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John Bissell & Associates

Client Vendor Relationships

By John Bissell
Posted: 2010-04-20 20:12:41
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I am a consultant. I belong to professional consultant groups, and I read articles and blogs about consulting. A common thread in these discussions is how awful and disrespectful our clients are. But in all the complaining I see that most consultants donít understand what is expected of them, and they donít understand what the clientís goals and motivations are. In short, you have to do your job, and you have to expect the client to do his. You donít get to complain about the client when you donít do yours, and he does his.

Hereís what I mean. We consultants see our job as performing a particular service. So we complain that our clients donít know what they want from us. They donít understand their projects. They try to bend the project scope and get us to provide extra services. They force lower prices. We complain that the client does not understand all these cool things that we have done, and the client cannot see the value in the work weíve done.

All these things are true. However, to complain about these things shows our lack of understanding and empathy for our clients. We need to understand several things about the client and their job. First, of course they donít know what they are doing; otherwise they would not have hired the expert who does.

Second, their job is to make money. Everything we do for them must add value. They donít care how cool the work is. They care how much money the work you do will make for them. Since they donít understand the details of what you do their first approach is to try to get the most for the least, so they nearly universally see it as their job to push the scope, and to get extra things done for less money.

The client is planning to spend a lot of money on something he does not understand. Therefore, the client is going to distrust you, and is going to test you.

So now that we understand the client, the really hard part is: what do we do with that information? Some of the answer to that question is in how the client pursues their goals, and the rest of it rest entirely on the consultant.

First you really have to understand the clientís goals. Second, you must make some very clear decisions as to what will further those goals. Do you need to do some really cool stuff? Is this simple and straight forward with no real obstacles? Do you need to work some miracles for this to work? Only do work that adds value. Donít do work that does not. Know the difference.

Donít categorize the work into A work and B work noting that this client only wants to pay for B work. This client only wants to pay for value added work. That is his job.

Now itís time to talk to the client. You have to find a way to explain the project to the client without scaring him. On the one hand, you have to let him know the risks of what he is getting into. Risk is scary, so the client will be suspicious.

Now with all this being said, some clients are problems and will cost you money and reputation. Part of your job is to find this out and fire the clients that will hurt you. Remember, you are also in business to make money. A client that cost you money or reputation fails in the business plan. How to recognize the wrong client is another story

Isaac Duke: Re: - Client Vendor Relationships
2013-08-14 11:34:06

Another WOW! I love when people stick up for clients. I am a salesman, so I am constantly hearing how bad customers are. I wouldn't be able to buy the house I live in, have the children I have, or do any of the things I do if it weren't for my customers. I am thankful they want to do business with me, and I want to work with people who are demanding, because those tend to be the ones that can afford my services. The easy customers tend to be low-budget customers.

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