“Great results are the result of clear expectations.”
Think of a situation where you forged an agreement with a client. Your client explained their problem, you knew that you could help, you got their agreement to proceed, and you were off to the races!
And then the client started questioning everything. They wondered why you did it 'that way'. They scrutinized what you charged them. They didn't expect you to ask for certain things and wanted you to justify those requests. They thought it was taking too long...
When you have a 'quick start' mindset, as many entrepreneurs do, it is common to just start running without ensuring that your client is along for the ride. You know what has to be done, and how and in what order. You are the expert. That's why they are working with you!
And as much as we may recognize and acknowledge the need for clearly defined expectations, we often overlook this critical step. When clients engage you for your expertise and then start questioning you, it is an unmistakable signal that you need to take a step back to set clear expectations!
To avoid false starts like this, take these three simple steps and you will be off to the races ... with your clients in tow:
1) Don't start until you're clear
It's easy to get ahead of yourself when you see an opportunity, and I've seen this happen countless times. Just because you know that you can solve a client's problem, doesn't mean that they have a clear understanding of how you'll do it or how it will feel for them. And uncertainty generally makes people uncomfortable.
Before you agree to proceed with the proposed work, invest some time in finding out what your client thinks the solution is going to look like and feel like for them. Remember, they have their own ideas and assumptions about what they expect. The odds are very high that there will be differences between your vision of the solution and theirs. By identifying those differences, you can address them, find common ground and set your working relationship up for success.
2) Invest in comprehensive on-boarding
This is another area where entrepreneurs, in their desire to do great work, tend to rush in and skip ahead of their clients. The on-boarding process is critical for a new client. It sets the foundation and defines the conditions that will form the basis of your relationship going forward. This is where you establish your roles and responsibilities, clarify timelines, address potential bumps in the road ahead, and reinforce that you've got their back and know what you're doing. The confidence this will give them will pay huge dividends in terms of your ability to get the job done with minimal interference or pushback.
Do your best to predict any questions or concerns that might arise, and try to address them before they come up. You've been through this before, so you probably have a good idea of where things can go sideways. This is a chance to demonstrate your expertise by being a step ahead to protect them from potential pitfalls.
3) Communicate. Often.
Never assume that your clients understand the methodology behind your approach. Make sure that they are mentally and emotionally at the same place in the process as you. Although it may be clear to you that you're ready to advance, your client may not be ready or prepared for the next step. Or they may think that your process is advancing too slowly, and they may be getting frustrated by the lack of obvious progress.
Throughout the client experience, make sure that you communicate:
What has been accomplished already
Where you are at in the process
What's to come next, and
Check in with them frequently to make sure that they are still clear regarding the expectations that you set during the on-boarding process, that they are comfortable with the pace, and, most importantly, that they believe things are still on track to achieve their desired outcome.
Focus on the future and set yourself up for success with your current clients. Do you have an idea of which of your current engagements would benefit from the strategies above? What is the top action you could take now to improve results from your work together?
When would you like to start ... and be off to the races?
To your Success, Differently.