Great Clients Are Partners, Not Employers

Andrew-Simon2Everyone can tell you about their experiences with bad clients. The pain and suffering. The lack of appreciation, the demands, etc. But how many times do we talk about great clients? Because as David Ogilvy once said…”Clients get what they deserve!”

And, with that in mind, I would like to talk about a few of the characteristics of some of the great clients Simon Associates has worked with:

They are as follows:

  1. They are sharers. While you as a consultant can compartmentalize what you do and explain it to your clients, great clients are also great communicators. They tend to share everything, both the good and bad. Why? Because if they are going to hire senior consultants, they need to make sure that they have the appropriate perspective on everything. That makes them smarter. Self-selecting information means there are gaps in the data. That unevenness makes discovery more difficult and perspective gets warped.

I would also bet that if clients don’t share with you, they don’t share with their staffs. Consequently, communication skills are a general weakness and eventually the lack of skills will come back to bite them.

  1. They are always appreciative of counsel. Great clients are mature enough to understand that even well-paid consultants are motivated by the high five, the feel good. This can be expressed in meetings, on the phone, email etc. Everyone likes to feel good about what they are doing. Complements make people feel better and consequently, they work harder. They feel part of the team.
  2. They are not discomforted when consultants go beyond their agreed-upon assignments. While clients hire consultants for particular tasks, those consultants often see things beyond their contracted assignments. Great clients let them perform beyond the boundaries because in effect, they are diagnosing the client’s business. They willingly let them delve into issues that were unforeseen when the assignment first originated. Perhaps what the client thought was an issue is not the issue at all, or vice versa? They listen and don’t dismiss out of hand.
  3. They establish an atmosphere where candor is a key ingredient. This is critically important. In order to make sure that you are moving forward, both the client and the consultant must be honest with each other. That ensures that both are always on task and working towards the same goal.

In summary, the old saying “You get what you pay for” really is true. I would add to that, “Great clients get greater value when they treat consultants as partners, and it is that partnership that maximizes the greatest value in a consulting relationship.”