How to Get Clients to Behave (and Still Love You)

You love your clients…most of the time.  Sometimes they are really aggravating!  They can be late, uncooperative, or unresponsive.  They can be overly demanding (like when they ask for the moon and budget for marbles).  I want to share strategies to keep your clients in line, so you both end up thrilled with the results.


Set Clear Expectations Upfront

The number one way to stay out of trouble is to set clear expectations with your clients upfront.  When you’re both on the same page from the outset, you avoid the surprises which create conflict.

When you begin with a new client, lay out the “rules of engagement.”  You’ll find that most clients like to follow your rules.  Rules provide us with a sense of predictability and security.  They also create confidence in your process: if the client does X, Y, and Z, they can expect great results.

If there is a timeline to be followed, include it in your initial proposal.  If there are limitations or exclusions to your service, include these in the Scope of Work.  Just like you see a store’s Return Policy prominently displayed by the cash register.  Clarity up front avoids surprises down the line.


Restate Expectations throughout the Process

In your client interactions, there are a lot of moving parts.  Repetition is the key to make sure important expectations are being heard.  Include a review of key policies in your new client welcome process.  For example, my cancellation policy is in my Service Agreement, again in my Welcome Letter, and I mention it during my first meeting with each new client.

Did you know Starbucks is training us to order in the “correct” sequence?  Every time you order, the cashier repeats it in the way they want you to order it next time.  If you order a “medium decaf mocha with two shots,” they barista echoes, “decaf double grande mocha.”  Guess what–that sequence matches the order of the boxes they fill out on the side of the cup.  So as they train you to say it “correctly,” they reduce errors and move the line faster.


Feel Free to Make Exceptions … and Take Credit for Them

Having clear policies & procedures need not make you inflexible.  Quite the contrary, it allows you to seem like a saint when you decide to make an exception.  When you let the customer know you’re bending the rules for them, they will be very appreciative!

Just make it clear you’re making the exception.  “This payment is past due.  I’m happy to waive the late fee, as long as you get it to me this week.”  “Oh, thank you!”  Compare that to not having a clear timeline and late fee.  Then all you can do is nag.

Action Plan

Just like walls make good neighbors, clear & up front expectations make good client relationships.  (Click here to tweet that!)  Take a few minutes now to list some policies or expectations that would help your client interactions run smoother.  Then, incorporate them into your proposals and throughout your workflow, so your clients know how to behave for optimal results!

Receive free Bite Size Business Tips from Evan every month: click here.