Tips For Maintaining Client RelationshipsWritten by Erich Heintz
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Rarely is there a single solution to a problem. Be able to provide options to your client. If they balk at your first solution, have alternative approaches ready to discuss and explain to them tradeoffs involved. A client will always respect your efforts to work with them and meet all their needs, as opposed to just providing a canned solution.
Know When To Be Inflexible --------------------------- When client constraints force a loss of proposed functionality be fully prepared to explain, or even argue, how compromise will degrade or even nullify effectiveness of your proposal. Implementing a poor solution because “the customer told you to” is a bad idea and will generally come back to haunt you.
If you have flexibility, you may decide to decline a project because of too many forced compromises. Believe it or not, turning down work on principle will sometimes jostle customer into accepting original proposal, because they now see that you are looking out for their interests, not just billable hours. Once in a while, “my way or highway” works.
If You Don't Know An Answer, Admit It ------------------------------------- Too often when confronted with a client challenge consultants try to “fake” their way through an effort. While you may be able to get a way with this once (or even a couple of times), eventually it will catch up with you. I’ve found that most customers respond surprisingly well to “I do not know, but I will find out.”
Any time you try to bluff your way through a scenario, you run risk of being discovered. Once you break a client’s trust, it’s virtually impossible to regain it.
Keep Your Attitude In Check --------------------------- Frustrations exist in every facet of business. Due to need for customer interaction, consulting can be particularly stressful. There are ways to express dissatisfaction or frustration without blowing your top. When faced with a stressful situation, measure your words and your disposition carefully. Delivery is often more significant than message. Carefully worded, you’d be surprised just what you can tell a client to go do with themselves, and get away with it.
Conclusion ---------- There’s no holy grail here, just a few nuggets of advice that I’ve come to realize in my own years as a consultant. I’m not giving any guarantees of success. If I could, I’d write a book and retire on royalties. What I can guarantee is long term survival in this industry hinges on established customers. Keeping these customers returning to you requires same care and feeding as any other relationship.
About The Author ---------------- Erich Heintz currently specializes in providing network and security solutions for small to medium businesses that frequently have to resolve the conflict of need versus budget. His commitment to precision and excellence is eclipsed only by his fascination with gadgets, particularly ones that are shiny, or that blink, or that beep. http://www.defendingthenet.com.
Presentation ParanoiaWritten by Graham Yemm
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Organise all of this into a sensible sequence. Have a beginning, middle and end, preferably building up emphasis of your message.Develop a story – make sure that there is a flow to overall presentation. Look to build in hooks for key points or messages. People often recall stories and anecdotes more than dry facts.Check plan against time you will have. (You will speak at around 100-120 words a minute when your nerves are under control. A 15 minute presentation is around 1,700 words or so, which is only 4-5 pages of A4.) Also remember, you are speaking so choose your language with this in mind, especially when making notes.What do you need to support your story or message? Visual aids, props, notes, other material which might be suitable. Remember, these things are there to support you not to take over. If using Powerpoint, avoid “death by…” and use slides sparingly – and keep them clear and easy to read! When you are comfortable that you have overall structure, content and support material organised you will feel more comfortable. Check it flows sensibly, covers main points, meets objectives and you may even start to look forward to presentation. PLEASE now work at one vital part – your opening!
The old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is so true. The audience are judging you on many levels as you start and this will influence how they will respond. Add to fact that you are fighting your own nerves and probably think you have enough to worry about!! By concentrating on getting opening right, you can achieve several aims in one.
It is important to create your own opening, it can become your “anchor” to help you manage yourself. Practice introducing yourself, stating your reason for being there, what you want to achieve and how you want audience to be. (eg, when can they ask questions.) If you can deliver this part almost without thinking, you can keep your attention on audience and their responses. If you are worried about what to say, you will be so internally focused you will not be able to pay attention to them. Whether you use humour, stories or challenging facts to start – or anything else – is a matter of choice. However, be careful with humour. You never know who may be offended – or how you and others will react if joke or story falls flat.
Another important thing is to handle your nerves. First of all, realise that it is OK to have them! The trick is to learn to use them to your advantage and to not let them take you over. There are some simple things you can do and by practising them you will find that they have applications in all sorts of areas of life.
Visualisation (or “imaginisation”) – put yourself in presentation and see it going well, you in control of room and audience. Experience yourself handling questions, making your points, generally enjoying it. Feel how good it will be at end of presentation when you realise that you have achieved your objectives. See positive.
Breathing – this is one of most effective ways of handling adrenaline buzz that comes with heightened nervousness. Take a deep, slow breath – feel your diaphragm moving out as you do this. Hold breath for several seconds – then let it go, slowly. (Press your hand just under your ribs and feel lower lungs empty and help them on way.) Hold breath again before repeating in-breath. (Some use a count of 7-4-7-4 for this.) Do this for 3 full cycles and you will notice your heart rate slowing and begin to feel oxygen levels rise in your blood. Careful of more than this, you may start to hyperventilate!
When you move to start your presentation, take a deep breath as above, step to where you will deliver from, look around audience as you breathe out and establish eye contact. Now you are ready to begin.
The other element to prepare is your ending. Many nervous presenters are fine with middle, content part of their sessions. They let themselves down with front and back – and often lose potential impact because of this. Work out how you want to summarise and then close things off. If all else fails, use basic rule, tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em and tell ‘em what you told ‘em.
“Begin at beginning and go on until you come to end, then stop.” Lewis Carroll
This is just a start to cover some of basics. When you are comfortable with these, there are many more areas you can work on. There are ways you can help yourself if you need to develop your presentation and speaking skills apart from training organisations such as ours. The Professional Speakers’ Association, www.professionalspeakers.org has local “chapters around UK. You can also find a local branch of Toastmasters International, who will offer encouragement and training – although in a different style.
Graham Yemm a founding partner of Solutions 4 Training Ltd. He has worked with many different organisations around the world conducting both training and consultancy assignments. He is a Master Practitioner of NLP and an accredited trainer for the LAB profile programme – “Words that Change Minds”. Contact, <Back to Page 1