Digital Project Management Summit Notes

Carl Smith

@carlsmith
ngenworks.com

Client Whisperer - Lessons from the Front Lines

  • Clients from hell are made, not born; OR we shouldn’t let them in the door in the first place
  • Clean slate – when you have a new client you owe it to them not to bring old baggage
    • Ask “tell us about the last team you worked with”
      • If they start positive, ask what went wrong
      • If they start negative they’re looking for negative things
  • Know yourself and your flaws
  • Know your team and their flaws
    • Learn common pitfalls
  • Know your client
    • What is their level of expertise; what did they do before; what books, music, etc. do they love
    • What were they promised
    • Must win clients vs checklist clients
      • Must win clients are funding the project themselves and need to win
      • Checklist clients are following orders
  • Establish trust – be vulnerable for the promise of something better (client handing over project and money to you)
  • Be honest and nice – in being nice don’t cover things up
  • Be familiar – know client’s knowledge level; don’t use terms they don’t understand; use names both with the client and the team
  • Address issues early – not always immediately bc you may not have established a report but once you have a relationship and notice something is wrong talk about it
  • Keep commitments – do what you say you will do
  • Tell stories – maintain leverage
  • Respect Yourself – respect your time, hang up on a late call, watch out for working nights and weekends
  • Don’t haul ass – get it right the first time
  • A rationale for everything – when you present something to the client explain why you did what you’ve done
    • Sit with the artist and get their rationale so you can translate it to the client and vice versa; not a middle man but value added
  • Playback Client Input – to the team
  • Silence is the Enemy – when client doesn’t hear from you they get nervous, they start to take the wheel; Monday update (see Sam’s talk)
  • Clients don’t want to drive
  • Don’t overcommit – don’t promise to get back to client in a time that’s not reasonable to yourself or team; don’t lie to team about it being the client’s fault
  • Scope creep – say put the project on hold to address new requirements; pause clause – if client is late on a deliverable agency has the right to put the project on hold and come back to it when they are ready
  • Start the Tough Conversations – if the client starts it you are backpedaling; starting gives you leverage
  • Have a coach who is not in your world but understands it; you don’t have to do it by yourself
  • Rehearse – especially tough conversations; write it out
  • Be Aware of Emotions
  • Bail Before you Break
  • Separate the person from the problem – focus on the interests, not the position; why vs. no; tell me more about that vs. why do you want that
  • Ask why – you’re working with client to solve a problem vs. taking orders
  • Be Firm but Fair – charging the client more b/c your estimator and producer are not same person
  • Don’t be a Buzzer Beater – leverage team knowledge: let the team help with answers and solutions
  • Test – validate or invalidate the client’s idea rather than rejecting it immediately; builds trust
  • Reply now, answer later – when something negative happens
  • Never email when you should call
  • Plan leverage – deliver something awesome right before the bill goes out; hold an invoice if something bad has happened
  • Voices from the shadows – refer back to original goals
  • Don’t vilify client or team
  • Own your mistakes
  • Postmortem Exercise
    • Try to have it without saying the word client; understand what the team could have done better
  • What’s the Story – in a tough situation ask yourself what story you want to be able to tell when it’s done
  • Ripcord – telling the client no and make a decision about whether to go forward if they push back; be willing to let go of a client/project

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