A new client is always a big welcome for any business big or small. An additional client signals growth and a new opportunity to gain more experience in your field of work as you develop your portfolio further. There’s always some level of excitement and uncertainty when dealing with a new client which is normal, but that shouldn’t be allowed to shift you off the course on some of the important issues that you should bear in mind regarding new clients and new projects.
When dealing with a new client for the first time, it’s imperative to have a firm mindset so as to engage the client in a proper and professional manner. You want your client, whether physically or virtually with you from a remote location, to feel that they are dealing with a professional who is going to deliver well on the project. You also want to ensure that your best foot is way out there, and therefore should make every effort to steer clear of anything that might jeopardize the new project.
Perhaps in your efforts to remain steadfast in your encounter with a new client, you should establish some few things between the two of you so that you can have a healthy manager-client relationship from the get go. To do so, start by asking the new client the following 7 questions that you really have to have the right answers to before you can start on the project:
1. What is the purpose, objective or goal for the project?
What is the purpose of the project and what does your client wish to achieve from the work that you are to do for them? Knowing the expectations of your client before hand is probably the most important step towards a successful project both for you and for the client. Such a question will also instill confidence in the client by showing that you are enthusiastic about the work and willing to go the extra mile in achieving the goal.
The answers to this question will also assist you and your team to remain focused on precise goals that are important. They will also ensure that you devise effective strategies to meet those goals as per the requirements of the client.
2. What time frame is provided and what’s the scope of the project?
Ask this question and ask it again so that you will know how much time, depending on the scope, you have to complete the project. The time, cost and scope of any project form an iron triangle which illustrates these three as the constraints of managing a project. The client’s answer should also help you establish milestones and a deadline for yourself and for your team which is very important and more so when your team is remote.
There are times when you can negotiate on the time frame depending on your abilities or availability for that project. Other times it would be impossible to change that time because the client has a fixed time frame for one reason or another. The answer to this question should essentially let you determine if you can handle the project or not under the provided time.
3. Who is the primary contact person for the project?
Your client may be an individual and therefore the person whom you will be in contact with throughout the project. Then again your new client may be part of a company and thus not necessarily the only one in charge of the project’s progress. It’s good to know who to contact or go to with questions and other clarifications about things to do with the project.
The answer to this question also eliminates the risk of having too many people steering the project from the client’s side which is not healthy, or having none at all which is just bad.
4. What will be the measure of completion?
This is more like asking the client to paint a picture of how they envision the project will be when done. It is important to know from their point of view, the kind of stick that will be used to measure the end result for the project. If it is a website that you are building for the client for instance, let them tell you if the website will be done once it has been completed and launched or after several weeks of operation and testing.
Payment for a project is essentially done when the work is completed. If you never had a prescribed measure of completeness, you might find yourself in the hands of a goal shifting client who may want you to do more work than you had agreed on with the pretext that your work is not yet complete.
5. Will there be a continuing assessment of the project?
Some projects require continuous assessment while others don’t. As a project manager, you know the differences well and therefore you should ask this question so as to foresee any chance for problems with the progression of the project.
This question will also give you an insight on how your new client operates; whether they are the kind of people who like to micro manage projects or not. Such insights should prepare you for situations that will probably come about as a result of your client’s character.
6. Which are the preferred channels and modes of communication about the project?
Constant communication between you and the client is essential and therefore be sure to ask this question. There are many channels of communication and not all can suit every project. From your own experience and expertise in the work that you do, you can always suggest the best modes of communication if the client has no preference.
Communication can be through email, phone, instant messaging, video chat and whatever else you’ve got going. Project management software normally contains communication mediums that would generally provide efficient channels of contact between you and the client even as you use it to manage the project.
7. What is expected after the completion of the project?
This question can mean a lot for the future of your business with that client, so ask it. Ask whether the client expects some follow up on the project after completion or whether they would want you to do some other work for them. If the client indicates that they would be interested in further engagements with you then do your best towards that goal.
Project follow up is an extremely important phase of project management. If the client tells you that a follow up on the completed project will be required, then you will know how to factor that in your costing for the whole project.