Client management is a key skill that every freelancer, every service provider and every consultant needs to learn and master. With good client management, you’ll be able to keep your clients coming back time and again with more and more paying work. With poor client management, you’ll perpetually have to keep trying to market yourself, as your previous clients just aren’t going to want to work with you again.
Client management is all about having great communication and making sure your client is happy every step of the way. This sounds simple, but there are a lot of unexpected potential pitfalls.
Here are 5 client management mistakes I see happening and that I’ve made myself and want to share with you so you don’t make them too!
#1: Letting Your Inbox Pile Up
Letting your inbox pile up with email after email is a client management disaster waiting to happen. It’s not just client emails either: If your email is full to the brim, chances are sooner or later a client email is going to get lost in there somewhere. I’ve had this happen and it’s not good, so no I try very hard to keep my inbox under control – which isn’t always easy but well worth it.
Learn to manage your inbox. Try to get your inbox down to zero emails at the end of every day. Sort action emails into a task planner, sort reference and informational emails into reference folders and delete any emails you don’t truly need. I like to star important ones that need to be followed up on and keep emails in folders so I can reference them later.
#2: Not Responding Within 24 Hours
Replying quickly to clients not only shows them that you care about them and their business; it’s also a signal to your professionalism. True professionals always reply to emails and always do so in a timely manner.
If you don’t get back to potential clients within 24 hours, there’s a good chance they’ll contact another service provider in the meantime. Or they might simply get frustrated and not hire you.
If you find yourself having trouble with getting back to client emails in a timely manner, first clean out your inbox as explained above. Then set a time of 30 to 60 minutes a day in the evening to get back to client emails or first thing each morning. Whatever time you choose make it a priority.
I’ve personally missed opportunities not replying quickly enough!
#3: Being Late on Projects
Never, ever be late on projects. It’s much better to give a deadline you can meet, even if it’s a slower one, than not hit your deadline. For example, if you’re working on a project always add a week to give yourself cushion because delays happen.
One of the things that new clients are going to be watching like a hawk is your delivery time. If you say you’ll have it done by a week and it’s not done for a week and two days, they’re going to assume that’s what it’s going to be like working with you going forward. I’ve worked with people that are late on projects, late to meetings, etc., etc., and one thing I know to be true is that it very seldom changes once it begins and that’s frustrating so I try hard to NOT be like that.
On the other hand, if the project is delivered early, they’ll be quite impressed. They’ll likely want to work with you again.
Pay attention to your own work habit and try to get a sense for how much work you can get done in a day’s time. Be slightly conservative when giving clients your delivery times.
#4: Not Asking for Referrals or Testimonials
Referrals are an integral part of any service provider’s business. If you have a great referral system, you’re going to have no trouble building and growing your practice. On the other hand, if you aren’t getting your past clients to refer you to new clients, chances are you’re always going to have trouble marketing your business. Most of my work has come from referrals or from leveraging the testimonials I’ve gotten.
Getting referrals isn’t hard. Just ask your past clients if they know anyone else who could benefit from your services. If you did a good job for them, there’s a good chance that they would.
If you don’t want to directly ask for your clients to send you referrals, at least ask them for a testimonial. That way you can use your past successes to help convince new customers to try your service. I like to ask the client if possible to add the testimonial to Linkedin.
Do this by setting measurable metrics in the beginning for success. Do it by telling your client about their victories throughout your sessions. Show your clients how much value they’re getting by regularly pointing it out.
This helps make sure your clients stay one and helps make sure they’re happy. It also helps with referrals.
Mistake #5: Doing More Talking Than Listening
This is an extremely common mistake, especially among service providers that meet face to face with clients. Service providers have a tendency to talk and talk and talk. They want to tell clients what’s great about their service, about all the different skills they bring to the table, about all the different options they can help with, about how they think the client should run their project.
But that’s not what the client cares about.
The client cares about their needs. They care about their problems. They want to implement their design ideas. If you’re not listening to what your client needs, they’re not going to trust you to help them. After all, how could you? You don’t even know what they really want.
The best way to build trust with clients isn’t to talk about yourself, your skills or your vision. It’s to listen. Listen to what they want, listen to their concerns, listen to how they want things to be done. If you have ideas or suggestions, bring it up only once there’s a strong sense that you really understand where they’re coming from.
The bottom line: Listen more than you talk in client meetings. I ask questions to really understand their business and how I can help. It also tells me a lot about whether I think we’ll work well together.
These are some of the most common client management mistakes that I see happening, I hear clients complain about or that I’ve made myself. Avoiding these mistakes will help you build long term client relationships that bring you business time and time again.
If you’re interested in working with me learn more about my services, which includes coaching bloggers to start their consulting business, visit my new website http://sommerpoquette.com
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