5 client management skills that every project manager needs to have
There comes a time in each project manager’s life when he/she needs to face a meeting with a client. Clients are the most important thing for pretty much every business and satisfied clients are the ones that ensure your business growth.
The tricky part is that not every client is easy to get along with. In fact, most of them are pretty annoying to say the least. Nevertheless, the meetings are inevitable and every project manager needs to know how to handle them. Here are 5 skills that you need to command on master level to get through the client meetings just fine.
Some clients don’t understand how and what you do very well, but they still want to (which is the bad part). Patience is the number one skill that you need to master for client management. You will probably need to explain everything in detail more than once (3 or 4 times usually is enough to pull the trick) and try a slightly different approach each time.
If you are having a hard time being patient with clients, try to imagine them as a newcomer to your team that has absolutely no knowledge of the job, but is eager to learn. Explain everything in detail and address any questions that will arise. Once the client becomes a part of your team, it’s going to become much easier to work together.
If this doesn’t work, there is something else that will. Your client pays the bills. The client is always right, even when completely wrong, just because they pay for your work. This should be enough reason to think twice the next time you get frustrated during a call or a meeting.
Communication and listening
I know you have had enough of the communication stuff already. But I keep stressing the matter in almost every article, because it’s really the core driver of success. The more you communicate with your clients, the better relationships you will have.
When I say communicate, I mean the kind of communication that really matters. You can spend hours talking to each other and never exchange a single word that is important, which will be a waste of time. Meaningful communication on the other hand, can last for just five minutes, yet deliver the correct information to the person.
Communication goes hand in hand with listening. Often, clients don’t really want to know every detail concerning a specific topic, they just want to know what they ask you about. In this case, starting from the very bottom will not result in anything useful (they will simply not listen) and might even irritate your clients.
Listening and understanding what the client communicates to you is a key factor to know what to communicate yourself. You might think that explaining the whole matter is important, but sometimes that’s not what the client wants to hear.
This is a very important step to take, even when you feel like there is no need for it. Whenever a change (that is big enough to impact something) happens, make sure to keep your client informed. Even if the client trusts your team and agency completely this is still a necessity.
People are suspicious, it’s in their nature. Doesn’t matter how much you trust somebody, if you don’t get a word from them for a long time, you will become suspicious. That’s how psychology works. Keeping clients updated on stuff consistently is a sure way to eliminate this unpleasant factor from their mind and maintain the healthy working relationships that you worked hard to achieve.
Show some attention
This might seem to be a childish point, but being attentive and friendly with clients can take you a long way. Helping their business grow is a good thing surely, but clients are first of all humans and humans value attention.
You don’t have to go too far (in fact getting too personal might be a bad idea), but simple things like congratulating on birthdays, having a small talk during meetings/calls about life in general, sharing a joke or two, having a good laugh together, telling stories and also listening to their stories and other stuff like this can help build bonds that can never be achieved only with working relationships.
If you practice this regularly (just make sure you don’t go too far with it, keep it seldom and casual) your clients will slowly start to see you not only as a business partner, but something more like a friend.
Get sh*t done
Last but not least, do your job extremely well. At the end of the day, what clients expect from you isn’t warm relationships, attention or caring: they expect results. Surely, if you can be friendly, caring and an active listener in addition to delivering results, it’s all very good. But without results, none of those will matter.
Clients are the omnipresent part of your life as a project manager and sooner or later, you will need to learn how to deal with them the best way you can. I say the faster you learn how to manage them efficiently, the better for your business and your project. Do you have any of your own tips that you use for client management? Share them with us in the comments!
Pavel is a doctor who happens to have an MBA degree and a strong passion for writing. "I am a do-it-all kind of person: When I am not writing, I am busy curing people, when I am not curing people, I tend to kill WCG competitions. Life is fun, and full of wonders: Do what you enjoy most, even if it’s everything at once."