In our last article, we discussed the 7 things clients should avoid doing when working with consultants. But, as we pointed out, there are 2 sides to every story (at least), and consultants can also create problems with their client relationships.
So, in the belief of balance and fairness for all, we now will address those things that consultants should avoid doing with working with their clients.
7 mistakes that consultants should avoid doing that can interfere with a good working relationship:
1. Not being realistic about timelines.
One of the worst things that a consultant can do is to give unrealistic timelines on delivering their product or service to their client. Sometimes a client might want delivery in a timeframe that can’t be met; sometimes a consultant will promise a timeframe that is a stretch in order to get the job.
Regardless of how this circumstance arises, no one is doing either side a favor by promising to deliver something in an unrealistic timeframe. Something will suffer. Creating a timeline that can’t be met and requires an extension only serves to create tension and mistrust between the parties.
2. Not being clear on expectations from the client.
It is vital to establish expectations right at the beginning of any project. Of course, sometimes things will come up as you work through a project that weren’t identified at the outset, and will need to be included as you proceed. But there is nothing worse than being unclear about what deliverables you need from your client in order to deliver a quality product or service. Keep the lines of communication open so that each side understands what is needed to accomplish the common goal.
3. Not giving the client enough warning to provide information and materials.
This was an issue that was identified in our previous article, and it is equally applicable here. Most times, consultants need to have information and materials from their clients in order to proceed on the project, and not having these items in a specific amount of time results in delays and frustration on both sides. Be sure to give your clients a list of information and materials you require and when you need them. Communicate via email and telephone regularly to make sure that the project is not being unduly held up.
4. Making changes to the plan without client interaction and approval.
As stated in our previous article, as projects move forward they often need adaptation and refinement. When this circumstance arises, be sure that to bring the client into the discussion about how and why things might need to be changed. This ensures that there are no surprises on you client’s part, and gives you an opportunity to explain why any changes might be required to enhance the final product.
5. Not being available to the client.
The single most important thing in your relationships is open communication. I don’t care if we are talking about your friends, family, or clients, communicating with each other is the key to success.
So make sure that you are available to your client. Of course, there are times that you won’t be immediately available, but make sure that they know that you will get back to them within a specific time frame. Encourage them to leave detailed voice messages if they are calling and to communicate via email so that you know how critical the response time is.
6. Giving an unrealistic budget.
Sometimes, a consultant might low-ball the cost of a project in order to obtain the job. This is a big mistake on many levels.
First of all, you will establish yourself and your reputation based on price, not quality of work. This is a dangerous area to play in, as nearly always, someone will come in lower.
The second issue is that you most likely will not be able to produce the product or service at the lower price, which puts you in the position of either having to eat the loss or go back to your client for more money. You won’t be in business long if you continually lose money, but even more importantly, you will lose the trust and respect of your client, which can have far-reaching effects on your reputation.
7. Not establishing a payment schedule with your client and billing regularly.
Part of the initial discussions about a job should always include how much the job will cost and what the payment schedule will be. This should be formalized in the agreement. Once the project is moving ahead, be sure to adhere to the schedule that was agreed to and send your billings out in accordance with this agreement. This allows your client to integrate your billings into their systems, ensuring that payments are made on time and removing the potential of collection issues and cash flow.
The common thread in both these articles, and in all these mistakes, is communication. If you are communicating with your client and your client is communicating with you, most of these issues can be avoided – or at least minimized!
Until next time…
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