to find there are differences between what our clients expect us to know and what we believe we need to know. Are we realistic in all of our business communications about our expertise? Are we in a constant learning mode? The internet has exponentially challenged our knowledge base and our clients are typically out there, especially in the area of social media, getting answers to their questions. Have we looked into the groups they are likely to visit to see what their concerns may be? Are we developing our professional reputations with our clients’ success in mind? At the conclusion of a project, are we getting feedback to help us strengthen our communications for future projects?
We cannot, nor should we attempt to, be all things to all people. Making the time to evaluate problem solving, communication skills, and knowledge for our businesses, will demonstrate to our potential clients that we have their best interests in mind. Further, taking action to learn, improve and strengthen our business skills may well make the difference in whether or not potential clients choose our business, rather than someone else’s, for solutions. As always, my wish is your continued success!