Talk, Don’t Type
These days, we rely pretty heavily on email and instant messaging. Sure, it’s convenient, quick, and to the point, but there’s a catch. You can say goodbye to any sense of humor or reflection of your true personality when you depend on written communication to interact with your team and clients.Every once in a while, it’s great to actually hear what someone has to say. Pick up the phone at least once a week to touch base with your clients; a 15-minute status report call over the phone, or even by Skype video, can really provide a wealth of information. Be sure to listen to what your clients are saying, and how they’re saying it. Pick up on their tone and react on the fly. As soon as they hear that you’re listening and care, they’ll feel your dedication and be more willing to share information with you. We all know that information is power, particularly in project management.
It’s very easy to go through the motions as the project manager: schedule the meeting, get conversation started, take notes, document, and share information in writing and by phone.. What’s missing in that list of “motions”? Listening. Take notes based on what’s been said and what’s implied. You have to let your clients provide you with the information that will enable you to do the best possible job, and sometimes that means being a better listener. Better listening reinforces with your client the fact that you are truly engaged in the project, share project goals, and honestly want what’s best for the project.
If you’re actively listening to your clients, you will have tons of questions that will help you to understand a number of things: their goals, impacts on the project timeline and budget, and even potential successes or risks. You should never be afraid to ask the client questions that will help the project—even if you’re short on time. If you’re limited due to the time constraints of a meeting, feel free to circle back to the topic in writing. And if you’re not getting answers to the things you need, be frank with your client and tell them that they’re holding up a potential decision—or success—on the project. That’ll surely light a fire. Really, you’re just being proactive and that’s what a good PM would do.
Then again, timing is everything. Take cues from the room and know when it’s appropriate to ask a question or revisit one. Being a relentless (and clueless) question-asker will kill the mood—and even a relationship. There is a delicate balance between getting info you need, seeming nosey (or annoying), and wrecking a conversation. For instance, if you’re mid-conversation and you ask a question that changes the direction of what’s being discussed, you may end up missing out on what your client was about to tell you. Be patient, PM, for the client will share what is appropriate in the context of a conversation. Wait your turn and you’ll get the info you need…and more.
Transparency can really help when it comes to communications with clients. If you think about it, your clients are paying you or your company to complete a project. Why shouldn’t they know everything about your process and how you make project-related decisions? Nothing is a secret when it comes to project work. Is something a challenge for your team? Discuss it with your clients. They may bring a perspective to the situation that you don’t have and might even help you solve an issue. Including your clients in the decision-making process involves them and helps to build consensus on ideas before you’ve even presented them.
BE AN EDUCATOR
If your project is being outsourced by a company, it’s likely due to the fact that in-house expertise does not exist for your clients. That puts you in the position to take the lead and help your clients to make the right decisions. But they can’t do that unless you’re actually helping them to understand your process.
At the beginning of your project, explain your process at a high level. Run through a project plan line-by-line and actually explain what things mean. If your client is interested, explain what your team does at each turn of the project. This will help your clients to understand timelines and dependencies, which can potentially lead to faster, better decision making.
When your team presents a deliverable, take the time to educate your client on the deliverable. Just showing a deliverable is never good enough because it can lead to uninformed decision-making. Here’s a step by step process for presenting your deliverables:
This format not only helps your clients to understand the level of work and the process that has been followed, it helps them to make decisions based on what’s important to the project. They’ll be more inclined to provide feedback based on the context you’ve provided rather than give direction that was never discussed. If they do, it makes it easier for you, as the expert, to address questionable decisions and follow up with pertinent reasoning.
As business owners, we should also talk more often with our A and B clients. Less on texting or email to bring our own personal touch. I am looking for business owner mentality to own your business in retirement planning. Must have or should have a Life and Health insurance license.
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