Editorial: Client management tips

Jul 18, 2013

Mark Zweig offers 13 lucky suggestions on how to be closer to your clients.

How you manage your clients is a big part of success in the A/E or environmental consulting business. And these skills and tactics are something that can be learned (as long as there’s someone there who can teach it). Here are my thoughts:
  1. Be straight with your clients. Don’t be afraid to tell them you value and appreciate them if you do. Conversely, don’t be afraid to tell them it’s not working out for you if it isn’t. They may care enough to fix the situation.
  2. Be yourself around your clients. Don’t be a chameleon. Don’t be a fake. Fakes are liars. By being yourself at all times you will distinguish yourself from a sea of liars and poseurs.
  3. Keep your politics to yourself when with your clients. No matter what side you’re on – no matter how righteous you feel your position is – if you go public with it you will anger about half of your clients and potential clients. Why do that?
  4. If you screw-up working for a client, admit it. While your professional liability carriers and attorneys may disagree, it’s best to just face up to your mistakes and make them right to fix problems. This applies to any problems you have created through errors or otherwise.
  5. Call your clients even when you don’t want something from them. One of my absolutely greatest pet peeves is those people I never hear from other than when they’re trying to sell me something.
  6. Just because you’ve made a handoff to a more junior person doesn’t mean you can’t ever check in with the client. In fact, it’s essential you do. Don’t assume just because you aren’t hearing anything that it’s all good news. You may just not be hearing about it. Call and ask.
  7. There is always something you can do for a client to extend a kindness and show you care. Everyone wants to feel they’re loved. So show your clients you care about them as individuals by genuinely trying to help them with their business – and at certain times personal problems.
  8. Ask questions and listen more to your clients than you talk about yourself. They may like you and care about you but they’ll like you and care about you MORE if you are a good listener. Remember, you are there to help them, not vice-versa.
  9. Don’t use work you’re doing for another client as a justification for your inability to perform. No client cares to hear that you cannot deliver for them because you are working for someone else.
  10. Be accessible to your clients. Stop having all your calls go through an administrative assistant. Put your cell number on your business cards and email responses. Have a direct dial number. Be easy to find.
  11. Be responsive to your clients. Returning calls and emails is of prime importance in today’s business climate. It may be even more important than the actual work you do in some cases.
  12. If a client wants something you know you’re not going to be able to deliver on, tell them so. There’s nothing worse than accepting a project assignment and not being able to deliver.
  13. If a client is going to do something that you know is not in their best interests, let them know you are concerned for them.
Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1016, originally published 7/22/2013. Copyright© 2013, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.