What Makes a Good Client?
It’s often surprising to people when I speak to them about what makes a good client. It’s always presumed that the partner, the vendor or integrators are the ones that have to ‘work’ during a project or long term engagement. Believe me it is not! The very definition of partnership is; an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. The key word here is ADVANCE meaning move forward …accomplish something. I have worked recently with several new prospects that have found it acceptable to keep some key bits of information from our team. For some reason (I have no idea) they feel that keeping little nuggets of information from a partner or vendor is imperative to maintain control or possibly test their ability to read minds. An ESP evaluation if you will. I’m still unclear when or how the talent of mind reading became associated with IT consulting or selling in general but I’d like to stop that campaign from running again.
Firmly establishing there are limited to no real mind readers on both sides of a client-consultant partnership what then can we do to work better together? First, know your environment. It’s amazing to me how many pre-sales calls I can make with clients on a critical migration project (email, phone, servers) and they have NO idea what’s happening in their own house. Things such as users count or seat counts, server totals and applications are not trivial things, they are THE thing. Without some critical information there is absolutely no way to price a new solution nor is there a way to price the support or engineering hours to get you to that new solution. It’s amazing when clients are upset that you are unable to give them a cost on an email migration when they have no idea what their user count is currently.
Second, know what you want. Ok, this one can be tricky but know at least an idea of what you want. Do you want to move to virtualization or do you want to stay with static servers? If you don’t know what virtualization is just ask. Do you want to empower your users with IM, presence, online meetings and VoIP? Are you looking for a mobile solution or application to help improve productivity? I recently had a client tell me they wanted to migrate to a cloud system for email, calendars and document sharing. After reviewing the pro, cons and costs, uncovering their user count, their total document needs and creating a migration strategy over a several week engagement they seemed frustrated on how long it took to create a plan. Their comment to us was ‘you didn’t tell us what to do you asked us what we wanted’. Shocker, asking what someone wants. Be prepared folks we are going to ask you what you want and it’s ok to say you don’t know.
Last, don’t be afraid to say I don’t know. As stated previously we are going to ask you what you want, when you want it and how you think you might get there. It would never occur to a good partner or consultant to assume you will follow our every direction or command. Remember this is a partnership and we’re going to agree to cooperate to advance our mutual interests. We’ll achieve your interest in complete success while looking good to management and our interest in making you completely happy…or at least satisfied. When we ask the question ‘what do you want’ or ‘what you do envision’ don’t be afraid to say I don’t know. It’s ok because there will be times when you ask us questions and our response will be I don’t know. That’s when we do our jobs of finding the answers for you and helping you better understand what’s possible.
So overall there are really simple principles to being a good client. Know your environment, know what you want and don’t be afraid to say I don’t know. If we work together and share all the details necessary and even the ones that seem unnecessary we’ll achieve that amazing thing together …success!