The Client Game

Improve on your client-relation skills by brushing up on these tips.

Your clients often have a voracious appetite and demanding nature. An out-of-control client whose expectations haven't been properly managed can eat you out of business. While the nature of doing good business is to accept that the client is always right, you can avoid problems before they begin. How can you keep expectations at a reasonable level? Here are some tips to review before you go out and get your first client.

  • The primary rule of client care is to establish what your role is and what you expect the client's role to be. Then outline, in writing, what each of your responsibilities are going to be. In the initial proposals and subsequent contracts, make sure you make a list of your deliverables and attach a timeline.
  • Have your client sign off on the written descriptions of roles and responsibilities, lists of deliverables and timelines. Save all documents, especially signed ones, in a safe place for future reference.
  • Use e-mail to your advantage. When I first started my business, I obsessively e-mailed each client after every single conversation, repeating what was just said. Not only did this give me needed documentation, but it also worked as a preventive measure against trivial miscommunications.
  • If you wear all the company hats- manager, bookkeeper, office manager- aside time each day or week to evaluate the progress of your clients' accounts. When possible, assign an account manager to the account- who is not bogged down or distracted by anything other than the continuous care of the client.
  • Think of your relationship with your client as long-term, not temporary. I looked at each client as a reflection of my own business ethic. I would only work with those people I liked and whose products I could get behind. I wanted my clients and their Web sites to be successful because it meant more exposure and credit for my company.

Aliza Sherman is an entrepreneur and author of Cybergrrl: A Woman's Guide to the World Wide Web (Ballantine Books, $12, 800-726-0600). She is currently working on her next book and new company.

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Aliza Sherman is a web pioneer, e-entrepreneur and author of eight books, including

PowerTools for Women in Business.

Her work can be found at mediaegg.com.

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Client Game.

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