Style Managing the Difficult Client

In your Solopreneur consulting venture you will work with dozens of clients. Your experiences will teach you to recognize certain working styles and personality types. In your mission to retain clients over the long-term, you will find it useful to understand the perspectives of various personality types and learn to create successful, or at least productive, working relationships with them.The penny pincherYou may have been led to believe that you will work X hours per week on a project and unexpectedly, your hours are decreased. Or maybe the scope of your work is scaled back. The penny pincher’s motivation may be that s/he has second thoughts about paying an outside consultant. Or maybe there really has been a cash-flow problem?Regardless of the agreed-upon contract between you and this client, s/he has the power to change certain elements and there is nothing you can do, except to opt out of the assignment. You may do exactly that if a better opportunity becomes available.If you do need the assignment, make sure that the project scope decreases in proportion to the hours taken away. Under no circumstances can you perform as originally agreed, no matter how much you may like and respect this individual.

If you can offer lower-cost alternatives that will help the client achieve certain important objectives, consider doing so. You will be perceived as a real professional and positioned to win future assignments when cash-flow improves. This would be a good time to ask for a referral.The attention craverThe onslaught of before or after office hours calls and voice mails will be your first clue that you’ve signed on with a high-maintenance, controlling, attention craving client. If you’re on a high-priority deadline project, then the calls and emails may be part of what it takes to get the job done, as you impress the client with your work ethic, business acumen and ability to guide the project to a successful completion. But when the calls do not address an urgent matter, they constitute a problem and setting boundaries is recommended.Answer the attention craver’s calls and emails in a timely fashion. If by your standards calls have been made during your personal time and the matter is not urgent, politely state that while you appreciate updates, you will be happy to address project matters by 8:00 AM on the next business day. If you reach the client’s voice mail, send an email to confirm your reply.The analysis-paralysis specialistThe analysis-paralysis specialist is methodical, prone to taking his/her time when evaluating matters and will likely respond well to credible data. Getting a fast answer or decision may be a challenge. S/he is afraid of doing the wrong thing by failing to consider the inevitable plusses and minuses of the choices presented. Spreadsheets are favored.If you plan to recommend a particular course of action, compile statistics and include a case study to support your opinion and invite other team members into a meeting with you to lend support. It will be important to help this individual feel confident and ready to move forward. Solid evidence and a consensus of opinions will be required.

The busy business ownerThis overwhelmed CEO is most likely happy to have you on board to manage an important project, but s/he is perhaps unable to take full advantage of your expertise. S/he is too busy to adequately integrate you into the process, or take time to sit down and apprise you of the organization’s challenges, needs, or opportunities and the services you can provide to address what is presented.You can help this busy business owner and yourself by creating short reports that focus on Key Performance Indicators that will allow the busy one to quickly access necessary information. Concise progress reports, documentation that milestones have been reached on time and other demonstrations of the results of your work will be appreciated.Schedule meetings when progress discussions should take place, but keep them short and focused. Send a list of questions when you schedule the meeting, so that your busy client will be more likely to take the time to share project-critical information.Thanks for reading,Kim