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Managing Client Expectations

Managing Client Expectations

By: Tina Walczak & Cam Schreiner

We’ve all had them, you know those difficult clients who just know more than you. We have had countless clients argue with us, and who have left because they didn’t see the value in what we were doing. Then later down the road, we’ve seen the client try to take a stab at what we were doing for them in the first place, and have failed.

Managing Client Expectations

What happened? Where was the disconnection? Business is not a straight road, it is full of turns, ups and downs, and it’s HARD. Let’s all put on this mindset, your clients are dealing with some of the same issues you are having, and the best thing to do, is to empathize. Trying to push your client into something they don’t want, will just make them angry.

This leads us into the 3 steps to working with difficult clients: 

3 steps to working with difficult clients 

  1. Listen 
  2. Gain Trust  
  3. Follow up 

A Lesson in Managing Client Expectations  

We had a client reach out for us to quote on a Poster. When they contacted us they also provided some inspiration from other posters they have had created in the past for other initiatives. When listening to their request and looked at what they provided, their need didn’t seem to match up to their request.

Instead of quoting on the job as it came in, myself and our Sales associate, Allie, decided to jump on a call with the potential client. On that call I had them explain their need and what their expectations or intended deliverables were. I also dug deeper asking questions on whether this was a single use poster or was part of a bigger campaign. The client started thinking further into their request and determined they didn’t have a full understanding themselves of how this would be used long term, because of this they wanted to bring these questions to their board and get back to us with a more full understanding of the project. 

By slowing down, listening, asking more questions and trying to fully understand the client, we were able to turn a small project into something larger. The intent wasn’t to have the client spend more money but to get what they need the first time instead of designing a poster which would later need to be turned into a campaign.

When we design for a single use item we only need to take that one application into mind, while if you design for a larger campaign you start to think about the intent and how the visuals can be broken up to be used in many different applications over time (social media, online posts, banners, posters, flyers… etc. Whatever is needed to properly suffice their need). You want to look at the client as not a transaction, but instead someone you want to build a relationship with. In a relationship you want it to be mutually beneficial and you’re looking for longevity.  

By listening, gaining trust, and following up, we were able to manage client expectations more effectively. Repeat this cycle with every client, as this needs to be done for each aspect of a project or each interaction with the client.

Managing Client Expectations: Effective Communication

Careful with your language, because people feel belittled if you speak above their level of understanding. This includes using overly specific marketing, design or tech speak. We use this language to make us sound more credible and sound like the expert, but what we really need to do is let the results and our knowledge shine through rather than risk coming off as superior or condescending.

Think of someone in your industry that is seen as an expert. Now think about how they talk. Do they talk above everyone else and purposely use complicated jargon? Or do they try to explain things and relate things to anyone? (Even a 5th grader). The better you become at talking on your client’s level and connecting to them, the more they will want to interact with you as you are now teaching them without overwhelming them. 

Listening Empathetically and Building Trust

When you are looking to build a relationship with the client you approach the conversation from another angle. The most important thing to understand is that Business is extremely hard. A difficult client is just one you haven’t learned enough about. The more you understand about them, their struggles and the way they communicate, the better you can show value and move projects in the right direction.  

To a client, you may be seen as a cost or they may have had bad interactions with someone in the same profession as you, so they are coming in defensively. The more you make them feel comfortable the easier your projects will be. There is a mutually beneficial path to almost any scenario.  

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