5 Tips to Improve your Client Management Skills
As a project manager, you’ve probably had to deal with clients at some point during the course of your project. Some are friendly, some not so friendly. Either way, you have to deal with them at some point. Here are some helpful tips to manage a client.
Change Your Attitude
Clients are often viewed as necessary evils in the project management process. This is completely the wrong view to take, and might encourage negative behavior in the team such as cutting corners and over-billing. Instead, try to think of clients as part of your team, and let this attitude drive every meeting and communication you have with them. The difference will show.
Practice Active Listening
“Active listening” is a way of engaging with the client even as they’re the ones doing most of the talking. Stay responsive by saying things like “I see,” or “alright” as they speak to show them you’re paying attention. Eye contact is important as well. And at the end of the conversation, repeat the gist of what they said so you can verify your understanding of the events. Something like, “as I understand it, you want this…”
Keep Your Clients Informed
Bad things happen when a client is left in the dark. They start imagining all sorts of scenarios where the project goes wrong, even though it’s moving along just fine. Or, they think that you’re not doing anything at all, even if the reason for your silence is you’re too busy to talk in the first place.
Don’t wait until your client asks for a meeting to send a quick email or status update. Immediately report any issues in order to minimize the number of nasty surprises that the client may encounter.
Ask for Permission, Not Forgiveness
Some would suggest it’s the other way around, but permission is paramount when money is involved. You should always keep the client updated with the latest project information, and ask for their feedback on what work has already been done. If there are significant changes to be made to the project, make sure you keep the client at hand so that they can voice any concerns.
Remember Who Pays the Bills
At the end of the day, it’s the customer’s project, not yours. You and your team may have created it, but you’re not the actual end users. Remember this the next time you lose your temper at a meeting.
Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.