Managing client behavior

Client behavior management can be one of the toughest aspects of consulting. After all, management of client expectations and behavior can affect your entire consulting business, yet most consultants have little training in it. Client behavior affects your business through:

  • scope creep
  • spending more hours than budgeted because of questions, challenges, unexpected meetings and calls
  • clashes that result in the relationship ending (cutting off your revenue!)
  • constant requests to do "just one more thing" even though it isn’t in the contract
  • miscommunication about expectations
  • mismanagement of boundaries

As a consultant, you need to keep on top of client management. Here’s how:

  • pick "best fit" clients from the get-go, because they’re a good match and not because they deliver money
  • work through a discovery process to make sure you understand client needs
  • go with your gut — if you don’t like the client in the beginning, you’re probably not going to like them once the going gets tough
  • learn how to identify client behavior
  • determine the most effective way to communicate to the client
  • build trust so that clients are less combative
  • negotiate — work for a win-win situation
  • learn the manage the gap between your perception of how things are going and your client’s view

Managing client behavior takes practice. But, if you make it a top priority, you’ll be rewarded with repeat business and referrals, not to mention happy clients.

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