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Winning consultancy contracts can be an arduous process - especially when first starting out. Once you have overcome the hurdle of securing an interview, it is essential that you are able to clearly outline your services and manage client expectations from the outset.

Failing to set clear expectations could damage your reputation and prevent you from securing future contracts. Afterall, you want clients to praise your abilities and service rather than refuse to recommend you to others having failed to meet their expectations. Read our four tips on managing client expectations below:

Underpromise and overdeliver

The expression “He who expects little is seldom disappointed” is certainly applicable to your role as a Consultant. It is all too easy to promise the world in the hope of securing your next contract - but just as easy to break that promise. Instead, you should aim to set attainable, manageable actions from the very first interaction with your clients. Don’t make false statements and oversell your abilities, it will only come back to haunt you when your client complains that you aren’t able to deliver.

The under-promise and overdeliver methodology does not mean you should lower the bar and undermine your abilities, instead, you must aim to deliver the work that your client requests and then go the extra mile to exceed their expectations. Not being over ambitious with your promises gives you the freedom to work to your absolute best. It also doesn’t leave your clients questioning your worth and being left disappointed when you fail to deliver actions that were never actually attainable. 

Always communicate and address any problems directly

Throughout the entire process of your consultancy project, it is important to focus on constant, thorough and open communication. Frequent communication allows clients to air any frustrations that may arise and allows you to realign your goals and promises in line with what they truly want from you. If your client feels that you aren’t meeting expectations but you fail to get this feedback from them, it can quickly become a point of contention that may jeopardise your relationship.

Make sure you meet your deadlines and promises. Document completed milestones and regularly check in with your client to discuss progress. If you find that you are unable to meet a certain expectation or request then be sure to communicate this to them and work together to identify an alternative solution. Simply saying “no” without an explanation will not sit well with clients that are paying fees for your expertise and service.

Outline that you work together - not separately

Part of ensuring that your clients maintain realistic and appropriate expectations is to make sure that they completely understand the terms of the project. To reach this point, sit down with your clients early on in the process and ensure you are both willing to be open and honest about what needs to be achieved during the project.

There are three reasons why this initial conversation is so important. Firstly, this collaboration helps to ensure that your clients have the opportunity to clearly outline their needs. Secondly, it gives you the chance to clearly communicate your abilities and any restrictions so that you don’t oversell yourself. Lastly, it helps to make sure all parties fully understand each other’s expectations.

Listen & don’t make assumptions 

In some circumstances, clients may be unsure of what they want or unable to clearly articulate what they want to achieve. Therefore, it is important that you ask questions at every opportunity and develop excellent listening skills so you can try to identify their messages. Repeat what you believe they have said they want you to deliver and confirm in writing what you’ve agreed to from your conversations. A discrepancy during your initial discussions could undermine their expectations in the future.

Customer relationship management is a core consultancy skill you need to master. Effectively managing client expectations should lead to a positive working relationship with your client, which in turn could lead to positive reviews and recommendations for your services. 

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